The Summer Series Challenge has begun!
Hosted by Heather @ The Flyleaf Review
Lauren @ Love is not a triangle
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.
Great post, Keertana! I have read only a little urban fantasy, but this post makes me want to go check some out ASAP!ReplyDelete
I absolutely ADORE urban fantasy and for ALL those reasons Keertana listed! Love those kick-ass characters, the snarky sidekick, the hot alpha male, the toys/powers -- everything! There are so many great series out there but I want more. MORE, I SAY!ReplyDelete
Thanks for putting this together, Lauren! I'm so thrilled to have been part of this feature! :)ReplyDelete
This is a such thoughtful post, and of course, well-crafted too! Keertena, you hit the nail on the head. I'm a person who runs in the opposite direction when I see urban fantasies stacked on bookshelves. The length alone is intimidating. I just can't see myself committing to more than 4 or 5 installments. However, I never thought the lengthiness of an urban fantasy series would be one of its most compelling assets.ReplyDelete
Character development is so important to me in books! To find out urban fantasies hold character growth in such high regard is awesome! I realize now I was wrong to assume that the length of urban fantasies = too much drama. When in reality, they are mindful of realistic character representation. For this reason, and of course, for every other reason you stated above, because let's face it, kick-ass girls and swoony alpha males are stellar, I want to see what I've been missing out on.
So, I ask, where should a newbie like me start?
Marlene, I'm so glad that I was able to convince you to give this genre a try! Honestly, I hardly know what to recommend as a good starting point. Most UF Series have slow starts, which means that the first book or two isn't as good, but the rest of the series really is. It can be a turn-off at first, though, so I'd recommend the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning to begin. It's fast-paced, very interesting, and has a ton of character growth - not to mention a smoking hot alpha male! ;) After that I'd probably give more traditional UF like Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson a try, or if you really love character development and a sweet love interest, Downside Ghosts is unparalleled. It has one of the most complex and intriguing protagonists I've come across, which is why I absolutely LOVE the series. I hope you enjoy some of these and I'd love to know what you think, so shoot me an email or a tweet if you'd like!(:Delete
Marlene, that's such a great question! I hardly know where to recommend a starting point when it comes to UF.Delete
Since you're a fan of character development, though, I'd have to recommend Downside Ghosts. It IS a little dramatic when it comes to the romance - not going to lie - but the protagonist is very complex and her development is fantastic!
As a starting point, though, I think Karen Marie Moning's Fever Series is probably the best, to be honest. It's very fast-paced, has a smoking hot alpha male, and the character development is very good too. I particularly think it's great to start with because it draws in readers almost at once, which most UF fails to do. UF suffers from a slow start, so this series is a lovely exception.
I hope you enjoy UF, Marlene! Be sure to tweet me or send me an e-mail or drop me a comment if you have any more questions or just want to discuss! :)
Thank you for your helpful response, Keertana! You're so very kind! I just found out my library carries the 6 published Fever books, so I'm definitely starting there. Woo! I'll keep you up-to-date on how my endeavor into UF goes. :)Delete
Oh, and I started following your blog! So, you'll be seeing more of me, I'm afraid. :P
Yay, I'm so excited you're starting the Fever Series - I can't wait to see what you think!(: Also, I'd love to see you on my blog, so thank you for following! I'm so glad this post helped you discover new books and a new genre too - I hope you enjoy it! :DDelete
Brava! What an EPIC post, Keertana!! I love that you enjoy so many different genres in your reading--I think of fantasy and contemporary when I think of you, but I also know you love to get into these UF series too! And this post is so fabulous because you highlight so many great aspects of UF, but also so many series that I've been curious about but haven't yet read. I think I am most curious about the Fever Series. Perhaps that will be my next UF series when I'm feeling the urge:)ReplyDelete
And I absolutely laughed out loud when I read this line, especially the last part:
"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.)"
GOD, THE COVERS!! The only thing worse are trashy romance novel/ Fabio-esque covers:)Too funny:)
I really just HATE the covers. I have all my UF on my Kindle, but I'd love a physical copy of them and never buy them because I can't stand to see those covers on my shelves. Gah, I hope they all get new covers sometime soon. Also, they're all also Mass Market Paperbacks, which are so small and the print so tiny, so those irritate me too. *sigh* I still love them all, though! :)Delete
Keertana is one of my fave ppl, too! I don't read much UF but I want to, especially as they usually star strong female lead characters :)ReplyDelete
All of my favorite UF series are on here :D I'm a huge Ilona Andrews fan and Patricia Briggs! I actually don't like most urban fantasy series I try these days because they just can't live up to those series, hahaReplyDelete
I do think Downside Ghosts totally lives up to those series, as does Fever. Both are very different, so while Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs are similar, these other two are slightly different. I hope you choose to give them a shot, Anya! :)Delete
I really, really need to start reading urban fantasies. The covers are definitely pretty bad for the most part, though, and I'm also a girl who prefers her standalones. Although I wasn't too enamored with Magic Bites (my first foray into uf), I was told to expect that and am eager to start other uf series.ReplyDelete
I do think there are some male protagonists in urban fantasy (I believe the Dresden Files feature a male protag and are considered uf), but I agree it's awesome that the majority of them seem to be about females. And not just any females, but strong, powerful ones.
Lovely post, Keertana! I do need to definitely check out the series you mentioned here!
Yup, Magic Bites was totally underwhelming for me too, but then you get to the rest of the series and it's SO GOOD. I hope you continue, Amanda! :DDelete