The Summer Series Challenge has begun!
Today, I'm very excited to welcome Keertana from Ivy Book Bindings to talk about her love of Urban Fantasy.
Keertana is one of my favorite people in the blogging world. She is my most faithful commenter, and I'm still trying to learn her time management secrets. I also love discussing books with her. Her ability to analyze a book is unparalleled, and I'm constantly blown away by the amazing insight she brings to any discussion. She's also incredibly sweet and thoughtful. Although she's younger than me, I want to be her when I grow up. Or at least, I wish I could harness her motivation.
I am THRILLED that she agreed to share her mind with us today.
THANK YOU, Keertana!
If the truth really had to come out, the truth would be that I’m a stand-alone girl. I love those books that are just one, just single, just all alone that you can curl up with and read. No need to sit through a long series re-read. No need to wait agonizingly for the characters to find their path to true love. No need to flip through pages upon pages for the villain to be overthrown and reach that ultimate happily every after (or “all was well”). Just instant gratification.
And then I discovered Urban Fantasy.
Quite simply put, there is something wholly enticing about this genre. At first glance it seems to be an utter train wreck. We have dozens of authors, dozens of series, and each series has dozens of books. And let’s not even get started on the companion series too. In other words, it seems like a total disaster in the making, especially for someone like me who (a) doesn’t have a lot of time and (b) isn’t even fond of series in the first place.
And yet, as I mentioned, Urban Fantasy is a genre all of its own; a genre that, surprisingly, combines the best of both worlds: stand-alone and series. For many people, Urban Fantasy almost seems like a generic genre. Every novel more-or-less follows a formula: protagonist is given a problem/mystery; protagonist solves said problem/mystery, protagonist moves on to next problem/mystery in the next novel. And yet, unlike Nancy Drew novels which can be read as stand-alones, each of the novels in an Urban Fantasy series are intricately connected, subtle threads drawing them together.
Deconstructing Urban Fantasy: 5 Elements I Love
1. Strong Heroines
One of the most notable features of Urban Fantasy is the fact that it is a genre that revolves solely around female protagonists. As a woman and a feminist myself, I love this element of the genre. While the typical Urban Fantasy woman is utterly kick-ass, the type of female you simply don’t want to mug or cross at all for that matter, they all are deeply vulnerable beings. For me, the thrill and addiction of Urban Fantasy stems from seeing how these women grow and change with each new installment. We learn to see past their strong exteriors and although they face problems of a supernatural magnitude, their feelings, emotions, and inner dilemmas are all raw and real.
Personal Favorite: Chess from the Downside Ghosts Series by Stacia Kane.
Out of all the Urban Fantasy heroines to choose from, Chess is possibly the least well-known and the least kick-ass – at least physically. You still don’t want to mess with her, though, because she’s a witch. And yet, she’s also a drug addict, using the oblivion pills provide to block out the horrors of her past, of multiple foster homes and difficult situations. Each Downside Ghosts installment shows Chess growing and changing, learning to slowly allow other people into her life and, ultimately, allow love in as well.
Urban Fantasy typically takes place in our world, though it is a world with many modifications. What this does, essentially, is wedge a paranormal or fantasy world between the lives we already know so well. Thus, we have the supernatural and the natural side-by-side. Urban Fantasy authors nearly always make the best of this setting, developing characters whose lives are utterly mundane, yet not. For me, much of the relate-ability of an Urban Fantasy novel comes from the fact that these characters could be normal human beings, like you or me, doing normal everyday chores when a beast or demon breaks into their house or kills their loved one and they are forced to suddenly turn around and face this new dilemma. It creates an immediate connection to the character, to share a setting or common household duty, and that bond continues to deepen throughout the span of the series, which I love. I can’t read a book unless I have a strong emotional connection to the characters and UF settings only reinforce that.
Personal Favorite: The Edge Series by Ilona Andrews
I love the unique setting of this series particularly because it contains our world, the Edge, and another fantasy realm too. In On the Edge, the first book in this series, the main character, Rose, is struggling to make ends meet with her two younger brothers. One of the beginning scenes where Rose is shopping with her brothers and is forced to decide whether or not to buy shoes for one of her siblings while not having enough money to buy anything for the other is probably the moment where Rose ceased to be a character and started becoming someone real. This is what I love about UF.
3. Secondary Characters
A huge aspect of Urban Fantasy is the secondary characters. I always adore strong and amusing secondary characters in any novel, but with Urban Fantasy, they really become just as important as the main character herself. Since these series are typically quite long, this gives authors enough time to develop their secondary characters well, allowing them to grow and change with time. Perhaps best of all, though, we are witness to changing friendship dynamics throughout the series. Urban Fantasy challenges strong and capable women, whether it is physically or mentally as they cope with changes in their life and that complicates their friendships as well. I love being able to be with a character for such a long and fulfilling journey, and, most of all, I love seeing realistic tensions play out over time. Although these books are fast and fun, they contain just enough depth to keep me hooked and wanting more.
Personal Favorite: Stefan from the Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
The Mercy Thompson Series has a HUGE host of secondary characters and I love them all, but Stefan steals the show. It is particularly rewarding to note the shift in character dynamic between Stefan and Mercy. While they’ve always been friends, certain situations they face together bring them closer but also force them apart. As a vampire, Stefan isn’t the type of person Mercy, a coyote, can easily come to understand and as circumstances in his life make him question much of his existence, Mercy can only watch and struggle to be there for him in a meaningful way. I look forward to every Mercy Thompson installment in the hopes of seeing glimpses of Stefan and Mercy’s ever-shifted friendship and I’m rarely disappointed.
4. Alpha Male Romantic Interests
Okay, admit it, you love a good alpha male. In real life we’d all probably spray them with a can of pepper spray, but as fictional characters they bring with them so much fun, banter, and SWOON. Although Urban Fantasy is chock-full of alpha males, each more arrogant than the next, the fact remains that these love interests respect and love Urban Fantasy heroines for who they are, flaws, terrible pasts, and eccentricities aside. I love reading these slow-burn romances, not only for their swoon, but also for their sustainability. Another truth: there is nothing more I love than seeing a relationship work through struggles. I care little for the actual love story and far more for that long haul to make it work through the years and Urban Fantasy provides that in plentiful.
Personal Favorite: Curran from the Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
As Beast Lord of a large shapeshifter pack and an utterly terrifying lion himself, Curran is as alpha male as they come. Although he often demands a lot from Kate, he loves her because she is able to stand up for herself and argue back against him. One of my favorite scenes is when Kate warily tells Curran about her past and family – a lot of them really evil guys – and Curran simply accepts it. While Kate expects him to at least react, for Curran nothing is a deterrent to his love for Kate. Furthermore, Kate holds just as much power as Curran does in their pack, which I absolutely love.
Ironically, the length of an Urban Fantasy series is probably what makes most readers give these books one glance and run away. (Actually, let’s be honest: it’s the terrible covers.) And yet, the length of these series is one of the reasons they are so read-able. Because these series are generally so long, their character growth and change is slow and realistic. While many authors are forced to write insta-love stories, Urban Fantasy authors have the luxury of tantalizingly developing both a romance and a character dynamic. It is this that makes Urban Fantasy characters so easy to form attachments to – the fact that you have the time to make that emotional connection and, best of all, the time to sustain it.
Personal Favorite: The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
The Fever Series straddles the line between Adult Paranormal and Urban Fantasy, but it is one of the best plotted series I’ve read. Its main character, Mac, a Southern blonde who is utterly carefree when the series begins, is forced to become a hardened and dangerous woman by the end in order to find out who murdered her sister. Each installment steadily forces to Mac to grow and see beyond her small sphere of the world. Furthermore, each installment amps up the sexual tension between Mac and Barrons, the enigmatic alpha male who makes everyone swoon. It is a tantalizing wait for these two to finally get together, but this five-book series ensures that everything is just right.
Urban Fantasy isn’t a genre for every reader. I feel intimidated every time I decide to start a new Urban Fantasy series, but I am also in equal parts excited. I love immersing myself so fully into a world – one whose depth and intricacy only increases with time – and I love meeting characters time and time again, for years, really, and seeing them grow and change. I love settling down to re-read an old favorite, knowing that the characters will surprise me with their depth, no matter the fact that I know what lies ahead. For me, a good series is one that holds my attention and keeps me coming back for more, not so much for the plot, but more so for the characters. And with Urban Fantasy, where characters reign supreme, I am nearly always pleased.
Thank you, again Keertana. You always make me want to run out and buy more books to read!
What is your favorite Urban Fantasy series?
We are now finished with 2 months of the Summer Series Challenge!
The July GIVEAWAY will be open through Monday, August 5. Make sure to link up all of your July reviews by that date.
Next Friday we will post the August linky and rafflecopter.