The trend tides are changing. It happens constantly. Right now headlines proclaim the birth of New Adult, the death of vampires (heh) and the love/hate relationship readers have with bossy billionaires.
What no one is talking about in these sweeping “here’s what people like now” discussions is what happens when a genre grows so quickly as to confuse readers. This could apply really anywhere, but right now I’m watching my beloved urban fantasy subset become a pitted minefield of tropes, far-reaching limits and wary new readers.
As the genre defined by a city backdrop so vibrant to act as a character itself took hold with readers, we got more and more fantasy novels starring bold, strong women and alternative histories. It made many a female fantasy reader happy to finally have a female protagonist who was independent and didn’t let the romance element of the book overwhelm her.
Publishers started gobbling up these books, which for long-time “low” fantasy readers was a mega win. Unfortunately, the genre has grown so much we now face the same big problem of all other fiction: formulas. We have heroines with the same backstories (outcast from their species, orphaned, crippled by their supernatural gifts) meeting the same types of Big Bads.
Does this mean there aren’t great urban fantasy titles still out there? Of course not. For every twenty pretty-but-doesn’t-know it protagonist fighting murderous supernatural type, we get something fresh and brilliant.
Don’t give up on urban fantasy. Just trust Team H&H to help you find the books that bring something new to the table. Here are three urban fantasy books that don’t read like the same old thing (and have the elements romance readers want).
1. Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
Kristen Painter knows how to write vampires. She knows how to make them scary and she knows how to make them sexy. She’s done something new with her House of Comarré series, though, and brought in a new species. She has a special type of human that produces the kind of blood to sate a vampire—and she overproduces, so she has to do something with it. But more than that, she’s a warrior who had no intention of accepting orders from anyone. Blood Rights packs the independent spirit needed in a good urban fantasy and does it brilliantly with engaging, if polarizing, characters and oodles of sexual tension.
2. Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett
Jenn Bennett gives us a different type of heroine in her Arcadia Bell series. Cady is strong, absolutely, but she’s more lighthearted than most of the gun-wielding badasses we find in traditional urban fantasy. Unique twists on demons and magic help elevate Kindling the Moon to your to-read pile. Bonus: Single-dad romantic interest.
3. Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla
What makes Amanda Bonilla’s heroine Darian so great is her focus. While she has a lot of introspection as she learns to interact with others of her kind—she’s a shaede that can disappear into the shadows—she’s also fiercely independent. This is a heroine who has to get used to accepting help and is damn good at saying no. She doesn’t take to bullying and her fierceness ripples the pages. Her love life is complicated, but when it comes to unpredictable plots, Bonilla doesn’t disappoint.
What urban fantasy is intriguing you now?
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.