Every so often, a debate starts among bloggers and authors as to what exactly defines PNR and UF and what are the differences. For me it’s simple: Paranormal Romance (PNR) is a romance novel based upon supernaturally gifted people. The key word being ROMANCE. Urban Fantasy (UF), on the other hand, is usually set in an alternative world or time, based on supernaturally gifted people, and romance is almost nonexistent. The main distinction is that romance is foremost with PNR and not with UF.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I am a self-proclaimed plot girl. While I do not mind romance in my novels (obviously, or I wouldn’t read erotica), but I must have a plot and am willing to sacrifice romance for that. Some of my favorite authors seem to feel as I do and have characters who spend more time fighting than smooching.
Rob Thurman writes three fantastic UF series. The Cal Leandros series, the Chimera series, and the Trickster series. In the Cal Leandros series, Cal and his brother Nikos are like a supernatural version of a Terminex company. They get rid of what bothers the supernatural while trying to control Cal’s dual nature. While romance is not absent from here—Nikos has a vampire girlfriend and Cal has been known to have sex—the storyline does not revolve around it. Same goes for her Chimera series. In here, brothers Stephan and Michael are hiding from the Institute who had kidnapped and genetically altered Michael. This series spends more time exploring their relationship and fighting the Institute then playing kissy face with the chicks. While her Trickster series seems a bit more sexy, romance still takes a distinct backseat to the main plot and your never left wondering at the end—will so-and-so get together?
D. D. Barant has a fabulous Urban Fantasy series called the Bloodhound Files. Jace Valchek is an FBI profiler who is kidnapped and taken to an alternative version of Earth where humans are the minority. Jace cannot go home till she rids the alternative world of a human serial killer. As we follow Jace through her investigations, there are hints of romantic connections and actually one off-the-page sex scene, but romance is nothing more then a faint lingering wisp in the storyline and arc.
Two of my favorite male Urban Fantasy authors are Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green. In Mr. Butcher’s The Dresden Files we meet Harry Dresden. A wizard with a heart of gold and a penchant for trouble, Harry uses his talents to help solve crimes in the Windy City. While Harry has fallen in love in the series, he spends more time fighting evil and saving his friends than playing Lothero. Same with Mr. Green’s hero, John Taylor, from his Nightside series. John, a pseudo private eye, has a knack for finding things and has no problem entering the dark alternate world of Nightside to do so. With Nightside’s ever changing persona and rules, John often finds himself smack dab in the middle of trouble
Mark Del Franco also writes an interesting non romantic series called the Conner Grey series. Conner Grey is a druid and former mage whose powers were crippled by an environmental elf. Conner investigates crimes that taste of magic while he tries to unblock his powers. Betrayal and deception play a main role in here.
Now there are some UFs that to me straddle the line between UF and PNR after the second or third book of the series. The Kate Daniels series is one of them. Written by the dynamic wife-and-husband team Ilona and Gordon Andrews as Ilona Andrews, the Kate Daniels series starts out as a Urban Fantasy. Kate is a tough no nonsense merc who struggles to stay alive and under the radar as she works her way towards a life altering goal. By the third book, an important male lead is solidified as a main protagonist and the romance begins to play more of a lead in the storylines. There are also other couples who’s on going relationships have begun to take a lead in the main arc.
Another line straddler for me in Patrica Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series. Her storyline has begun to slowly revolve less around just Mercy and her battles and more around Mercy and Adam, now her mate. The last book, River Crossing, really shook up the storyline as it focused mainly on the relationship of Mercy and Adam and the main plot came in a distinct second place to the romance of these two characters.
So tell me, what are some of your favorite UFs?