Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guest Post: Urban Fantasy by Bryce (Seak) from Only the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

I can’t really say I don’t like Urban Fantasy, let’s just say we’re more like acquaintances than really good friends. Because, you see, I’ve enjoyed my share of  Urban Fantasy.

I read, and quite enjoyed the first four installments of the Dresden Files. I even read, and yet again enjoyed, the first two books of The Black Sun’s Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover. A UF series I’ve really enjoyed of late, as much as I’ve enjoyed anything, is Tim Marquitz’ Demon Squad series. Now that’s UF I can get behind.

I guess don’t hate this subgenre, I’ve found I just can’t take that much at a time.

With the Dresden Files, it’s more Butcher’s style that I have to slowly take in than the subgenre anyway. I can only take so many of his books at a time because he explains things over and over and OVER again. I can only take that so many times.

But I guess that could be my problem with the rest of urban fantasy as well, now that I think about it. It’s a lot of repetition. Is there even an urban fantasy that’s not in the first person? I know that eliminates the sheer volume of wise-cracking one liners you can incorporate in a narrative, but is that really necessary? Maybe the fewer one-liners the better, like a less is more situation.

I reviewed the second book of the Black Sun’s Daughter series, Darker Angels, and did a bit of a spoof on Urban Fantasy. I called it “Welcome to Urban Fantasy School.” There I explained, in what I thought was obviously a hilarious manner, some of the similarities I find in Urban Fantasy. (BTW, I did enjoyed the book too.)

I also happen to be the type of person who can’t stand crime procedurals on TV. Yes, I admit that some are pretty good, but they’re all the SAME when you really think about it. 

Someone dies, cool detectives come in, science happens!, people interviewed, problem solved. Everything’s nicely wrapped up in the end.

I thought Saturday Night Live did a great spoof on this when they had Ice T explain a murder and he goes through how things usually happen on Law and Order: SVU

(1:50 in the video) 

Another problem that I run into, that’s no fault of Urban Fantasy, is that I tend to gravitate more toward fantasy* (sans urban). The more epic the better in my world. I love swords and magic and epicness. I love series that go on for 10 books (although I draw the line at the ones drawn out to 15 or more).

*And of course we all know how original epic fantasy can be.

I get enough of the real world when I live each day. I want to go back to a time when people didn’t have cell phones and the internet and technology as we know it today. I wish I could fight dragons and monsters and have magical elf ears that shoot flying fairy arrows filled with death.

Of course, the latter can be had in an Urban Fantasy book, but I want all of it, not just the latter.

While Urban Fantasy’s not my favorite, I’ve been known to read it and I will continue to dabble every now and then. It can be a good break from my regular preferences, but I don’t think you’ll see me reading a whole lot more of it any time soon.

Bryce had previously visited this blog with his review of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer. He's a contributor in the Only the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy blog, and you can find him on Twitter @otbsff.

I think Bryce brings up many great points, but I'm going to make it my mission to get him to read more Urban Fantasy. He'll never know what hit him.


  1. I write UF that's not first person. Just saying.

  2. I have to admit, my experience is limited, I'll have to give it a go some time to experience what that's like to have multiple POVs in urban fantasy. I never knew it was possible. :)

    1. You're spot on regardless... I actually like my UF in first person though, it just seems to fit the subgenre for some reason.

      Interestingly enough, I'm now reading Alchemystic by Anton Strout, and it has two POVs at the moment, both in first person.

      A UF book that may be to your liking is Awakenings by Edward Lazellari. A bit flawed, but reads well and has a good mix of epic, multiple POV 3rd person narrators, to go with the current urban setting. I really enjoyed it.

    2. If anyone can find me a UF, it's you. I did think Awakenings sounded interesting when you posted about it.

  3. That's an interesting take on the genre from Bryce, I wish you luck in your mission B. As Bryce only mentioned male authors I wonder if he's every tried a female UF author.

    1. Nope, not one female UF author. That may add something, I'll have to try that one day in the probably-not-too-near future. :)

    2. Admittedly, I'll have a tough time finding a female author from the books I've read that I'd recommend to you specifically.

      That said, I'm surprised that you enjoyed Hanover's series, as I'm surprised by how it's praised by people I don't consider much UF readers. The reason for this is because of all the male authors I've read in UF, this one in particular shares more in common with the typical Urban Fantasy that can be found from many female authors.

      I don't know why the reason is. Does it have to do with the author? Does it have to do with the sex of the main character? Is it a combination of sex of main character and the point-of-view of the narration?

      But when I see people really enjoying Hanover, I have to question then the factors they often use to put down the UF genre. And you enjoying Hanover is what actually clued me in that you may be more receptive into reading more in the subgenre.

      Kate Daniels' series by Ilona Andrews you could give a look, but don't judge it based on the first book. It had some technical issues, but quality improved plenty from there. It's actually an husband and wife combo, but I think Kate as a character should win you over.

      Another great writer is Kate Griffin's Mathew Swift Urban Magic series, which I'm sure you've seen it praised in SFF World with her first book. I don't like her male voice much, and I think she spends too much time describing the world (which actually makes sense in this universe), but great stories by her. She has a new series coming from Orbit next/this? month which I'm curious about.

      Another you can have a look is at K.A. Stewart's Jesse Dawson series, which insterestingly enough has the voice that most resembles that of Dresden. Lacking a bit of substance and pushing the overall plot forward (though moving in that direction), but fun books with some good action.

      Male author, but another fun series I've started to really enjoy is T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason series, which I've reviewed two books of.

      Lastly, it's the series that I always recommend to non-UF readers, Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston, but no one seems to have taken me on that suggestion :P

      Well there you go, a bit of UF at a quick glance.

    3. Wow, this comment could be its own post. I actually own A Madness of Angels, so that one should get a go at some point. Ilona Andrews sounds good from you and other sources and I have a copy of the first Joe Pitt book. I just need the push to actually get them read.

      But like I said, for me they're just too much the same. Something I didn't add was what about a non-self-contained book. One that doesn't resolve at all in the first book. I think I could get behind that. For something to really go in deep and complicated, it really needs more than 3 to 400 pages.

    4. Completely agree with the "too much the same". As I said, you're spot on in your complaints. Even though I love UF, when I have to pick which are the better books, you'd rarely see a UF on my top reads for the year despite how much I enjoy them. Well, except for Dresden who made the cut 2 years ago with Changes which was awesome.

      What I like about UF is not the self-contained stories, there are just a means to an end to produce a novel. My main interests is how they add to the world, and how they add to the ongoing plot... which is what has made Dresden so good to me, particularly after book 3. Each book adds a little bit more to the mythology, every book makes the series more epic.

      But yes, overall UF is still very much a popcorn read for me, and it just so happens that it's what I'm most often in the mood for.

      Loved the SNL clip by the way, it represents procedurals perfectly.

      And glad you mentioned the repetition aspect, and I think it's a consequence of the marketing department feeling the need to make novels more appealing to new readers, readers that won't invest right away on starting from the beginning on the series, but feel they can just jump in at any time. It's no different than TV shows. They retard the story, they dumb down the narrative, and it just makes for some tedious passages that serve littler purpose to fans of the series, who I think should be prioritized.

    5. Forgot to mention, the Marla Mason books I mentioned above is 3rd person with multiple POVs. Fun books.

    6. Thanks, and I'm just glad my post didn't just copy what everyone else has said. I guess there are more problems than I've ever even realized. :D

      But I see what you're saying, it's great popcorn and I can't say I ever regret my dalliances with UF.

  4. As you continue on, I think that you'll find that Butcher soon cuts down on "explain[ing] things over and over and OVER again". That bugged me in the beginning too, but I believe that he was trying to make the individual books accessible to people who might start with the 2nd, 3rd or 4th installment.


    1. That's really good to hear. I'm up to book 5, which I'm excited to jump into.

    2. Just marathon the rest of them already. I bet you'd be done by the end of the month.

    3. True, but there's so many I'm already committed to. Maybe I'll have to do that next year, just go for it for a month. I like it.

  5. It does seem to be pretty rare that you find an urban fantasy novel that doesn't have the first person POV. Especially in more recent years. I can think of a couple from a decade or so ago, but now, it's nearly all first person.

    And so very many of them are annoyingly similar. Hot single woman, paranormal threat, hot single woman meets slightly misogynistic but gorgeous guy, sexual tension ensues, paranormal threat ramps up, the two band together to save the day. The end. Now I'll grant you, my experience with urban fantasy isn't the greatest either, and I tend to avoid a lot of it (especially when the cover and synopsis feature Yet Another Hot Single Woman), but from what I have read, that seems to be pretty formulaic.

    Of course, it could be argued that a lot of epic fantasy is just as formulaic. Unknown guy gets given great destiny to save the world from a big threat, meets lots of people along the way, struggles, but eventually overcomes the threat. But even so, there's something more personally appealing about that formula than the other one.

    ...Long comment is long. TL;DR = I agree.

    1. I'm so under-read that I didn't even realize there existed UF books that weren't in first person. You can't ever rule anything out, but I just hadn't seen it. But you've nailed it and I guess it comes down to what kinds of repetition you prefer. :)

      It's like country music I guess. I don't get it, it all sounds the same to me, but people who listen to me tell me it's not all just the same.

  6. Seak, I like to get lost in my books as well. Get away from the craziness of the real world. I think that's why I stick to any magic, although it seems I've been sucked into the UF void lately. I do need to break that some and get to my Fantasy books I so enjoy.

    Great Post.

    1. Thanks so much, I think that's why we get along (not that you like my posts but that you like to get lost from reality :D ). I used to be able to read similar things back to back, but not since I started blogging. There's just too much to get to.


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