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Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance v. 4.0

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While I kill the time between the last Alex Verus and the next Harry Dresden, someone suggested I read the Craig Schaefer-verse books.  (Luckily he has a handy dandy reading order on his website).   Starting with the first few Daniel Faust books, then over to Harmony Black, then back and forth a bit until we get to the spinoff of the spinoff...anyway...  Has anyone else read these?  It's sort of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of world building, and it works...mostly, but it really seems a bit overly planned out and inorganically written.  It's possible this is another series that's not served by binge-reading (inconsistencies are more noticeable, writer-tics more obvious...etc), but so far nothing has caused me to *stop* reading them.  Okay but not great?  So far I've read about two-thirds of what is available. 

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All completed series, some may be tricky to get.  People looking through the list will probably realise that I do like unique world/magic systems, strong female characters, and don’t mind characters who have been through a lot as long as they are written well and build on that, rather than papering over the back story. 

Note that some of these books I read a long time ago, so my views might be a little out of date.  A bit like you look at some of the 1990s urban fantasy books that were favourites, and realise with hindsight they were simpler and/or had issues that you’ve since forgotten. 

  • Sunshine (Robin McKinley) – a standalone book, arguably one of the best of the genre.  Robin McKinley captures the essence of a protagonist discovering their powers, in a rich world that foodies in particular will love!  I don’t think anyone has written an “ordinary person gaining powers” story better.
  • Dante Valentine (Lilith Saintcrow) – a darker series with a damaged heroine (although to be fair, everyone from her high school was damaged), set in a future with both magic and technology.  Strong writing but some dark plots, and one of the few urban fantasy books which has the “alpha” romantic interest which also details the abuse and conflict that can arise from that. 
  •  Summon the Keeper (Tanya Huff) – a light hearted series which has some of the most awesome characters in literature.  Is as much comedy as fantasy, but anyone who doesn’t like Austin is, well, a dog person. Must read. 
  • Kate Daniels (Ilona Andrews) – feels more like a typical urban fantasy series, with lots of werewolves and vampires.  However, lots of twists on the common trope and fantastically easy to read.  A very well done version of the “I’m secretly really strong” character, with a well-developed back story that evolves over the series.  Also doesn’t hit you over the head with the romantic interest.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world due to the return of magic.
  • Southern Vampire (Charlaine Harris) – a long series focussing on vampires.  Reasonably traditional, but set in a small southern USA town and deals with a protagonist who has little magic, and has to deal with the real world.  As the series evolves more types of magical beings get involved.  A well written series which has a lot of followers. 
  • Miss Misery (Tracey Martin) – a world with regular magic and four main types of preternaturals, the series is very well written and has a strong arc.  The main character is engaging, as is her balancing of her own abilities and place between humans and pretes.  The learning curve as to where her abilities come from, and her reaction to what she learns, is really well done. 
  • Jill Kismet (Lilith Saintcrow) – again, a bit darker series with a lot of bad things happening to the main character.  But Lilith Saintcrow writes very well, and the series rockets along.  Lots of violence.  Set in a world where people do deals with the devils, and those who are assigned to deal with the fallout when people lose control. 
  • Morgan Kingsley exorcist series (Jenna Black) – decent writing, with a innovative world setting/magic system, with strong plotting and story lines. The series is very solid, complete, and doesn't really get mentioned.  It’s a world where people do deals to take a demon inside, at which point they can achieve more such as be awesome firefighters.  Some demons are good, some are bad, which is where exorcists come in. 
  • Downside Ghosts (Stacia Kane) – a fantastic series, although again with a damaged main character. The stories are very engrossing, and quite touching.  It is set in a world where ghosts are regular returners (and are like dangerous animals) and there is a whole system for keeping them under control.  The main character is a drug user, and Stacia Kane doesn’t shy away from showing the downsides of this.  One of the best written characters around.
  • Pax Arcana (Eliott James) – a much more traditional urban fantasy, but extremely well written with a knight/werewolf hybrid protagonist who has to negotiate a world where most creatures are hunting him, and a geas on him limits his choices.  Very well written, comes to a very good conclusion, and has strong plots. 
  • Hollows series (Kim Harrison) – another post-apocalyptic world with magic now flourishing (although due to DNA virus rather than magic), this is a high magic series with a style that is a little over the top in style (although nothing as much as Karen Chances’ books).  A long series focussing on a witch and her friends, there are both light and dark periods.  In my view one of the best urban fantasy series out there, blending enough laughter, darkness, romance and world building to be a fantastic series. 
  • The Walker Papers (CE Murphy) – a series focussing on a police mechanic who is native American, the series is really well written.  Another one which can be light and/or over the top in places, but a strong story arc with a character who develops over time.  The main character discovers her abilities in the current world that doesn’t acknowledge/know of magic, and slowly builds her skills over the series. 
  • Felix Castor (Mike Carey) – books that hover on the edge of being horror, these dark books deal with a beat down protagonist in a world where most people don’t know the dark forces that want to get in.  Extremely well written, although you won’t always be a fan of the protagonist. 
  • Fever series (Karen Marie Moning) – a strong but dark series set with the fey, which deals with the actual apocalypse.  A little bit young adult, although the dark themes would mean you wouldn’t give it to anyone too young. 
  • Other series (Anne Bishop) – completed, although there are spin-offs.  For those familiar with Anne Bishop’s work this is a bit derivative, as it is very similar to previous series set in Epic fantasy worlds.  Her original series is probably her best, but it is also the most adult and with the darkest themes.  This is a cleaner version, which a wider audience will enjoy, set in an urban fantasy setting.  Anne’s writing does just capture you though, and these are very easy to read.
  • Lockwood & Co – more young adult, but enjoyable for all ages.  Set in a world which is beset by hauntings, and where only children can see ghosts.  Follows a group of children who have set up a company to deal with ghosts, and their exploration into what has caused the issue.  A good read. 
  • The negotiator trilogy (C.E. Murphy) – another one of Murphy’s series, this is a strong trilogy that is quite strong.  The major fantastical creature is a gargoyle, and the magical rules are quite a bit different from the standard tropes. I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Blood Books (Tanya Huff) – more of a traditional vampire series, but well written (is anything Tanya rights not?) and enjoyable.
  • Greywalker series (Kat Richardson) – not as stand out as others on the list, but a good read, unique magic system, and enjoyable nine books.  Unfortunately not necessarily easy to get your hands on the later books, for some reason the early ones are on kindle but not the last few.
  • Hallie Michaels (Deborah Michaels) – another series set in rural America, the series is a good read in the current world, with a good main character and characters.  Well worth reading.
  • Twenty Palaces (Harry Connolly) – unfortunately only ‘complete’ in the sense there won’t be anymore, so keep in mind the big questions won’t be answered.  However, the books were extremely well written, with a character who with limited magic dealt with the world in a methodical approach in stopping creatures from another dimension running wild.  The “enemy” is more unusual than what I’ve written, the world building is reasonably unique.
  • Connor Grey series (Mark Del Franco) – I was a big fan of this series until the last book, which I thought was weak.  But that’s partly because there are certain types/styles of ending I don’t like, and this fit the bill (on several fronts).  The series though is quite strong dealing with a main character who is an ex-agent whose magic is partly broken.  A high magic world, and interesting characters and development. 
Edited by ants

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