Random (but not really)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Categorical Books: Supernatural Fantasy

My brain has a clear delineation between supernatural fantasy and urban fantasy. If it has werewolves and vampires it’s probably supernatural fantasy. If the magic and creatures are more subtle, and the stories are exploratory rather than full of ass kicking, it’s urban fantasy.

  

Sergei Lukyanenko‘s Night Watch series is one I’ve re-read multiple times, and enjoyed whether I was reading or listening. Because it’s Russian, it’s very different from what I’ve read elsewhere, and there is a constant struggle between the dark and the light–all of which is complicated many times over. There is so much I love about this series I don’t even know where to start, other than it will suck me in no matter what kind of mood I’m in.

“We’re not supermen in red and blue cloaks who work alone. We’re just employees. The police of the Twilight world.”

You know what they say? A Siberian isn’t someone who doesn’t feel the cold, he’s someone who’s warmly dressed!

  

I’d somehow forgotten about Tim Pratt‘s Marla Mason series and just now discovered there are books I have definitely not read. Marla Mason is a witch and guardian of her city of Felport, but there is a lot going on underneath and behind all that.

  

ShadowshaperDaniel José Older has two series that fall in my category of supernatural fantasy. The Shadowshaper series, which is YA, and the Bone Street Rumba series, which is NOT YA, and another favorite series I’ve read in the past decade. It’s set in NYC and full of ghosts and otherworldly creatures and deals directly with being brown in a white world and how that tends to work out (not so well) but the characters are so very much more than the limitations that society has placed upon them. And the stories are just fun and lovely.

‘Simpático’ is the best word for him. It means ‘nice’ in English, but nice is such a pathetic word. Nice. It just lives and dies in one breath. Simpático is a whole story unto itself. It has panache.

The eight-year-old giggles every time her abuelo picks up a card. Her laughter rises to a joyous cackle and she crows, “Uno!” The old man fusses with his mustache, furrows his brow, and then picks a card. And then another. “Chingada madre,” he mutters as the laughter continues unabated across the table. “Mierda.” Finally, he puts down one with a sigh and the girl gets real serious, scrunches up her face, and draws a card, then slams it down, yells, “Uno!” again, and resumes laughing.

  

Patricia Briggs‘s two big series focus on werewolves, although there are other magical creatures (including vampires). The world building is amazing, and Mercy is a favorite protagonist, because she doesn’t have the powers most around her do, but she still has no quit. Between Mercy’s series and Alpha & Omega, a LOT of work went into the world building and politics, which is pretty amazing. She also writes strong supporting characters that often wander off for their own stories. (Ben in particular has a very good story arc).

“What I can’t fix is that the program won’t run unless the password is permanently set to PASSWORD and the username is permanently TEST. Since I’m working on databases that hold the US governmental secrets of the last hundred years, you’ll understand that is not acceptable.”

There was a long silence. Then Rajeev said, very carefully “Someone hard-coded the passwords.”

“That’s what I’m seeing,” agreed Ben blandly.

  

Ilona Andrews has written several series I classified as supernatural fantasy, while some of their other series I classify as paranormal romance (supernatural fantasy with more boinking). The Kate Daniels series is set in Atlanta after magic has destroyed much of the world as we know it. Magic comes and goes in waves, and when magic is up technology doesn’t work and vice versa. Kate is the daughter of a magical warlord and has been in hiding from him her entire life. She has powers inherited from her father, but using those powers would pretty much alert her father to her existence so he could kill her.

  

Blood-in-her-VeinsFaith Hunter‘s Jane Yellowrock series has been running for a decade now, and it’s been an auto-pre-order for me since the first book. Jane is (to her knowledge) the only of her kind left alive, and she uses her skills to take out rogue vampires, but the more she learns both about herself and about the vampires, the more complicated the situation becomes. One of my favorite parts of this series the the found family aspect. It doesn’t really kick in until later books, but once is does, I adore it. It’s full of strong and unique characters that I really like (and enjoy even when I don’t like them).

Beast perked up at the description of the food. Gator. Human killed gator? Human man is good hunter! Hungry for gator. And the picture she sent me was a whole gator, snout, teeth, feet, claws, tail, skin, and all, crusty with batter. I chuckled and sent her a more likely mental picture. Inside she huffed with disappointment.

He raised his brows. “Doesn’t like Mithrans, I take it?”

“Not fond of anyone one but military boys.”

“I fought in the Civil War. Does that count?”

“Confederate?”

“No.”

“I’d keep it to yourself, then,”

  

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred the Vampire AccountantDrew Hayes‘s Fred, the Vampire Accountant series is probably one of the best supernatural series I’ve read in a decade. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and is utterly delightful.

I recorded my journeys in the hopes that, should another being find themselves utterly depressed at the humdrum personality still saddling their supernatural frame, they might find solace in knowing they are not the only one to have felt that way.

  

Carrie Vaughn‘s Kitty the Werewolf series has it’s ups and downs, but it also has some of my favorite short stories set in any of these fictional worlds. Kitty is a late-night DJ who is eventually outed as a werewolf. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. I like the earlier books much better, but I do like that Kitty eventually ends up in a solid and supportive marriage that remains solid and supportive through the series.

One of my favorite characters from the series is the vampire Rick, who had been a conquistator when he was turned.

Free will was part of God’s plan. What better way to damn the sinful than to let them choose sin over righteousness? But he had not chosen this. Had he? Had something in his past directed him to this moment? To this curse?

Then couldn’t he choose to walk away from this path?

  

If you want monsters, then Rob Thurman Cal and Nico series is for you. But there are big problems here, the biggest of which is that she published a penultimate book that ended on a cliffhanger–and then published the final book. I have actually not read the last published book because I had a terrible feeling about where it was going, and I’m glad I did, because I really REALLY hate cliffhangers. That said, although the books are about monsters, the series is really a love story between two brothers, and how they have survived. It often goes lots of dark places, but Cal is such a sarcastic, obnoxious twit who is a tremendous pain in the ass, it’s hard not to love him–especially when you catch glimpses of what his brother sees in him.

“You should try literature that contains words of more than two syllables, little brother. You might just learn something.”

“‘Voluptuous’ has more than two syllables.” Turning the book right side up, I scanned the page. “So does ‘nymphomaniac,’” I added.

  

M.L. Brennan‘s Generation V series is one I particularly liked, because I was fascinating by her vampire mythos and world building. There are so very many traditions upon which to build vampires, I love seeing something different.

Also, kitsune.

“Are you always hungry ?” Hosting Suzume was already proving to be a drain on my wallet, and I winced.

“I’m a fox, Fort. We’re opportunistic predators.”

  

C. C. Hunter‘s Shadowfall series is YA and has a LOT of angst (because teenagers) but has some very good world building, and also has very strong friendships between the characters. (There’s also angst and bicker, because teens, but the solid friendships are very nice).

This is a category where I have started and then abandoned a LOT of series. I know what I want, but the series never quite lives up to what I want it to be.

Categorical Books

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