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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top Ten (Plus 2) Urban Fantasy Novels of 2012

UPDATE!  On March 8, 2016, I updated this post by adding links to my "Best of" lists for the years 2010 through 2011. Just click on the pink-links below to go to any of those posts. 

Here is the original post for the Top Ten (Plus 2) Urban Fantasy Novels of 2012:
     It's time once again to highlight the best urban fantasy novels that I read and reviewed during the previous 12 months. I couldn't stop at ten, so here are my picks for the Top Ten (Plus Two) Urban Fantasy Novels of 2012 and the Top Six Paranormal Series That Ended in 2012.

     Authors are listed in alphabetical order within each of the two lists, and each entry includes a quotation from my review.

     Click on a "pink link" to go directly to my review for any given series. Each review post includes a chronological list of titles in the series, an overview of the world-building, and reviews of the books to date. 

     Click HERE to read my picks for the Top Ten Paranormal Romance Novels of 2012. Click HERE to read my picks for Best Steampunk Novels of 2012.

Top Ten (Plus 2) Urban Fantasy Novels of 2012

>>Alex Adams’s White Horse, the first novel in her WHITE HORSE TRILOGY, in which we are introduced to a post-apocalyptic world in which a plague has killed most of the populace and left the rest in isolation and confusion. In my review, I wrote, "Adams writes with elegance and dark humor, punctuating her narration and dialogue with punchy references to popular culture as well as metaphors relating to history and literature. The clues and surprises keep coming all the way up to the very last line of the book."

>>Cassie Alexander’s Nightshifted, the first novel in her EDIE SPENCE TRILOGY, the first novel in her EDIE SPENCE TRILOGY, in which a young nurse learns that vampires and werewolves really exist when she gets a job in a big-city hospital that caters to a widely diverse supernatural population. In my review, I wrote,  "Edie is a strong and intelligent heroine who consistently tries to help others (frequently to her own detriment) and to deal with the extraordinary events that keep coming her way."   

>>Jacqueline Carey’s Dark Currents, the first novel in her AGENT OF HEL series, in which we meet Daisy Johanssen, Hel’s liaison between the human community and the eldritch folk—the underworld community. In my review, I wrote, "The mythology is fresh and inventive, the plot is suspenseful and relatively unpredictable, and the action just keeps on coming." 

>>Glen Duncan’s Talulla Rising (the sequel to his The Last Werewolf), in which we watch Jake’s lover, Talulla, as she gives birth, loses her baby to kidnappers, and tracks down the villains who took him from her. In my review, I wrote, "Yes, Talulla is a monster, but she is also refreshingly free of inhibitions and social restrictions. She has an agenda, and she's going to finish it and damn the consequences and the bystanders, innocent or not. This is motherhood in the raw—and it's definitely paranormal fiction for grown-ups."          

>>Kate Griffin’s Stray Souls, the first novel in her MAGICALS ANONYMOUS series, in which Matthew Swift plays a supporting role to Sharon Li, who starts a self-help group for people/creatures who are having problems with their magical side. In my review, I wrote, "Stray Souls is definitely not your typical urban fantasy genre novel; it's a darkly humorous magical take on urban problems that we face in real life, voiced by an odd lot of fantastical, offbeat misfits whose statements and conversations are based on a chimerical version of mundane existence."
>>Kim Harrison's A Perfect Blood, the tenth novel in her HOLLOWS series, in which Rachel deals with the ramifications of the events in Pale Demon that occurred when she inadvertently created devastating changes in the everafter and began her new life as a demon. In my review, I wrote, "One important focus in this novel is on Rachel's relationship with Trent, which has taken a dramatic turn in the past two books….Harrison does a great job with showing the hesitancy on both sides as they take baby steps toward a true friendship—one that may well become much deeper."     

>>Stacey Jay’s Blood on the Bayou, the second novel in her ANNABELLE LEE series, in which Annabelle must deal with all three men in her life as she searches for a hidden cave that holds a laboratory that is manufacturing drugs using fairy venom. In my review, I wrote, "This is a fast-paced story with a compelling plot, lots of action, and plenty of new information added to the series story arc….The plot is full of twists and turns and….the world-building…is fresh and inventive."      

>>Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon, the first novel in her INCRYPTID series, in which we are introduced to a world in which Verity Price defends and protects the supernatural  creatures of Manhattan—who are called cryptids. In my review, I wrote, "McGuire does a great job portraying the emotional pressures caused by the duality of Verity's life…She's determined to prove to her family that she can live a successful independent life, but she's also torn between duty and personal fulfillment."  

>>Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, which is currently a stand-alone novel, but may eventually become a series, in which we are introduced to a marvelous world filled with all manner of people with other-worldly talents and/or weird physical traits—all controlled by a secretive group of powerful and eccentric bureaucrats. In my review, I wrote, "This is the best paranormal fiction book I've read in a long, long time. The mythology is inventive and fresh, the world-building is unbelievably detailed, the clever humor is witty and sly, and the characters are quirky and fully developed to the nth degree."

>>Stefan Petrucha's Dead Mann Running, the second novel in his HESSIUS MANN series, in which Hess deals with the aftermath of the chakz riots and flashes back to scenes from his childhood. In my review, I wrote, "The pieces of the plot fit together perfectly, like the pieces of a finely crafted jigsaw puzzle….This is a great follow-up to Dead Mann Walking, with its compelling plot, non-stop action, and a shocking ending that takes Hess on a bittersweet flashback to his childhood."  

>>Diana Rowland’s Sins of the Demon, the fourth novel in her KARA GILLIAN series, in which someone tries to frame Kara for a series of murders and a demon keeps trying to summon her to the demon world for nefarious purposes. In my review, I wrote, "This is one of my favorite UF series. Kara is a strong, tough heroine with just enough insecurity and self-flagellation to make her vulnerable and likeable—much more real and down-to-earth than the usual multi-weapon, black-leather-clad, whiny heroines that proliferate in the UF world."  

>>Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, the first novel in his MIRIAM BLACK series, in which we meet Miriam, a tough, street-tough young woman who can touch a person and see the moment of his or her death. In my review, I wrote, "Miriam is profane, sarcastic, gritty, and gutsy. She isn't out to hurt anyone or cause any trouble, but she has learned to carry defensive weapons and she doesn't take any guff from anyone. Everything about the book is fresh and inventive, from the imaginative world-building to the cynical tone and coarse humor, to the well-developed characters, both primary and secondary."

The Top Six Urban Fantasy Series That Ended in 2012

     Six enormously popular urban fantasy series ended in 2012. Over the years, each gave us heroic heroes and heroines, lots of kick-ass action, and satisfyingly complex story arcs. To read my review of any of these series, just click on the series name below.   

>>D.D. Barant's terrific BLOODHOUND FILES series, in which we follow the heroine's adventures after she is transported unwillingly from the mortal world and sent to another realm where she is commanded to track down a serial killer. This series features two rarities in urban fantasy: sentient golems as supporting characters, and a minuscule human population that is subservient in every way to the majority, which consists mostly of vampires and werewolves. In my review, I wrote, "Thank you, D.D. Barant for creating the always-fascinating character of Jace Valchek and then placing her in the magical, mystical world of Thropirelem. Undead to the World is a fantastic ending to a great series."       

>>Susan and Clay Griffith's VAMPIRE EMPIRE steampunk series, in which a masked vampire adventurer and a young human queen fight to save the worldand fall in love along the way. In this alternate world, the vampires live in the northern latitudes and the humans live in the tropics. Although this series has elements of both romance and steampunk, there is more than enough gritty, dark action to keep it in the urban fantasy realm. In my review, I wrote, "In every book, characters must grapple with issues of morality, loyalty, and justice, and they consistently do it in interesting and compelling ways. The Griffiths have created a marvelous world in this trilogy, and I highly recommend it."   

>>Sophie Littlefield's AFTERTIME zombie apocalypse series, in which we follow a few survivors of a government-orchestrated apocalypse that resulted in a huge and fierce zombie-esque population called Beaters. I love the idea that the plague in this world resulted from humans eating a plant that grew from seed the government distributed in an attempt to prevent a famine. Talk about irony!  In my review, I wrote, "Littlefield has created a terrific world here, with fully developed characters and compelling story lines. This has been a top-notch series from book 1 to the end, and I hate to see it end."   

>>Devon Monk’s ALLIE BECKSTROM, a pure urban fantasy series, in which we follow Allie as she deals the effects and the after-effects of magic in a world in which magic is available to everyone. In my review, I wrote, "These books tell the story of a magical community in which each one of the supporting characters has a back-story and a personality and faces challenges that force him or her to adapt to difficult circumstances. What makes this such a strong series is the combination of personalities who work together and support each other even though they bicker all the time and disagree frequently about the best way forward."  

>>David Wellington’s LAURA CAXTON series, in which Laura relentlessly fights numerous battles against the bloodthirsty, Nosferatu-like vampires who are loose in this world. In my review, I wrote, “Wellington is inventive in the way he gathers the surviving characters in one place to set up the final confrontation and loops the key element in the story—the titular 32 fangs—directly back to Congreve, the very first vampire Laura ever met (and killed). Right down to the final moments, we can't predict what choices Laura will make as she faces down her undead enemy." (Although this series leans more towards horror than urban fantasy, I couldn't let it end without giving it the recognition that it deserves.)  

>>Jaye Wells’s SABINA KANE, another pure urban fantasy series, in which Sabina tries to achieve a balance between her dual genetic heritage: vampire and mage. In my review, I wrote, “The final book is a satisfying ending for the series, as its heroine finally achieves harmony in her personal life, and the dark races live on in peace—still hidden from the human world.”     

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