Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top Ten Urban Fantasy Series

In only a vague facsimile of order, I present to you my ten favorite urban fanstasy series. (Mostly because I think you should read them but don't want to do reviews for all of them. Seriously, it's a lot of books.)

1. Fever
Karen Marie Moning
5 books, concluded

MacKayla Lane's happy carefree life comes to an abrupt end when her sister is murdered in Dublin. When the Dublin police shelve the crime, Mac decides to go to Dublin herself to pressure them to keep working on it. Unfortunately for her, she finds more in Ireland than she bargained for, including an unknown heritage, magical beings, and a dangerous Book.

From the moment I picked up Darkfever, I couldn't put this series down. I loved watching Mac evolve from "Mac 1.0" to "Mac 5.0." Mysteries abound in this series, and each book left me with more burning questions. Throughout the series, it's extremely difficult to classify anyone as a good guy or bad guy, which made it all the more compelling. The Fever world is interesting and detailed, and I'm looking forward to future books in this universe.

Ilona Andrews
5 books, ongoing

Kate Daniels's first rule of investigating is "annoy all parties involved until someone tries to kill you." Normally she wouldn't be investigating anything at all, but after her guardian is murdered, she really needs to find out who did it, even if it means working with the extremely hierarchical Order. In the unique "post-Shift" Atlanta, Kate encounters numerous magical and mundane problems that make up the segments of this series.

If there's an award for best female lead, it should go to Kate Daniels. She's strong, funny, smart, and caring. She and Curran can always be counted upon for a scene of witty repartee resulting in a stitch in my side. The world of the Kate Daniels series is interesting and creative, and there's always a new development to keep this series exciting.

Jim Butcher
13 books, ongoing

Harry Dresden has the only listing in the phone book under "wizards." He helps clients find lost items and takes cases no other private investigator will (but he doesn't do love potions). His main client, though, is the Chicago police, who contract him to solve a magical murder. Oh yeah, and he's got the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. What more could a wizard want?

As I said in my review of Ghost Story, Jim Butcher is fantastic at weaving a cohesive plot of many disparate threads. This has the unfortunate effect of making the first few books in the series a little less great, but they're still far above average, and it's more than worth it by the time everything is up and running. The characters in the Dresden Files are interesting and believable, and Harry's attitude is a joy to read. Plus the series contains a character named Bob the Skull. How could you not love it?

Kim Harrison
9 books, ongoing

A witch, a vampire, and a pixy walk into a church.* Sound like the opening line of a joke? Nope, that's just Rachel, Ivy, and Jenks getting home from work. When the three of them left the supernatural law enforcement force, Inderlander Security, they didn't expect it to be quite so exciting, but that's what happens when you're walking around with a death threat on you. Rachel is constantly having to extricate herself from dangerous situations and thrives in it, even when she discovers things about herself she really didn't want to know.

For overall character development, The Hollows takes the cake. Not only does Rachel grow a lot throughout the series, so do all of the rest of the characters. They all have their quirks and hangups, and they're absolutely brilliant together. The story doesn't lack for plot either. Rachel seems to get involved in major events without really meaning to, making for a creative and exciting tale.

*Technically, the pixy flies, but that's neither here nor there.

Chloe Neill
4 books, ongoing

Merit likes her life as an English grad student perfectly well, and has no intention of changing it, not even when vampires come out of the coffin. Unfortunately for her, once she's attacked by one vampire and turned at the point of death by another, she doesn't have much of a choice. As she's initiated into the mysteries of vampire-dom and Cadogan House, it turns out that even though she's immortal now, she's nowhere near out of danger.

This is another of those "can't put it down" sort of series. Merit is a very likeable character, and her world is filled with intrigue and danger. The relationship in the series also falls rather outside the normal pattern.  

Kevin Hearne
3 books, ongoing

Atticus O'Sullivan, the world's last remaining Druid, has a telepathic dog, an occult bookstore, and a magic sword. That last has been a bone of contention for 2000 years between Atticus and Aengus Og, one of the Tuatha De Danaan. Atticus has been hiding from Aengus Og for centuries, but this time, he won't run anymore.

Atticus reminded me strongly of Harry Dresden. They have a similar sense of humor and the same need to protect people from the supernatural side of life. The Iron Druid chronicles are clever and interesting, with a heavy focus on Celtic mythology but not to the exclusion of other legends. (No one likes Thor.)

Karen Chance
5 books, ongoing

Cassie Palmer has been on the run since she was fourteen, when she figured out that her vampire guardian, Tony, murdered her parents.  Her visions of the future are pretty much the only thing that's kept her alive since then.  But when Tony almost catches up with her, Cassie has to rely on the vampire Senate for protection, and as her enemies converge on her, Cassie begins to realize there's a lot more to her power than she ever suspected.

While the first novel in the series is a little confusing, the Cassie Palmer books as a whole are highly entertaining.  Something about Cassie's reactions is absolutely hilarious, and there's plenty of action to keep the plot moving.  

Richelle Mead
6 books, concluded

After two years on the run, Rose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomir are forcibly escorted back to St. Vladimir's Academy by Guardian Dimitri Belikov.  Neither Rose nor Lissa is entirely certain why they left in the first place, considering how difficult it was for Moroi vampire Lissa to survive among humans, but one thing is certain: the danger isn't over yet.

Vampire Academy may have been written for a younger audience, but it's definitely not lacking in quality.  Rose struggles with high school drama alongside life-or-death situations, with a generous helping of illicit romance on the side.  While VA technically falls into the YA category, there's really nothing juvenile about it. 

Ilona Andrews
2 books, ongoing

Between the magic-less Broken and the magical Weird lies the Edge, a place where magic and technology coexist.  Sound good?  Well, not so much for Rose Drayton.  Forced by circumstance into providing for her two younger brothers, Rose has given up on a happy ending to her life.  So when the blueblood arrives on her front porch, she's not exactly thrilled to see him.  She'd send him away, but she'll need his help to fight off the strange, evil magic that's invaded her home.

While The Edge sort of drifts towards the paranormal romance end of the spectrum (and that's not really my thing), there's plenty of action to back up the romance.  The characters are strong, stubborn, and clever.  Moments of hilarity shine in this series.

Patricia Briggs
6 books, ongoing

Mercy is busy working on the engine of a VW when the werewolf walks into her garage.  Now, most people wouldn't recognize a werewolf when they saw one, but Mercy grew up among werewolves - and she's a shifter herself.  Thinking the new wolf is running from something in his past, she takes him in, but she doesn't realize that what he's fleeing will affect her and her neighbors as well.

The characters in the Mercy Thompson series are quite well done, with entirely believable personalities, flaws, and quirks.  The storyline's not half bad either - and with werewolves, vampires, walkers, and fae to play with, it's no wonder.  Each book features a new story and problem for the characters, while people and relationships develop throughout.

Honorable mentions: Alex CraftWomen of the Otherworld, Elemental Assassin, Dark Swan, Georgina Kincaid, The Mortal Instruments, Young Wizards, Kitty Norville, Dorina Basarab, Night Huntress, Guild Hunter

As it turned out, that Top Ten list ended up being pretty numerically accurate, personal-opinion-wise.  I'm not deleting that sentence at the beginning though.  I'm quite proud of it.  

Anyway, if you haven't read these books, you really should.  I certainly haven't read all the UF out there, but I hope this represents a decent slice of the UF pie.  Happy reading!


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