Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Tough chicks who kick butt. The continued popularity explosion of paranormal YA. Male wizards. Hard-boiled detective stories with fantasy settings. These were the most dominant urban fantasy trends this year, and they’ll continue well into 2011.
Standouts include J.L. Bryan’s Jenny Pox about a girl who kills people with her touch. It’s a welcome change from the emo, vegetarian vampires that populate YA novels; highly recommended reading. Brandon Sanderson and Paul Hoffman showed us the darker side of epic fantasy, while Jocelynn Drake and Kelly Meding proved that their female protagonists kick just as much butt as the boys do. Thomas Sniegoski sent us on another adventure with angel-turned-human PI, Remy Chandler, and Joe Hill gave us another compelling protagonist with Ig, a human who grows horns.
My top pick, as with 2009, goes to Kill the Dead, the second volume in the Sandman Slim series. We continued Jimmy Stark’s foray into the gritty, noir-inspired Los Angeles of Kadrey’s fashioning, and this book featured a fantastic, Gaiman-esque interpretation of Lucifer. Let’s hope that the forthcoming title, Aloha from Hell, is even better.
Here’s my picks for the Top 10 Urban Fantasy and Horror Books of 2010.
A personal favourite of mine, I was elated to discover Thomas Sniegoski created a series devoted to a former seraph who fights crime. Remy Chandler used to be hugely powerful when he was a part of the host of heaven, but he willingly gave up his powers so that he could be more human. And although he has his wimpy goody goody moments, when he loses it, watch out. He’s a magnificent fighter, and in this book, he definitely sends the bad guys running for the hills. In this offering, there’s a child named Zoe who produces crude drawings of what she says are from the future, similar to the autistic kid in the TV Show The Collector, about a guy who collects souls from the devil but has to try to help them redeem themselves to get out of their deals. If they don’t, they go straight to Hell. And while Chandler isn’t trying to save any souls, he is trying to stop Delilah (yes, the one from the Bible) and even enlists her embittered ex-husband, Samson, to stop her from resurrecting the ancient god, Dagon. If you’re into the series, you’ll enjoy this offering, and for new readers, if you like John Taylor from the Nightside books or Dresden of the Dresden Files, you’ll like Remy Chandler, as well.
This is one of those novels that answers the prayers of every reader who has wished at some point that someone should write a dark fantasy novel infused with the same feel of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. It’s a fantastic debut from author Paul Hoffman, and despite what some people have mentioned in Amazon reviews, the world-building is really what makes this one great. Things like the Spartan-inspired Materazzi, the Medici-like royal family, and the startling Redeemers (who make Evangelists seem like bunny rabbits) are fascinating to anyone looking for a great debut that includes great maps and illustrations throughout. Perfect for guys who are into military-type fantasy and political-driven plots, as with Gail Z. Martin and George R.R. Martin’s novels.
Horns steps away from the conventional blood and guts offerings of horror to show us a more introspective side of a main character, Ig, who actually physically grows a pair of horns. And they don’t come without their share of trouble. He can read peoples’ thoughts and see right through them down to every last detail. The novel becomes more interesting as Ig searches for the person who actually killed his girlfriend, Merrin, who he claims isn’t him, but since he’s a skillfully created unreliable narrator, we don’t know whether he’s lying until much later in the book. I can’t wait to see what Joe does next.
The second volume of the Dreg City series from newcomer Kelly Meding continues main character Evy’s supernatural exploits, this time involving body snatchers. If you’re a fan of early Laurell K. Hamilton and more recent additions to the genre like Simon R. Green and T.A. Pratt, you’ll love Evy’s no-nonsense attitude and brash tone.
After the epic cliffhanger at the end of Changes, the twelfth volume in the Dresden Files series, many fans were on the edges of their seats, wishing they could see what happens next, so Butcher decided to include a small story in this anthology volume, Side Jobs, which collects all the Dresden short stories, even a previously unpublished one, and delivers a fun look into the world of Dresden with the help of a few other supporting characters, like Thomas, his vampire half-brother. It’s an entertaining romp, and fans of the series will enjoy it.
Drake brought us not one but two books in her Dark Days series this year, and the first of these was the eagerly anticipated Pray for Dawn, which follows the point of view of the lead male character, Danaus, as he and the usual protagonist, fire-bringing vampire Mira, team up to fight the feral naturi race, who have escaped from their prison. I wish that Drake would stick with Danaus’ point of view, as this entry in the series made things more interesting by getting a different perspective on things.
This series, which is finding new readers to rave about it every day, is part of a steampunk series that sees a British PI, Alexia Tarabotti, team up with her werewolf husband to solve crimes for the Empire but also to show the other supernatural creatures in town who’s boss. If the idea of China Mieville with a female twist appeals to you, you’ll enjoy this one.
Jeffrey Bryan, author of the horror/YA novel Jenny Pox, captivated my attention with the eponymous protagonist since I read this novel a few months ago. I couldn’t believe that this work wasn’t published by one of the New York Big 5 — the writing is engaging, the characterization compelling, and the plot fascinating. If you’re a fan of Rogue from the X-Men comics/films, you’ll fall in love with Jenny, a tortured main character who has to live with the ability to kill people with a single touch, infecting them with Plague-like symptoms. Don’t miss out on your chance to read Jenny Pox, because it’s just plain great reading.
Brandon Sanderson is easily the most talented epic fantasy writer with one of the freshest voices in epic fantasy since Steven Erikson’s debut. The Way of Kings is a tome, a multi-story and plotline volume that shares some of the most compelling characters and storylines of Brandon’s books. As with Elantris, the same flair for originality, great characterization, great dialogue, and fantastic plotting are what will propel Sanderson even further in his already storied career. If you’re a fan of his continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, then you know that Brandon has already proven himself time and time again to be one of the best epic fantasy writers out there now. Way of Kings may be a thousand pages, but it’s great storytelling from a master.
The best urban fantasy novel of 2010, and the one that preceded it, Sandman Slim, is in my view the best urban fantasy novel of the last twenty years. Richard Kadrey is one of those writers who, as soon as I read the first page of his previous novel in the Sandman Slim series, the self-titled Sandman Slim made me pause for a moment and say to myself, “Now that’s an urban fantasy novel.” Kadrey’s series combines all the best elements of film noir, hard-boiled crime fiction, and a focus on angels and demons that gave this reader exactly what she was looking for in such a story. Stark is like Humphrey Bogart – blunt, uncaring, a chain smoker, and, of course, an anti-hero, and the fight scenes he has are out of this world. If you haven’t already, pick up Kill the Dead. Readers who are new to series don’t necessarily have to start from Sandman Slim to understand what’s going on here, but it definitely enhances the experience if you do.