Thursday, September 22, 2011

Favorites: Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy is one of my very favorite genres. Occasionally, people ask me for recommendations. There are so many great stories out there.  Here are a few of my favorites:

by Karen Marie Moning

At the moment, this series reigns as my number one favorite, not only in Urban Fantasy, but in all books, period. I would have never believed it if you told me that while I was reading Darkfever. I almost put that first book down more than once, mostly because I didn't like the main character. MacKayla Lane was everything I am not (and never have been.) She was perky, bubbly, blond, and innocent. Until her sister is mysteriously killed during a trip to Ireland. Mac puts her life on hold to travel around the world, to find out what happened to her sister and get justice. There, she finds out that nothing is what it seems. The Fae are real and their world is bleeding into ours. She meets a sexy and mysterious man named Jericho Barrons and together, they search for a Fae book of untold power that is somehow tied to Mac and her lost sister. 

This series is dark, gripping, sexy and absolutely brilliant. There are five books in the first main arc and each one ends with a cliffhanger leading up to the last installment. If you ever take my advice on anything, believe me when I say these two things: 1) Read the Fever series; And 2) Do not start them until you have all five books in front of you. I promise that the moment you put one down, you'll be desperate to start the next one. At least I was. Simply outstanding.

Click to purchase Darkfever (Fever Series, Book 1)

by Ilona Andrews
I'll admit that I resisted picking up one of these books for a long time because of the cover art. Each book features a lion and a woman with a sword.  I remember thinking to myself, "That's fantasy, not Urban Fantasy." But after being inundated with recommendations, I broke down and started reading.

The world Kate Daniels lives in, is one where magic vies with technology for prevalence in everyday life. When the "magic is up," machines don't work. When the "tech is up," magic is dormant. The battle for supremacy has left much of Atlanta in ruins. As the series begins, Kate is a mercenary who solves problems that are supernatural in nature. But after her guardian is killed, her investigation ties her to his old employer and to Curran, the leader of the shapeshifting community. The dynamic between Kate and Curran is fantastic... and ultimately sexy. Kate is strong, loyal, funny and brave. She is without a doubt my favorite UF heroine. Some people find the world-building a little murky in the first book, but it gets clearer over time. The writing is fast and witty; And the secondary characters are fleshed out, empathetic, and clearly defined. These are books with equal parts action, humor, and heart. I love them.

Click to purchase: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, Book 1)

by Kim Harrison

It took me a few books to fall in love with this series.  But by the time I hit book 5, I was completely and irrevocably head-over-heels.  The main character of the series is Rachel Morgan.  She is a witch of seemingly average skill who works for the I.S., an agency made up of supernaturals who police others of their own kind.  But she wants to branch out on her own and she ends up starting a private firm with a vampire named Ivy and a pixie named Jenks.  The stories follow Rachel's adventures as she deals with everything from werewolves and demons, to fairies and leprechauns. But at the heart of this series are the interpersonal relationships that Rachel develops with the people in her inner circle. There is romance, action, loss, and redemption.  And the characters have such depth.  Even the villains are layered and likable in some ways.  The series just keeps getting better and better.  The most recent (book 9) has been my favorite yet. For a more in depth primer, check out the video. (If it's too small to read, you can make it fullscreen. But be aware, it does contain spoilers.)

Click to purchase: Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, Book 1)

Downside Ghosts
by Stacia Kane

This series is like no other I have ever read.  The heroine is a drug addict. She is fundamentally broken in many ways by neglect and abuse.  She makes bad decisions.  But Chess Putnam hasn't given up on life. She maintains loyalty to the Church that employs her and does her job well, banishing ghosts for them.  And for the first time, she is falling in love.  The object of her affection, Terrible, is officially one of my favorite male leads of all time.  He is an uneducated, unattractive thug.  But he loves Chess in a way that turns him into a damn prince.  The series is gritty and disturbing at times.  Plus, the characters use an odd street slang that takes some getting used to.  It's all so unusual, I almost gave up on the first book.  But I'm so glad I didn't.  At this point, I am so invested in these characters, it is almost embarrassing.  Stacia Kane is such a talent.  I freaking love these books.

by Kelly Armstrong
One of the things I love most about the Otherworld series is just how rich the world-building is. Each one of these books features a different main character, but some favorites get more than one book. What's more, as we get further and further into the series, everyone's stories become so interconnected that it creates one big picture that I never dreamed of back in the beginning.  The early books focus on a werewolf named Elena, her love/hate relationship with her lover Clay, and her struggles to accept what she is.  Later books feature a witch named Paige, a necromancer named Jamie, and a ghost named Eve... among many others.  Most of these books would still work as stand-alones, but the history and background is part of what makes it all so good.  The books progress in nearly real-time.  With the first book out about 10 years ago, that's how much time has passed in the stories as well. But Armstrong is so awesome, she fills in the blanks with a wealth of short stories available free on her website.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in these fantastic tales.  There is plenty of plot driven action and enough romance to satisfy those of us who want some love in our stories. 

Click to purchase: Bitten: A Novel (Otherworld, Book 1)

by Karen Chance
This series may not be for everyone. But if you don't mind a few time-travel induced brain twisters, you should check it out.  Cassie is a clairvoyant who grew up with vampires.  As her power increases, she becomes a highly prized member of the supernatural community.  She becomes a target for those who want to kill her, those who want to control her, and those who just want her.  Yep, there is some really good sexual tension in these books and more than one strong contender as a HEA for the heroine.  The series features not only vamps, but demons, Fae and other supernaturals.  And there is a lot of time travel, which left me scratching my head a couple of times.  But it was totally worth it.

Click to purchase: Touch the Dark (Cassandra Palmer, Book 1)

by Darynda Jones
Charley Davidson is a snarky, tough, brave and engaging PI and police consultant, who also happens to be the grim reaper.  This series follows her life as she solves crimes and help the dead cross over to the other side.  And perhaps, most importantly, it takes us along for the ride as Charley tries to figure out the enigma otherwise known as the sexy and powerful Reyes Farrow.  These books are a thrill ride from beginning to end.  They are sexy.  And they are so, so funny. Charley's dry wit had me laughing out loud over and over again.  The series is unpredictable and engaging and I am 100% in love with it.

by Jennifer Estep
Gin Blanco is an awesome, kick-ass killer-for-hire who wields the power of multiple elements.  Her family was killed when she was a child, and she was taken in by an old assassin named Fletcher. He raised her and taught her his craft, making her one of the best in the business.  The stories follow Gin as she begins to use her skills to fight the good fight. She takes up causes for people in need and shows that she is a really good person beneath all that killing.  Gin has a wonderful second family that is really her bedrock; they showcase her ability to love and be loved, despite the loner she thinks herself to be.  The series is creative, fun, and the author doesn't shy away from who her characters really are.

Click to purchase: Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, Book 1)

by Amanda Bonilla
Darian started her life as an ordinary human. But a mysterious man with extraordinary gifts rescued her from the confines of an abusive relationship and helped her transition into a nearly immortal Shaede.  She uses her new abilities to become an assassin, cut-off from relationships and emotion. But that all changes as she finds others of her kind and falls in love with a man who is totally crazy about her.  I love this series.  The heroine is emotionally stunted, but we get to watch her evolution --both in her personal life and as we see her powers grow.  Tyler is a great hero: patient, loyal and powerful. And there's an engaging cast of secondary characters that grow in importance as the series goes on.  Whirlwind action, great world-building and a romance to root for makes this an Urban Fantasy series you don't want to miss!

I may add to this post if I think of any I left off.  But I'd love to hear from you.  What are you favorite UF reads?  I'm always looking for new books to love.

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At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 1:22:00 PM CDT , Blogger Book Savvy Babe said...

Fantastic choices, I'm with you, here's my order: Fever, Elemental Assassins, Kate Daniels, The Hallows..I love Sookie Stackhouse too.... Book Savvy Babe

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 1:57:00 PM CDT , Blogger Lesley said...

Great choices I love all of them except Cassie Palmer I just never really got into that series. I also love Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series it's A-MAZING.

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 2:57:00 PM CDT , Blogger Michelle Greathouse said...


I absolutely love the Hollows series by Harrison. I read the first book in the Kate Daniels series and the Elemental Assassin series - but couldn't get into them - I may revisit each of those when I get the chance.

I really enjoyed the Werecats series by Rachel Vincent and hate that it has come to an end.

I also like these series:

Trickster - Rob Thurman
Hunter Kiss - Marjorie M Liu
Dresden Files - Jim Butcher
Weather Warden - Rachel Caine
Outcast Season - Rachel Caine
Nightside - Simon R Green
Sabina Kane - Jaye Wells
Shades of Fury - Kasey MacKenzie

I'm sure there are more - but that's all I can come up with right off the top of my head. :)


At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 3:15:00 PM CDT , Blogger kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

I read all of these, Jen! Fever and Kate Daniels are #1 and #2 of my top five urban fantasy series. The other three:
3. Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane
4. Jill Kismet by Lilith Saintcrow
5. The Maker's Song by Adrian Phoenix

They are absolutely awesome :)

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 5:46:00 PM CDT , Blogger Lexi said...

Totally agree, Fever series may be the best series ever written!
Your other tops are all great too. I also like the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Not dark, have some funny moments, and you get a mix of werewolves camps and fae.

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 5:55:00 PM CDT , Blogger Amber Hughes said...

I'm currently reading Dreamfever right now. Loving this series!Women of the Otherworld, Kate Daniels, and the Hollows are on my favorite UF list too!

Like Lexi, I really like the Mercy Thompson series as well :-)

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 7:15:00 PM CDT , Blogger C.J Duggan said...

Totally agree! Fever and Kate Daniel's are amazing and deffitnatly feature in my top 5! Also really love Cassie Palmer.

Right up there is Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs and Georgina Kincaid Series by Richelle Mead. Like the Fever series Meads very last book has just come out, so a good time to knock over a series in it's entirity.

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 7:42:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jen at Red Hot Books said...

I'm so excited to hear your suggestions. I have read and enjoyed the Sookie books and the Mercy books as well. And I've heard good things about Georgine Kincaid and Downside Ghosts.

I'll definitely have to check out some of these other recommendations. Thank you so much for sharing your favorites --I hope you will all keep your suggestions coming!

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:04:00 PM CDT , Anonymous Paperback Daydreamer (Deanna) said...

Great recommendations! I really enjoyed the Fever Series. I've heard a lot about the Kate Daniels series and I actually have several books from the series sitting on my shelf. I was recommended the Hallows series before and I have the first two books waiting for me on my shelf. I've never heard of the Otherworld by Kelly Armstrong. I was a little confused on your write up for the series...the ones with * me it's a novella/short story right? I've heard a little about the Cassie Palmer series but a lot about the Elemental Assassin series.

At Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 10:09:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jen at Red Hot Books said...

Deanna: The Otherworld series has so many short stories and novellas! Yes... that's what the asterisks indicate. After the name of each short story, the anthology where it is found is listed in parentheses.

The first full lenth novel in the series is Bitten and that is where I would suggest anyone should start. There are several short stories that take place before that chronologically, but you would appreciate them more after reading a few of the novels.

Hope that helps!

At Friday, September 23, 2011 at 11:01:00 AM CDT , Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not an Urban Fantasy fan, but OMG I loved the Fever books. I loved how Mac evolved as a character and I am still absolutely positive Barrons is the most alpha male I have ever read.

Another Urban Fantasy series I have read and enjoyed was Jaye Wells Sabina Kane series. It's really good. Vamp/Mage heroine with a mischief demon/hairless cat side kick.

At Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:31:00 PM CDT , Blogger Unknown said...

Great list! There's a few on here I haven't read but definitely need to. One of my favorites in the Black London series by Caitlin Kittredge.

At Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:33:00 PM CDT , Blogger CdnMrs said...

You've got to add The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne and The Jane True Series by Nicole Peeler. Oh and Diana Rowland's zombie series.

At Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:35:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jen at Red Hot Books said...

I have never heard of that series. (*runs to Goodreads*)

At Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:36:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jen at Red Hot Books said...

I do love Jane True!! But I haven't read the other two. Isn't Iron Druid, YA?


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