Hey everyone and welcome to our brand new feature, FOR BOOK'S SAKE!
We review a wide variety of books here at The Demon Librarian, but we're readers first and foremost, and like any reader, we have our favorite genres and types of characters or romances. But why do we love one genre more than another? What is it about a certain type of character or romance that makes us swoon or leaves us with a "meh" feeling? We'll be chatting about these and other compelling readerly questions over the next few months, and we hope you'll join us in the discussion!
To kick things off, we're going to talk about the genre that has rocked our socks off more than any other genre out there.....URBAN FANTASY!
J: Our love of this genre is well-documented, and when we say love, we mean LOOOOOOOOVE. But first, why don't you tell us what urban fantasy is, Lynsey?
L: Well, that seems to depend on who you ask. I have a very clear idea of what I think Urban Fantasy means, but I know from speaking to other readers that opinions on it differ quite a bit. It also often gets confused with, or people try to lump it in with, Paranormal Romance (PNR), which I find perplexing since, to me, those two genres are wildly different despite sharing some common components. Basically, long story short, Urban Fantasy is any story with fantastical elements (vampires, aliens, fairies, etc) set in the world as we know it, or one very like it. Typically in a city, hence the "urban" part. It can have romance in it, but doesn't have to, and unlike PNR where the romance is the backbone of the story, urban fantasy books don't have to end with a couple walking off into the sunset hand-in-hand, also known as a HEA (Happily Ever After) which is the easiest way to tell them apart.
If you want a more official answer, Uncle Wiki, he say:
Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, as well as fictional settings. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a cityThat's not to say there haven't been some FANTASTIC romances in Urban Fantasy series. In fact, most of my favourites have exactly that, and are even more enjoyable (to me, anyway) because they've been given time - often several books - to develop.
Wouldn't you agree, Janice?
J: Absolutely! While romance isn't a required element in Urban Fantasy novels, most contain at least some type of romantic thread, however slender that thread may be. Personally, I adore UF romances because I know, going in, that they are going to tease and torment me. There's no instant gratification, and no guarantee love will prevail in the end. I love that uncertainty. It makes those romantic moments (when they happen) so much more powerful, because I'm never quite sure how long the moment will last, or when the next one will come along.
L: Indeed. Although, you might say "tease and torment", but I'm leaning more towards words like "torture" for some of them! Several UF romances have had readers holding their breath in anticipation for a looooongass time. Too long! In fact, one of our favourites in particular - The Hollows series by Kim Harrison - why, that evil woman has been leading us on a merry dance for twelve books now! It's cruel and unusual punishment, I'm telling you! But do we keep going back for more? Why yes, yes we do. Because we love it, sickos that we are.
Anyway, moving on. Aside from these juicy romance subplots which, as you say, are not required but are most welcome, what other ingredients would you say a good urban fantasy should have?
J: Action, a bit of mystery, and a whole lot of kickassery! A good urban fantasy novel features tough and usually flawed characters who are thrown into one hot frying pan after another, almost from the word go. Stakes are high, and the hero and/or heroine often has to overcome seemingly impossible odds and challenges. What I love most about this genre is how dark and gritty it can be. On the whole, these are not fluffy, feel-good books. There are seldom any clean or easy victories, and while the characters don't necessarily have to be certified badasses, it certainly helps! In urban fantasies, only the strong survive. So put your crash gear on, strap in, and hold on tight, because you're in for one hell of a ride!
One thing we don't see a lot of are urban fantasy standalone novels. Why do you think that is, Lynsey?
L: Aside from extra sales, lol? I think possibly because authors like to have time to allow their main characters to grow and develop. As you said, these books are often full of challenges meant to test, shape and mould the protagonists into, hopefully, a worthy champion by the end. A great example of this can be seen in the Mystwalker series by Leigh Evans. The series starts out with quite an introverted character in denial of what she's capable of. Watching her grow steadily is part of the joy of that series. Another thing would be time to explore an overarching series plot. You've got your mini mysteries that are wrapped up in each instalment, but most series are also working towards a greater challenge that progresses as a subplot in each book as well. A good example of that would be the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. Each book has a clear beginning, middle and end, but you're also waiting to get closer and closer to the thing driving the whole series: Where the hell is that bloody book and who/what is Barrons!!
So, we've covered what we love, but is there anything you really don't like to see in your UF, Janice? I'm thinking maybe of things like the dreaded love triangle, for example.
J: Noooooo, not a love triangle! *runs away screaming* (LOL). I am not a fan of love triangles in ANY genre, but I am okay with them if they are done right and don't take over the entire story. In urban fantasy books, this is particularly important, I think, because there is so much more going on than just a romance. My #1 UF pet peeve, though, is when the hero or heroine overdoes it in the bitchy/alpha male department. I read a book once where the heroine spent the entire time storming around, yelling and growling and slamming doors, and in general being a complete, raving bitch to everyone she met. Drove me nuts! Yes, I love kickass UF characters, but if kicking ass is all they do - if they aren't well-rounded individuals I can relate to in some way - then I'm going to lose interest fast. Another pet peeve of mine is when characters conveniently pull a new skill or power out of the magical hat just in time to defeat the bad guys. Ugh, hate that.
L: Oh, I definitely know what you mean about the stomping around thing. If they don't have the goods to back it up, they just end up looking like a giant toddler. Probably not what the author had in mind...
Well, that's pretty much it in a nutshell, peeps. Our favourite genre, inside and out. In case you're completely new to Urban Fantasy and don't know quite where to begin, we've prepared a list of our favourites (not a unanimously agreed upon list, but a list just the same). Just, for pity's sake, don't ask us to rank them by number. I don't think we could if we tried...
So, in no particular order:
The Hollows by Kim Harrison
The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
The Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane
The Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones
The Alex Craft series by Kalayna PriceThe Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance
The Dorina Basarab series by Karen Chance
The Jane Yellowrock series by Faith HunterThe Walker Papers series by C E Murphy
The Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost
The Sentinels of New Orleans series by Suzanne Johnson
The Mystwalker series by Leigh Evans
The Elements series by Mia Marshall
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
The Descent series by S.M. Reine
The Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill
The Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett
The Charlie Madigan series by Kelly Gay
The Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead
The Grigori Legacy series by Linda Poitevin
The Black Sun's Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover
The Spellcrackers.com series by Suzanne McLeod
The Shadow Reader series by Sandy Williams
The Horngate Witches series by Diana Pharaoh Francis
We hope you enjoyed our first discussion! If you have any other suggestions for series that you think should have made our list, or any comments whatsoever, we'd love to hear from you and hope you'll join us again next week!
Bye for now :)