Superheroes and comic books rule the movie screens – yeah, superpowers have always been cool, but now even the smaller heroes are household names. It has always amazed me that our caped crusaders don’t have more of a place in novels. Every now and then a comic-y book will take off, but that happens about as often as Cap gets a pop culture reference.
Luckily, we’ve got something else to keep us satisfied – not quite the same, but just as arresting: urban fantasy. Now, UF is, of course, different (and less machismo-obsessed, thankfully), but looking at the examples of the genre we know and love, we thought I’d share….
URBAN ENEMIES by various – Now, I like things on the darker side, so the theme of this book really calls to me: giving the villains their say. The big baddies from the series of heavyweight writers like Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid), and Seanan McGuire (InCryptid) invite you inside their minds—and then won’t let you out no matter how much you kick and scream. My favorite part of this is the last line of the last story, “Everywhere” by Sam Witt. It chills me more than anything gruesome or gory ever could.
AFTERTIME by Sophie Littlefield—This is a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, so not your typical “urban fantasy,” but since it appeared under Harlequin’s LUNA imprint, which caters to UF, I’m just going to include it here. Why? Because it features one of the most bad-ass heroine’s ever, Cass Dollar. She’s just a mom looking for her daughter—after having been turned into a zombie and somehow having gotten better. This is the first in a trilogy about her hunt for family, love, and safety, and truly shows the depths people will go to to survive. Because even when death abounds, life is worth living.
CARNIEPUNK by various – I love short stories, so another anthology here. This one is all UF with a carnival theme/setting. Writers like Rob Thurman (Cal Leandros), Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires), and Delilah S. Dawson (Phasma) took up the task of making the midway magical again—and they stepped up. The freak house has never been freakier, and the funhouse mirror is maybe just a little too real.
HEART OF VENOM by Jennifer Estep –Having worked on 15 of the 20 works in the Elemental Assassin series, there were many great moments with Gin “the Spider” Blanco I could have chosen from. This book, however, always stands out to me because of the focus on one of Gin’s friends, and an exploration of the horrors she went through to become who she was. Gin goes to the wall for her friends, and this book shows that perfectly. Plus, every EA book has mouth-watering meals cooked up by Gin that practically have me gnawing on the pages.
SAGA by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – Maybe you’d call it UF in space. Maybe you’d call it Star Wars. But whatever you call it, it’s EPIC. At the core of this sprawling, galaxy-spanning story are Alana (winged!), Marko (horned!), and their child, Hazel. With quite a romantic focus on our hero and heroine, Vaughn and Staples create an enduring classic that is all about real people in a very unreal universe.