Monday, October 29, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Requiem by Tim Marquitz

Three months ago we had a guest post by Tim Marquitz where he shared his challenges and lessons learned while writing a dark epic fantasy trilogy. I mention this because he just released the last novel of the Blood War Trilogy with the title Requiem.

It's Halloween, which apparently for Marquitz it means time to give free stuff. Now we have a giveaway for Requiem and other bonus freebies. As a quick reminder, you can get the first of the trilogy Dawn of War for free.

There's a free short story which was picking up plenty of dust in Marquitz's computer, it's a dark urban fantasy so should fit right in with Halloween. Its title is Into the Mirror Black with the short description, "Driven by darkness, Tyson sets the stage for the elder gods' return."

Those that have followed this blog know that I consider Marquitz's urban fantasy series Demon Squad one of the more underrated urban fantasy series out there, which also happens to be one of my favorites.

With that in mind and since this month I've had a series of urban fantasy related guest posts, as part of the Requiem giveaway, everyone who answers the question, "What's your most underrated urban fantasy title?" in the comments section of this post, Tim Marquitz will send you eBook copies of Armageddon Bound (the first of the Demon Squad series) and Embers of an Age (second novel of the Blood War Trilogy).

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

Giveaway will be for 1 paperback copy of Requiem  for a US participants, and 5 eBook copies of Requiem for all participants.

The giveaway is open for worldwide, but the paperback is US shipping addresses only; it will run from October 29, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on November 9, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on November 9, 2012.
  • There'll be 6 winner total (1 US participant for paperback and 5 worldwide participants for eBook of Requiem) 
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone and Happy Halloween! And don't forget to comment to get free shit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Post: Metamorphosis of Urban Fantasy and Cover Art Models by Andrea from the Little Red Reviewer

Urban Fantasy. it’s a slippery thing - sometimes scary, sometimes romantic, usually thrilling, often starring attractive people who try very hard to do the right thing. Pretty hard to say you’re a fan of something, or not, when it’s definition keeps changing every 5 years. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about most contemporary urban fantasy that just doesn’t do it for me (and by contemporary, I mean UF that was written in the last 5 years or so).

I was shocked at how difficult this essay was for me to write. I was getting so close, but my words never quite matched how I felt. If I was writing this the old skool way, on paper, with a pencil and an eraser, I’d have erased through the fibers of the paper by now.

I used to read Urban Fantasy, except back then we also called it Magical Realism, and many fans used those terms interchangeably. Some of my favorite authors in that genre were Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman. De Lint wrote about mythology come to life, regular midwestern college kids who had conversations with crows and coyotes, who traveled to other planes and returned mildly unscathed after seeing another level of our world. In Gaiman’s famous Neverwhere, readers got a look into an unknown London, where a regular Joe helps a woman in need and finds himself sucked into a fantastical and horribly dangerous world populated by all sorts of strange people.

For the most part, the UF books I was exposed to when I was younger, and this was before days of the blogosphere and Amazon, were populated by ultra scary paranormal creatures, and humans who ran away from them instead of befriending them or flirting with them. The urban fantasy of my youth was all about the hero’s journey, of the character being forever changed by their experience. The plot was more mystery or coming-of-age than romance, the characters more interested in staying not-dead or not-possessed than in making sure the reader knew they were strong and sexy, yet vulnerable too. The characters were also often quite pissed off about being ripped from their every day lives and forced to do fantasy type things, like slay monsters or talk to spirit animals, or move to a different plane through music. This isn’t to say that nothing written back then (or nothing I read) had paranormal creatures who had romances with humans - The Skin Trade by George R R Martin is an excellent example. That one sure scared the shit out of me.

And here’s the part of this essay where I use clunky and inelegant language in an attempt to say how I truly feel, end up sounding like an idiot, and possibly piss a bunch of folks off. Ya’ll ready for some epically inelegant language?

So much of the urban fantasy I see when I go to Barnes and Noble these days seems like a fashion spread for really tight pants, anorexia, and neat tattoos. A stupid reason to be sure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the cover art on a lot of these books is a major turn off to me. Judging a book by the cover? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I already said it was stupid.

I think I know what they’re attempting to do with that cover art. I could be 100% wrong, but I think they’re trying to tell me that this book features a strong female main character. See how strong she is? I know she’s strong because her back is arched, she’s really skinny, she’s showing me her butt and or midriff, she’s got some super hawt tattoos, and she’s probably holding a weapon at a really weird angle too. My gut reaction is that someone feels it’s very, very important that I know right away how ravishingly beautiful and sexy this character is, and that there aren’t any other attributes about her or the story than they’d like to convey to me via the cover art. She’s hot and sexy, and that should be enough for me, right? Umm... what?

Someone’s brilliant concept of “how to get someone to pick up this book” completely and utterly backfired on me.

Yes, I’m aware of the stupidity of judging a book by it’s cover. but hey, the first thing that caught my interest for the Hurley and the Bledsoe was the cover art, so it goes both ways.

I’m an equal opportunist - I don’t give a shit what the character’s gender is or if the person is attractive or not, or what gender the person on the cover is. I want a character who shouts from the cover art “spend 300 pages with me because I’m fascinating and I’ll change your life”, not one shouts “spend 300 pages with me because I look better in tight pants than you do”.

This is very difficult for me to explain, and no matter the words I use, I feel like I’m sounding like some shithead who wants to go back in time to when women weren’t strong characters in books, women writers couldn’t get contracts, and publishers didn’t want to work with women, and basically, women’s lives sucked like you can’t believe. I don’t mean to sound like that. remember what I said about clunky and inelegant language? Good thing I’m not really using these ovaries, they seem to be defective. Not enough feminism in there, also, not enough elegant words.

Am I knocking down an entire subgenre because of it’s cover art? A little bit. Does the author have any control over the cover art? Usually not. I’ll agree whole heartedly with anyone who says “but that’s stupid!”. Maybe deep down I’m just jealous of all those skinny babes who can eat all the carbs they want and never get fat. Maybe I’m scared of having to face my own insecurities. Would I read more UF if the cover art was different? Maybe, but maybe not. I prefer my fantasy much, much darker than a lot of UF goes. Wow, repression and insecurities! it’s a winning combo! Or not.

This isn’t to say I’m a total UF hater. I recently fell head over heels in love with Stina Leicht’s Of Blood and Honey (and it’s sequel And Blue Skies from Pain) and Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver. Both feature the expected trappings of urban fantasy - secrets hidden in plain sight, ancient mythos, a hidden world of non-humans, and doomed romances. The characters are brave, flawed, face destruction if their secrets are made public, and willing to do what needs doing even when afraid. The intriguing cover art didn’t hurt either.

It’s completely possible those two books spoiled me rotten when it comes to UF.

Urban fantasy is like every other genre and subgenre - there are people who love it, and people like me who aren’t so keen on it in large doses but still find the occasional title to enjoy. The way those books fly off the shelves at the bookstore, me preferring other types of books isn’t hurting their sales one bit.

Please visit the Little Red Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @redhead5318 for more reviews and insights of the sci-fi and fantasy community.

She also organized one of the more interesting projects I've seen around known as the Bookstore Bookblogger Connection. Through it she helps give online reviews a voice outside of the internet, while at the same time helping bookstores promote novels they're trying to sell. For more information about all that it entails, please read this description. It's very much a worthwhile project, so hope it succeeds in its endeavor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

I don't envision this novel, which I enjoyed, will have many negative reviews around, and I'd hazard a guess that this one will be one of the more critical ones, and that's a good thing... I think. Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson is as close a sure thing debut as any I've read in the urban fantasy genre. It's appeal will make it a fan favorite right off the bat, and a novel that will surely charm its way to be among the favorites of the year for urban fantasy enthusiasts, particularly those that enjoy some kick-ass action accompanied by a small dose of the sexy.

It's just an ordinary night for Jessica McClain, waking up in the middle of a nightmare as she's turned into a werewolf. Completely normal, happens to everyone, wouldn't you say? Problem is that she's an impossibility, something that could never be; a female werewolf. Throughout all her life she's been subject of prophecies that indicate that she'll be the destruction of her race, which doesn't bode well for her now that she's turned. What follows is a story about how she, her family, and her friends will handle keeping her secret in the midst of traitors, of clan members that want her dead, and an overzealous detective that suspects her of being in league with the criminal underworld.

Full Blooded was an interesting novel, as far as plot structure and pace. As for plot, I felt it was a bit unfocused, something that I'd consider a big negative just about any read I'd stumble upon. In this case, I more than welcomed it. Will we be dealing with a traitor? Will we be focusing on the police that's out to get her? Will have to be concerned with keeping her new werewolf self a secret? Will we be dealing with the investigation aspects of her workplace? Will we be trying to figure out who's trying to kill Jessica? As the story went along I really didn't know where Carlson was heading with this story, until it clicked for me. It doesn't matter what the plot focuses on, when one considers it's really about Jessica's life and how she deals with the suddenness of her situation and adapting her life accordingly. And the answer is pretty much "yes" to all the above, which leads right into the interesting pace.

Pace was what I can only describe as patiently fast-paced. Patient because the scenes themselves took a bit to develop, and where at times lengthy. Fast paced, because not only does it have a lot of badass action, but because it deals with all the plot issues above in a timely and efficient manner. Some of the plot points could've easily been stretched and milked for all its worth in a span of several books, which is a tendency I find becoming more common as of late. Instead Amanda Carlson tackles all those situations without missing a beat, promising a fresh set of dilemmas for the sequel. I really enjoyed this aspect, no stringing the reader along with a lot of bullshit to avoid issues that can be dealt with in the present.

Jessica McClain was a fun character. Not only was she strong physically, she's had to live through a shit plate of a life, and she's faced her problems head on determined not to become a victim. She's constantly positioned herself to improve her quality of life. Now that's she has turned into a werewolf, you can tell that she might be enjoying how the tables might be turning a bit... of course, when she's not worrying about those that are trying to kill her or undo all the life she's built for herself. She's a fun character and an energetic narrator. If you've ever had the chance to interact with the author, you can tell that the enthusiasm she seems to have in real life has influenced Jessica's persona.

Jessica is accompanied by a decent cast of side characters. Still am unable to commit fully to them, but I see two of them that I'll be looking forward to seeing more of. The main overall problem for me were that about three of Jessica's closest confidants were hard to distinguish from one another, they had similar voices. By the end of it though, they started to stand-out a bit more, so will be looking forward how Carlson further develops them. That said, I really enjoyed how they all interacted and I think most will find Jessica's relationship with her She-Wolf quite amusing.

I won't lie though, Full Blooded was a tale of two halves for me. And I won't lie either about how it was the promise of kick-ass action which attracted me to this novel in the first place, so that perspective influenced majorly on how I perceived the novel. In all, loved the first half, but I encountered a few issues in the second half that prevented me from enjoying this novel as much as I could have. Some of it are issues that I think the author can address and improve on, other have more of a personal taste nature (though I still think it can be handled better).

Let's start with the most obvious one as it concerns me, how the sexy, erotica, lust scenes were handled. Just to be clear, there was only one sex scene here, and all that went down was appropriate as far as I'm concerned. In the first half, there really wasn't anything that I found problematic on this regard, some great banter among friends and some good humor flirting which I could identify with as it resembles just fun dialogue between friends. At times surprisingly refreshing. The aforementioned sex scene was a bit awkward as it came about, but fitting with the story, so even then not much of a problem for me. The problem came in the second half when Jessica became isolated with certain character, after avoiding an action scene that had the making of being awesome, in favor of 26 or so pages I didn't handle well. It was filled with a lot of ogling and descriptions of how sexy this dude was, how the sweat was dripping off him, description of his muscles, etc. There was an amusing side to all of this with Jessica interacting with the wolf inside her, but just too much for me during this span. What made it worse was that it all occurred during a long trek which really interrupted the great pace the story had to this point. And of course, we had to go through a body of water, so an excuse to get wet and partially undressed so the characters could leer at each other a bit more.

Then there was the action, which is the aspect where I hope Carlson can improve on in the future, which is certainly doable. The evidence is in the novel itself. By this I mean is that in the first half, the action was some of the best I've read this year, and probably ever in this subgenre. It had all the elements I look for: limited dialogue, fast, hard, and violently detailed. It became even better with the good energy and excitement of Jessica's narration in a setting that was blissfully silent, except for the screams from pain. Also, surprisingly graphic which was great.  So it came as a bit of a disappointment when some of these attributes were dropped in the second half. The major problem was the dialogue, it became quite obtrusive to the action and plagued with characters cursing at each other that came off as a bit immature shouting and uninspired. I had made this observation previously in my Blooded novella review, and was encouraged by how well the action was handled in the first half of Full Blooded, so it was a bit of a shame that these problems crept back into the narrative as the climax to this novel was unfolding. That's not to say that the action was bad, it was still hard and awesomely violent, but these other issues prevented me from enjoying them to its full capacity despite how action packed it was.

All this said, I really enjoyed the novel and the above shouldn't be used to discourage interested readers from trying it. They're merely some areas I think could be improved on and could have made this novel much better for me personally. As mentioned, the first half was really good for me, and the second half shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did. Regardless of all this, I'm of the opinion that this is a well balanced novel that the great majority of urban fantasy readers will get a kick out of. Full Blooded fulfilled it's promise with a main character that kicks major ass amid a fun and energetic narrative, and I invite others to give Amanda Carlson's debut a shot. I know I'm just about ready for the sequel Hot Blooded, but it comes out during Spring next year.

Buy Full Blooded from The Book Depository.

For more information about the author and this series, please visit Amanda Carlson's website. Also of interest is my interview with the author from earlier in the year.

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Winner Update for Fate of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Winner of the giveaway for hardcover copy of Fate of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner:

Tim Lewis

Thanks everyone who participated and congrats to Tim. Until next time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post: Portrayal of Strong Characters in Urban Fantasy by Sarah from Bookworm Blues

I had a very hard time thinking about what to write for this post. I really enjoy some urban fantasy like books by Stina Leicht, or Neil Gaiman. However, if there is an urban fantasy book with a scantily clad, tattooed woman brandishing weapons and/or magic on the cover I kind of shudder and walk away really fast. If I do end up reading a book like that, I can almost guarantee you I won’t like it. I can list the reasons why – the plots are all basically the same. The female protagonist is always the same (rough past, jaded by men, tough as nails with tons of quips, gorgeous but doesn’t know it, etc).

That’s not a post, though. That’s a nicely colored rant.

Instead of ranting, I decided to take a lot of time and really think about why these books and characters turn me off so much and I think I’ve figured out why, though it will probably be a rather unpopular viewpoint.

I’ve been through a lot. I’m not even thirty yet, but I’ve already fought cancer (I’m in my second battle with it now), had a child with serious health risks (she’s fine, thankfully), been through eight surgeries, been paralyzed for nearly six months and on the list goes, and that’s just in the past two years. Oddly enough, it’s in the past two years that these kind of urban fantasy characters have started to bother me so much.

The truth is, these urban fantasy books thrilled me before I was diagnosed with cancer and I started this roller coaster ride of health issues that has mentally aged me far more than I ever thought possible. I read them quite frequently when I was working on my undergraduate degree. I enjoyed them for the strong women and their escapist tendencies and yes, I even enjoyed the romance (which is shocking, considering how much I complain about romance now).

However, if there’s one thing fighting cancer, and fighting for the life of your unborn child will teach you is that strength comes in many forms. I feel like these stereotypical urban fantasy women cheapen the real life and realistic struggles of so many people and literary characters. These characters (most often women) are all the same, and I get sick of the endless quips and the hunky men who dangle before them like a reward for some hardcore knife/magic welding. That’s not realistic, and that’s the problem I have with urban fantasy in general. So much of this is not realistic.

I feel like many of these female leads are too in-your-face and look-at-me-and-my-badassness to be really believed and the thing is, strong women surround all of us. Strong women are constantly fighting silent (and some not-so-silent) battles. Life is full of battles for all of us, but I feel like the truly strong women are rather silent forces that fight internal battles as much as external. These characters, these in-your-face women who ooze sex appeal and deadly force aren’t real, nor are they believable.

Strong characters flood literature, and books with them are well worth reading. Characters like Liam in The Fey and the Fallen series by Stina Leicht, are very realistic and hauntingly so, due to how human they are. That’s what makes them such wonderful characters – they are absolutely human. Liam lives through one horrible live in a very chaotic time of Irish history, and he makes mistakes, and succeeds. It’s heart wrenching, really, but he keeps going. That’s what strength is – the ability to keep going when all seems lost.

When I really look at the root of why urban fantasy bothers me so much, it’s because of these “strong” woman. You don’t need a weapon strapped to your leg to be strong. You don’t need cut abs, or some horrible past to be strong. Some people fight silent battles. Urban fantasy is escapist fun, but it lacks substance and realism. It tells people that strong women are gorgeous (but don’t know it), and witty beyond measure while having some incredible ability and that’s just not real. Strong women come in every shape and size and their battles cover the gamut of human trauma and books should (and many do) reflect this.

In the end, I’d rather read about a realistic character any day, than one of these scantily clad, cookie cutters that flood urban fantasy shelves. I wish people wouldn’t call these characters strong. I wish they’d say that they are fun – that’s more accurate. Strong characters are human, realistic and often haunting. These urban fantasy characters don’t reflect true human strength – in fact, I tend to think they insult it. 

And that’s why (some) urban fantasy bothers me.


Sarah is one of the strongest people I've interacted with, and you can follow her on the Bookworm Blues blog and on her Twitter @BookwormBlues.

Considering that her post focused on how strength is portrayed in Urban Fantasy, I invite you to read a series of guest posts she had on her blog about Special Needs. I think it'll give an interesting contrast to what is being talked about here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Guest Post: The Achilles Heel of Urban Fantasy by Paul Weimer

The Free City of Urban Fantasy has been one that has had far less appeal to me than other realms within genre. I avidly explores the baronies of Sword and Sorcery, explore the kingdoms and empires of Epic Fantasy, reave across the realms of Space Opera, have made explorations into the mechanical republics of Steampunk, and once upon a time read every Alternate History that came out. In comparison, Urban Fantasy, by and large, has left me cold, wanting, and disappointed. Herein I set to lay out what is for me the achilles heel of Urban Fantasy, and provide some counter-examples that have crossed my plate.

First, briefly, I should explain what I mean by urban fantasy. The subgenre of Urban Fantasy has slippery boundaries, and definitions can be slippery if not downright idiosyncratic. For me, Urban Fantasy is Fantasy that takes place in a close approximation of our contemporary world, and was written and takes place within living memory of a substantial portion of the population. Further, it usually takes place in an urban setting, and the Matter involves supernatural beings of some kind. Thus, War for the Oaks is solidly Urban Fantasy. Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht, written recently but taking place in 1970’s Belfast, is currently urban fantasy but won’t always be so. Thieftaker, by David D.B. Jackson, set in 18th century Boston, is most definitely historical fantasy.

In general, when I read fiction, I read for four things. The first two, plot and character, to quote Jay Lake, is enough for a lot of readers. If an author can hit those two, they have a serviceable work for a large portion of the reading public. It makes for a cheeseburger of a meal, to quote Damien Walter.  For me, though, a real novel has two more essential ingredients, Language and World Building and it is in the latter that a lot of Urban Fantasy falls flat for me.

I want a playground of the imagination that feels connected and organic with the mundane world that Urban Fantasy springs from. I want a world that makes sense, and yet evokes my sense of wonder.The Urban Fantasy I have come in contact with, by and large, has failed miserably in the worldbuilding. 

Time and again, I get no sense of the city that the urban fantasy writer has invoked, even if the city is constructed out of whole cloth. Worse, I’ve read Urban Fantasy set in places I’ve lived in or spent time in. and amateurish mistakes (as opposed to deliberate changes) cause me to get angry at the author. The 4 train in New York does NOT run underneath the American Museum of Natural History. New Yorkers never eat pizza with a knife and a fork. Saint Paul is not directly across the river from Minneapolis.

And then there is the lack of holistic integration with the supernatural element. Urban Fantasy seems to fall into two camps--where supernaturals are running around in the night, hidden from the public, or supernaturals are well known by all and sundry.  I’ve read Urban Fantasy from both strains.  

In the former, the urban fantasist breaks my suspension of disbelief by having so many supernatural elements and actors, that its completely implausible the mundane world is unaware of their existence, even if you take the tack that people only want to see what they want to see.  In vampire novels, for instance, the sheer number of vampires found in a city suggest that, in rigorous worldbuilding, either the police, the local health organizations, or both, would quickly, very quickly get wind of something extremely wrong in their city. And yet, this doesn’t happen.  

In the latter, the Urban Fantasist underplays things in the opposite direction. Vampires, or Werewolves, or what have you are out, proud, loud and it seems to have an amazingly small effect on the populace and the body politic. You can certainly argue that people get used to stuff, the counterpart to “people only want to see what they want to see”. There is an element of that.  But consider the immigrant experience. When relatively large populations of immigrants have migrated to cities, the social effects have been significant. The Hmong experience, for example, in St. Paul, Minnesota. And yet, many of the Urban Fantasists I’ve read, by and large, have eschewed engaging with those implications or doing so in a realistic manner.

So who gets it right in my experience? What Urban Fantasy has plot, character, setting AND language?

Jim C Hines is best known for his Jig the Goblin and Princess novels, both solidly secondary world fantasy. His new novel Libriomancer, however, is not only Urban Fantasy, but acts in many ways as a critique of some of the excesses and problems of Urban Fantasy creatures, protagonists and situations. And he does it with writing that leaps off of the page, and follows through on the implications of the magic revealed in the book. 

Jim Butcher likely needs no introduction to this audience. Although I’ve only read a few of the Dresden Files novels to date, the novels I have read have impressed me particularly with his worldbuilding, complexity and rich world. Some of the readers here who are aware of my roleplaying game interests will be not surprised that I own a copy of the two volume Dresden Files Roleplaying game. The second volume is a massive tome that collates and collects the rich diversity of factions, characters, powers and locations from Harry’s world. Harry’s Chicago feels real to me. It’s a strong and abiding contrast to a lot of the paper thin worldbuilding in other Urban Fantasy.

Carrie Vaughn is another author readers here likely need no introduction to. Her Kitty novels follow an engaging heroine, yes, and the plots are well done. In addition, however, the implications of supernatural creatures revealing themselves to the world is a theme Vaughn has been unspooling through her novels. Events from previous novels have well thought out implications in future novels. Her world feels real, plausible, organic and as messy as ours.

Still, even given these exceptions, the Urban Fantasy I have read and enjoyed have been outweighed and outnumbered by some very disappointing misses. More than a few times over the last few years, my attempts to step into the Urban Fantasy field have resulted in various levels of disappointment. The fact that some of the authors in question are extremely successful suggests that what I am reading for is not what they are writing. I’ve been extremely reluctant to engage with the subgenre. Life is too short for books that don’t work for you, and since such a large portion of Urban Fantasy doesn’t, I mentally classify the entire field as such.

Still, there are temptations out there. Tad Williams, author of the massive Otherland quartet,  has a new urban fantasy novel, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, that looks interesting. Jacqueline Carey, whose I really have enjoyed, is entering the urban fantasy field this fall with Dark Currents, with a half-demon heroine who serves the Goddess Hel.  And a check of my shelves (virtual and otherwise) shows I have Hexed by Kevin Hearne, Geekomancy by Michael Underwood and Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, all waiting for me sometime. And I really should read more of Laura Anne Gilman’s urban fantasy, especially given that I liked her Vineart War trilogy and the first of her P.U.P.I. novels.

So, perhaps I’ll be tempted into the free city of Urban Fantasy yet. But we’ll see if those works can hit plot, character, setting and language together.


You can find Paul Weimer on Twitter @PrinceJvstin and on his personal Blog, Jvstin Style. He's also a contributor on SF Signal and on the The Functional Nerds.

A few weeks ago, he organized an on-topic Mind Meld about Urban Fantasy which I think is worth a read. In any case, thanks for sharing your thoughts Paul, certainly gave me a few things to ponder on as I look back on some of my UF readings.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Info on Clean Sweep: Book One of the Innkeeper Chronicles - Free Serial Story by Ilona Andrews (Mihir)

Due to their books Ilona Andrews have rapidly climbed the reading ranks within the urban fantasy world and my favorites list in the past couple of years. Their writing style as well as their humorous prose along with action-packed story-lines makes their books very addictive to say the least. I’m always looking forward to introduce new readers to their books and so when they announced this new experiment, I was excited to read another new story from this dynamic duo.

This serial story is titled “Clean Sweep” and is book I of the Innkeeper Chronicles. The blurb details were revealed to me by the authors via email & here’s what the plot entails:

In a quiet Texas suburb, life is calm and peaceful, and that's just like Dina Demille likes it. But now something with long claws and savage teeth is hunting on the night streets, leaving blood on the manicured lawns. As an innkeeper, Dina knows she shouldn't get involved.
But with her neighbors' lives at stake, she must make a choice: to remain neutral and stay safe or to risk everything, her magic inn, the safety of her guests, and her life to face an enemy unlike any she had ever expected to meet.”

The first chapter has been posted in parts HERE and HERE, and the first part of the second chapter can be found HERE. This book may or may not be related to the authors' previous work however the authors are being coy about it for now (keep an eye out for clues in the story). For the foreseeable future, the remaining parts of the serial can be found over on  this section of their website, be sure to check back every week.

I originally posted this on Fantasy Book Critic, but wanted to share the information here since both Bastard and I are big fans of Ilona Andrews.

Bastard Giveaway: Fate of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Well I got a hardcover copy of Fate of the Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, supposed to be the last book in the Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds sci-fi series. I don't envision having time to read  it, so thought there'd be someone out there who'd be interested in it.
For decades, the spacefaring species of Known Space have battled over the largest artifact—and grandest prize—in the galaxy: the all-but-limitless resources and technology of the Ringworld. But without warning the Ringworld has vanished, leaving behind three rival war fleets.

Something must justify the blood and treasure that have been spent. If the fallen civilization of the Ringworld can no longer be despoiled of its secrets, the Puppeteers will be forced to surrender theirs. Everyone knows that the Puppeteers are cowards.

But the crises converging upon the trillion Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds go far beyond even the onrushing armadas:

Adventurer Louis Wu and the exiled Puppeteer known only as Hindmost, marooned together for more than a decade, escaped from the Ringworld before it disappeared. And throughout those years, as he studied Ringworld technology, Hindmost has plotted to reclaim his power …

Ol’t’ro, the Gw’oth ensemble mind—and the Fleet of World’s unsuspected puppet master for a century—is deviously brilliant. And, increasingly unbalanced …

Proteus, the artificial intelligence on which—in desperation—the Puppeteers rely to manage their defenses, is outgrowing its programming. And the supposed constraints on its initiative …

Sigmund Ausfaller, paranoid and disgraced hero of the lost human colony of New Terra, knows that something threatens his adopted home world. And that it must be stopped …

Achilles, the megalomaniac Puppeteer, twice banished—and twice rehabilitated—sees the Fleet of World’s existential crisis as a new opportunity to reclaim supreme power. Whatever the risks …

One way or another, the fabled race of Puppeteers may have come to the end of their days in this final installment to Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner's Fleet of Worlds series.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for US shipping addresses only; it will run from October 1, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on October 12, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on October 12, 2012.
  • There'll be 1 winner total.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway