|Picture courtesy of Foodtastic Mom Cooking Blog|
One of the things that I love best about paranormal fiction is its crossover potential. It’s not uncommon to find paranormal novels that have elements of mystery, romance, fantasy, or even science fiction. But because of this tendency, it’s easy to find a single novel filed under a variety of categories, and the catchall category for these kinds of novels is “urban fantasy,” a term that is even now being renegotiated (as I note in my review ofThe Urban Fantasy Anthology published by Tachyon Press. Terminology quibbles aside, though, the following books are the first in some of my favorite urban fantasy series.
Guilty Pleasures(Anita Blake, Book 1) by Laurell K. Hamilton
This was probably the first book I ever heard called a “urban fantasy”—though the term Hamilton used for it was “paranormal mystery.” In the early novels of this series, Anita Blake, is based more on the gritty noir detective than the romance heroine. Though the series shifts toward the erotic later, the early novels are still among my favorite paranormal mysteries/urban fantasies.
Stray (Shifters, Book 1) by Rachel Vincent
Stray is definitely one of the urban fantasy series that draws heavily from the romance-novel tradition. But I especially like the way Vincent deals with gender issues in the series—Faythe, the narrator, belongs to a race of big-cat shapeshifters that produces very few females, so she is a strong woman in a deeply misogynistic world.
Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, Book 1) by Carrie Vaughn
The initial premise, a werewolf named Kitty, made me laugh out loud, and the first novel hooked me. I’m impressed by Vaughn’s continuing ability to keep the series going, despite moving beyond many of the romance-novel tropes that plague much urban fantasy.
Nightlife (Cal Leandros, Book 1) by Rob Thurman
What I love most about Rob Thurman’s books is that she is so very adept at lulling the reader into complacency, into accepting the narrator’s version of events, and then twisting the story in ways that are shocking and delightful. Nightlife does this beautifully, but so does Trick of the Light, the first Trickster novel. That Thurman manages to do it again and again is part of what keeps me coming back to her work!
Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1) by Faith Hunter
I’m a fan of shapeshifter novels in general, and of this series in particular. I like Hunter’s twist on the shapeshifter standards—in these novels, Jane shares her body and her consciousness with a big cat she calls Beast. Watching the two of them negotiating their shared life is almost as much fun as watching them work through whatever mysteries and problems come their way because of Jane’s job as bodyguard to vampires.
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Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.
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