Like the vampire on the prowl for fresh prey, it seems that the paranormal element is on a search for new territory. The hunt is closing in on the Literary Fiction Genre. Is this shift a result of fiction running out of places to go? Or rather is it born out of the desire to get new readers from the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance genres into Lit Fic? At any rate, the escapism of the supernatural is becoming more desirable to mostly traditional regular fiction readers (not genre readers). People are looking for a way to escape the day to day drudgery of “real life” into worlds of the unknown, the urban legend and others while demanding a more challenging read. Here are some books that are blurring the lines between literary fiction and paranormal romance:
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Much of the story takes place in France and Oxford's Bodleian Library. A vampire and witch meet, and what ensues is a Da Vinci Code meets Practical Magic sort of story. Discovery of Witches concerns a magical text and the battle of who will eventually possess it. Harkness draws elements of esoterica, wine making and even gemology into the story, something I found interesting, but at some points does make the story read a bit text bookish. Her main characters are stubborn, egocentric and not particularly likeable, but those elements are what makes this book stand out and place it in the lit fic arena.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Illusion and love set in turn-of-the-century France makes this paranormal thriller a must read. It's not paranormal in the traditional sense; instead, it's more the “illusion” of the paranormal. Take a dash of magic and the occult mystery of John Fowles's The Magus and you've got it! This book is so evocative you will crave red wine and Gauloises in no time.
The Radleys by Matt Haig
Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret.
In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.
The Radleys is my favorite book in this new genre. On the surface it's about a typical British family...but this family is hiding a deep dark secret, one drenched in blood—and that’s only scratching the surface. The Radley children Clara and Rowan are entrenched in vampire turmoil, along with their own puberty. This book touches on all kinds of taboos, one of the main themes being adultery. Gritty, often hopeless and very snarky, Matt Haig is a new talent on the horizon.
The Taker by Alma Katsu
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
This is a story of immortality and lost love. Spanning many decades and with a large cast of characters, The Taker details the epitome of regret and bad choices. Do we want to live forever? This book will make you ask yourself this very question, as it is a story of self-discovery. Highly disturbing, well written and with incredible pacing, Katsu's offfering is definitely something to add to your to-be-read list.
Is this new crossover genre something that piques your interest? Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
- The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
- The Reckoning by Alma Katsu
- Johnathon Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
When she’s not herding cats or creating art, she works as a part-time bookseller. You can find her on twitter as @psynde.