Monday, December 29, 2008

An Experiment - Need Some Urban Fantasy Recommendations

I have a Borders gift card I got for Christmas and will probably be going to Borders tomorrow to get some books to go with my other Christmas books (The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind by Fuyumi Ono and a numbered signed copy of Storm Constantine's The Oracle Lips, which is a very lovely collection of short stories). Since I have not read much urban fantasy, I was thinking about getting a couple of urban fantasies to try. Any suggestions for where to start?

Last year I branched out and read more science fiction and found I really enjoyed it at least as much as fantasy. I had read some science fiction with mixed results since I rarely found one where I liked the characters as much as in the fantasy books I read. I still tried reading books in the genre that were highly praised on occasion, such as Altered Carbon (which wasn't bad but had way too much testosterone for my taste) and Neuromancer (which was just plain dull with flat characters I didn't care one bit for). Maybe I just tried reading too much cyberpunk; I couldn't get into Snow Crash either.

Then I started reading more space opera - Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro, Grimspace by Ann Aguirre, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks - and discovered I really liked it and needed to read more. Last year I had pretty good results with these books - Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles series, more from Asaro's Skolian Saga, Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse, Gabriel's Ghost and Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair, and the famous Dune.

So, this coming year I want to continue trying a few different types of books, and I've decided to try urban fantasy outside of the realm of what I've read in the genre before (books like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which was good). Vampires and werewolves have never seemed all that appealing to me, but you never know unless you actually try it so that's what I plan to do. Maybe I base my feelings too much on cheesy vampire movies and am missing some great novels.

Books I am currently considering are:

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (this one has been recommended to me enough times that it's a must-get if it's in stock at Borders)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton (I've heard the first few of these are good anyway; don't know if I really want to start a series that is going to go downhill that quickly, though)

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin (Tia of Fantasy Debut is not a vampire fan either but enjoyed this one so it sounds promising)

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Is there anything else that should be on my list? Or any of these that should be at the top of the list? Which books have both good characterization (preferably with gray characters) and an interesting story? And are not so cheesy that I'll get eye strain from rolling them too much?

Any advice is much appreciated!

16 comments:

miish said...

I just finished Guilty Pleasures actually. And I've heard that it gets bad down the road as well. But this book is definitely worth reading. I'm working on a review at the moment. So I'd so go for it! I'm anxious to see just where the series will go wrong =/ but I'm definitely gonna stay with it until I can't stand it...who knows, maybe I'll actually like the whole series, we'll see. Good luck with your book shopping, I <3 book shopping (=

Memory said...

I really enjoyed Tanya Huff's BLOOD BOOKS, which begin with BLOOD PRICE. They're vampire detective type things. I personally think the series peaked with third book, but it's still worth reading.

Kristen said...

Miish - Thanks for your input on Guilty Pleasures; I'll read your review on it when it's up. I have heard all good things about the early Anita Blake novels. Book shopping is fun - I was glad I got some Borders and Amazon gift cards this year.

Memory - Thanks for the recommendation. I hadn't heard of these ones but I just looked them up on Amazon and they've gotten some pretty good reviews.

Thea said...

I'd also *highly* recommend going for Kim Harrison's The Hollows series (start with Dead Witch Walking). My three favorite (female protag.) UF series' are (in order): The Hollows, Mercy Thompson, and Weather Warden books. Each series only gets better with each subsequent book--in particular The Hollows. The first book is very good, but wait until you get hooked into books 3 onward. Suffice to say, I lost a lot of sleep trying to catch up!

Others you could try: Richelle Mead's Succubus series (starting with Succubus Blues), and Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer books (Touch the Dark, I believe is book 1) and Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville books (starting with Kitty and the Midnight Hour)...I also second that the early Anita Blake books (up to book 8) are excellent, and the Sookie Stackhouse books are fun as well :)

Joe Sherry said...

I'll second the Kitty Norville novels from Carrie Vaughn, but the ultimate recommendation here, which you should read before all else:

War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull.

Kristen said...

Thea - Thanks for all your recommendations. It's good to have a lot of books to look for tomorrow since they may not have the first book of all these different series in stock. I'll look for Dead Witch Walking.

Joe - Thanks for your recommendations too. I do definitely want to read Emma Bull and have had Territory on my list for a while. It looks like my local Borders probably won't have War for the Oaks but I did add it to the Amazon wishlist.

Kerry said...

I'll certainly add another recommendation for Moon Called. I love this series and Briggs is a great author all round.

Along with Emma Bull, Charles de Lint is apparently one of the other "founders" on the urban fantasy genre. I can't comment myself, but I've just stared Dreams Underfoot, which sets the scene for his series of novels, so that is something else you could consider.

Oh, I really enjoyed the Tanya Huff Blood books as well.

Kristen said...

Kerry - Thanks! I have actually had Moon Called on my to get list for a while so if that one is in stock tomorrow I'm pretty sure that's one I'll get.

Charles de Lint is on my to read list as well, although I probably won't buy one of his books tomorrow. I think his stories are probably somewhat similar to the type of urban fantasy I have read a little bit of (for that matter, the Emma Bull one probably is too but I've heard so much about that one I might get it if they had it). I'm trying for something a little more outside of my comfort zone (since I've always thought I wouldn't like to read about vampires and/or werewolves but have never actually read a book about them). From what I've read, Emma Bull and Charles de Lint write about magic occurring in temporary setting but not about paranormal creatures.

Jayden said...

I'll add another hand to the Patricia Briggs fanclub. ;) From your description of the read books, you'll love Mercedes Thompson (Briggs' heroine). She feels about the same way about too much testosterone ;)

But be careful, once you start with the series, you'll be unable to stop. That's how she got me. *laughs*

I can also recommend Dead Witch Walking, but other than Thea, I'd put Mercy Thompson first ;) Sorry :)

Have fun reading, whatever you decide on.

Kristen said...

Jayden - Thanks for your recommendations! I keep hearing that Mercedes Thompson is a great heroine. I'm sure I'll have fun shopping and reading!

" Dallas " said...

I'm glad you listed Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse mystery series. (this is the book season one of HBO's True Blood was based on) I bet ya can't read just one !

The complete list of books with chronology, links to the leaked Chapter one from book 9 and the all important list of secret sookieverse short stories that YOU MUST also read to understand the whole storyline can be found on my blog...

http://lovingtruebloodindallas.blogspot.com/
Thanks and Happy New Year

"Dallas"

Kristen said...

Dallas - With all I've heard about Dead Until Dark (it's especially hard to miss since True Blood started and there's always a big section of the books in the bookstore) it would be hard not to consider it. Unfortunately I don't get HBO so I've never seen the series.

That sounds like a lot of resources for fans of the series!

Happy New Year to you as well!

Kristen said...

I did end up ordering the first Mercedes Thompson book. My fiance had to use up some money on a card by the end of this month and with leftovers from his purchase I got that one, War for the Oaks, and Black Ships by Jo Graham (which I've just wanted to read for a while).

Kristen said...

Thanks to everyone for the recommendations! I actually had to cancel the previous order (since Amazon would not charge the card before the end of the month even after we called and asked them). At Borders I found the first book in the Mercy Thompson series and The Hollows series and got both of those (as well as one science fiction book, The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald).

The Discriminating Fangirl said...

Chiming in a few days late, but I definitely recommend Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series and its offshoot series (starts with the short story "Alpha and Omega" in the On The Prowl anthology and the novel Cry Wolf). I'm also a fan of Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid series and Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer series (which also has a couple of offshoot stories).

Laurell K. Hamilton... I liked the first five or so books in the Anita Blake series, and the first two or three Merry Gentry books. Both series went to crap, IMO, and I think that if I were to go back and re-read the early books, I'd probably be a much harsher critic now. The premise is interesting, but Hamilton's prose isn't too sophisticated and the plots in both series deteriorated into repetitive sex scenes linked only by the crazy new powers Anita/Merry gained by screwing. I like smut as much as the next girl, but sheesh.

[steps off of soapbox]

In terms of cyberpunk, I liked William Gibson's short stories a lot. I've only read Virtual Light, but I totally understand why you think Neuromancer is dull. His writing is SO dense, and I like to read quickly, so I often miss stuff in his stories, heh.

Kristen said...

The Discriminating Fangirl - That's ok if it's a few days late; I was happy to read your recommendations and what you had to say about Laurell K. Hamilton. It does sound like I wouldn't like either of her series, at least once the plot turned into repetitive sex (which is mostly what I've heard as the complaint about the later books - that the plot was left behind and now she just writes about sexual encounters).

Gibson was somewhat dense but he wasn't really what I consider too dense, just very dull. His characters were one-dimensional and weren't people I could relate to. Plus I read it recently so instead of being awed by his new ideas I felt like I'd read about them all before.

Thanks for stopping by!