March 21, 2013

Best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Past Decade


Barnes & Noble posted their top 25 Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Past Decade over on their blog today, and I relished reading through the list. Since I discovered the urban fantasy/paranormal  fiction genres, for all intents and purposes, within that time period, I found it a fitting moment to examine which novels and/or series I might include on such a list. Most of the usual suspects make an appearance on the B&N list (some of them work for me, some of them don't), though I was a bit dismayed to find a couple rather glaring (in my mind) absences, foremost among them Robin McKinley's Sunshine and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series. If you need a single book from the Daniels series, I'd go with Magic Strikes in a heartbeat. It, like a couple of others on my list, is a perfect book. And it fueled my passion for the genre like few other books ever have. Honestly, urban fantasy/paranormal fiction/call it what you will is very near and dear to my heart. I always return to my favorite books and heroines because they are where I want to be.

So. A list. I decided to go with 10 instead of 25, and I will say a couple or three surprised me by insisting on snagging a place on the list. Scrappy little books that they are. You guys will likely be wholly unsurprised by the books on this list (which are presented in the order in which I read them and not in order of preference). But I am curious as to what you thought of the B&N one, and whether any or all of yours appeared on it (or on mine).

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I feel as though I have adequately addressed my love for this book in this particular forum. I am sure you agree.

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
This series picked me up when I was down. In a very real way. I am so happy I was able to tell Ms. Harris that in person not long ago.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Underrated and far too far under-the-radar, this literary ghost story is simply too fine to miss. A supremely touching and chilling tome.

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
Mercy is special. My emotions are close to the surface when it comes to this girl and her world. This one remains my favorite, though every installment is excellent.

Thin Air by Rachel Caine
I don't talk to enough people who've read Caine's Weather Warden series. I fangirled over it with Thea back in the day, and I remain very fond of it.

Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
Still one of the more unique takes on vampires I've read to date (and that's saying something). These vulnerable, obsessive-compulsive DJs make me laugh. And the story is super, too.

Underground by Kat Richardson
Noir crime series meets urban fantasy. She's a serious girl, but I like Harper just fine. This series grows and expands in very natural and compelling ways. And I do love those covers.

Prey by Rachel Vincent
DH led me to this series, and I have been a fan from the very first book. This one is my favorite for its complexities and rough edges. I have the last two sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to gather enough courage to say goodbye.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
I don't think I've ever lost my crap over an urban fantasy book so fast, so hard as I did for this one. Gobsmacked is the only word that comes to mind. Kate . . . and Curran . . . and  . . . my gob was so completely smacked.

Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander
The most recent addition to the list and it went down just like a tall glass of water in the desert, thank you very much. Discovering a series that works for you is such a thrill. Two books in and I can't wait to see where she goes.

50 comments:

  1. OMIGOD, Angie! I had no idea you were a fan of Rachel Vincent's Shifters series!!!I feel like that series is so maligned because Faythe is kind of a brat early on, but that's part of why it's so good--she has to grow up and growing up kind of sucks. (Actually, I would argue that if New Adult is a thing, that series a good example of what it could be.)

    *solidarity fist bump*

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    1. I should not be a bit surprised, BUT I STILL AM. This series *never* gets talked about. And I love it! Because she grows, just like you said. It's totally a contender for an NA list. I hadn't thought of that. So have you finished it? Should I be afraid??

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    2. I HAVE finished it. It was somewhat traumatic. The one thing that bothered me about this series is that it almost felt like the last book needed two books to get a satisfying resolution. Not that the resolution isn't satisfying, but there is so much that happens in the last two books that I felt like I'd been run through the wringer.

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    3. Oh dear. It's the trauma that scares me.

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  2. The only one of these I've read is A Certain Slant of Light, and I agree with you that it's very underrated. I don't think many people have even heard of it, which is a shame. Maybe the companion book (which is coming out in May, I think) will generate a little more hype and lead people to the first book.

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    1. Yes! I think the companion novel well definitely bring it some much-deserved attention after the fact. Which will be a very good thing indeed.

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  3. Great picks. And yes, I'm not surprised. I learned of many of these series through your site. But I have a question: Is Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series not considered urban paranormal fiction? He's definitely on my list, but I just wondered.

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    1. Lol. Didn't think you would be. The Harry Dresden books definitely fall in this category! I just haven't gotten around to reading them yet. Why not? I have no idea . . .

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  4. Just rechecked the list and found a Jim Butcher novel there. Whew!

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    1. Phew. So I should pick them up soon then?

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    2. Yes. I hope you'll like them. I started reading them, because I was born in Chicago and it was fun to read a series about a wizard practicing in Chicago. :-)

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    3. The things these UF writers do with familiar settings is one of my favorite things about the genre.

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  5. Hmmm...I've read 6/10 from your list and only 4/20 from BN. I've heard of all the series on your list. I haven't even heard of some from the BN list. Although I actually just started "The Taken" by Vicki Pettersen so I'm excited to see how it goes.

    I completely agree with you about Kate Daniels. It should be there. Magic Strikes is so awesome and still the book from that series that I re-read most often.

    I do love me a good urban fantasy/paranormal book or series. Sometimes it's so hard to wade through all the different options to find the really good ones though.

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    1. Nice! There were a few on their list that had slipped under my radar as well, Misti. I need to investigate. Haven't read any Petterson, so let me know what you think.

      MAGIC STRIKES pretty much goes on any list I make, no matter the topic. That's just how good it is.

      There really are a ton of series out there now and that's why I prize these favorites so much. Cream of the crop.

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  6. I've read all but three on your list, and since I loved all the others, I'll be checking the ones I missed. :) I'm glad to see you list Rachel Caine. I feel like she's been passed over a lot, too. But I spent quite a happy summer with her books one year. (I think there are a few I missed--I have to go back and check!)

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    1. I agree. Caine's series is good stuff and deserves more attention. I haven't read her newest one, but I've heard good things from reliable sources, so I need to look into acquiring the first one.

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  7. I was really thrilled to see Kim Harrison's books on the BN list, especially since they were ranked #1. I've been a fan of hers for years, and sometimes I feel like the only one. Most of my online friends aren't Kim Harrison fans, so it's easy forget that she is popular. I'm so happy that she's a local writer, too, as that means she does a signing every year in Ann Arbor.

    I definitely agree with you about the Kat Richardson books. That series is phenomenal.

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    1. It is so interesting to me how personal reading (and favorite series) is. I was not surprised to find Kim Harrison at the top of the list because it seems like everyone I know who loves UF loves her. And I have tried to get through the first book twice and failed both times. Felt really bad about it, too. I should possibly jump to the second and see if things pick up?

      The fact that she's local for you is so awesome!

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    2. Oh, that's a hard thing to say. The Rachel Morgan books each have a distinct plot, but they do build on each other, and the characters really do grow and change. As much as I'm hesitant to say to skip to book two, you might want to give it a shot. What is it about Dead Witch Walking that doesn't work for you?

      I've come to realize that I can't expect everyone to enjoy the same books that I do. One of my friends is a great example--almost everything that I really love, she rates as a one star. Since you and I have slightly more similar tastes, I do wish that Harrison worked better for you.

      It is wonderful that she's local. She's a great person to so see live--each year, she's enthusiastic and seems to enjoy encountering her fans. She also gives away lots of trinkets. I have a mourning ribbon for a favorite character, a temporary tattoo, and even a glow in the dark poster (signed, of course). And a key to Alcatraz.

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    3. Yeah . . . I generally hate the idea of skipping around in a series. But when its one I'm having trouble with but so many love I do wonder about it. I can't seem to connect with Rachel. I liked the world, but she frustrated me and I couldn't seem to attach to anyone around her either. It's been awhile since I gave it a second shot. I may try the next book and see if I feel differently.

      Wow, one star for your favorites. I've had the same thing happen. It's hard to take sometimes, silly as that may sound. But it is. I tend to think we're much more in line, so I am really willing to give the Rachel Morgans another shot.

      Those are some exceedingly awesome trinkets. :) I wish more authors came here.

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  8. Aaaiiiee I feel so illiterate! Paranormal fantasy is not my genre of choice, and I haven't heard of any of the books on the B&N list. Yikes. And the only reason I know all the titles on your list is because I alway keep updated on your blog, haha. I must confess that ghosts and other supernatural things scare the bejesus out of me. I remember reading Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie after you posted a review. That book doesn't even qualify as paranormal, but the ghosts in that story? Couldn't sleep for a week...

    I did read Sunshine though. That wasn't exactly a favorite for several reasons, but I did enjoy reading about the cinnamon roles (I dearly love baking). The only paranormal fantasy books I've really enjoyed were Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its sequel. If I remember correctly, you really did not like that one. It is so strange how people can love so many of the same authors, but can have completely opposite opinions about others. Baffling, I tell you.

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    1. Lol. That was definitely not my intent. I know these kinds of books don't work for everyone. And I was completely creeped out by the paranormal stuff in MAYBE THIS TIME. I had trouble falling asleep after finishing it. That ending!! She really channeled her James in that one.

      I'm sorry SUNSHINE wasn't a go for you. Despite my adoration for it, I am able to see how it would rub a lot of readers wrong. Ooh, the cinnamon rolls, though. And the Killer Zebras, and the Bitter Chocolate Death . . . mmm. Lol.

      It's true I didn't love DoSaB. She's a lovely writer, but several elements of the story fell flat for me. I am definitely alone in that regard. Which is fine. Have you read the sequel yet? Did you enjoy it as much as the first? I'm always curious how sequels go. Personal reading taste can be utterly baffling. It's really true. I do love talking about it all with you guys, though. :)

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    2. Lizzy4:57 PM

      Someone should make a cookbook for Sunshine. I would loooove to cook up a batch of Bitter Chocolate Death.

      I actually enjoyed Days of Blood and Starlight quite a bit (and 2nd books don't usually enamor me). As a sequel it did its job well. It further complicated the plot, developed the characters more, and was good enough that readers will definitely buy the third installment. It was a step back from all-around romance, and focused more on the beginnings of rebellion and change. One of those transitional books, but still important. Sort of like all the books between Mystic and Rider and Reader and Raelynx--lots of stuff happens, and you don't want to miss out on it, but it's really just buildup for the big one.

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    3. I have been dreaming of a Sunshine cookbook for a long time now...

      That's an apt comparison with the Shinn books. Geez, I love those books. I'm happy to hear Taylor's progressing well. I always think second books must be killer to write. Interestingly, they're often my favorite series installments when done well. Though Mystic and Rider will always be my favorite from that series.

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  9. I like to think of myself as a UF fan, but not very many of the B&N list jump out to me as must-reads...

    Though they did have Seanan McGuire, and she's not on yours ;-) Cassie Alexander is very much on my to-read list because of your raves especially!

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    1. Yeah, I felt similarly. The McGuire isn't on mine yet because I'm currently working my way through the second book. I wasn't immediately taken with the first and it took me a long time to come back around to the series. At what point did you fall, Li? I'm just wondering because it seems to be a series that really ramps up for readers. I'm willing to put in the time if that's the case.

      I do hope you enjoy the Cassie Alexander books. I love Edie.

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    2. I loved the October Daye series from the very first book (thought it was a wholly refreshing UF, with really in-depth world-building)... BUT I'll be the first to admit the first couple of books have their flaws, not least Toby being the most inept PI ever.

      The third book, I think, is where Seanan McGuire really hits her stride - if you make it that far and are still on the fence, then the series probably isn't one for you. And I have to say as much as I love her Toby books, I'm not quite won over by her InCryptid series yet.

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    3. The world building is definitely well done. And I like Toby no problem. I think I want to fall for some other characters as well and dig into some kind of connection for her. I'm waiting for that to happen. I'll let you know. :)

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  10. Thank you for posting both your list and the B&N list. I found books on both lists I put on mine, but your list has more of the ones I like, I think.

    I read some of Rachel Caine's series and stopped for some reason. I'm going to go back to that series and read them again! There are others on your list I haven't read. Since we like quite a few of the same books I'm going to take a look at them. I put up my list on my blog. Thanks for giving me a topic I really enjoyed writing about!

    B&N had some of the books I like, too. Seanan McGuire's Roasemary and Rue jumps out at me since it's not on your list. I was surprised For a Few Demons More by Kat Richardson was his number 1 book. I read one of her books, but didn't read anymore. I may try a few more, but I know I wouldn't call it number one.

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    1. My pleasure, Jan!

      I enjoyed the Caines for the characters and the fun take on djinn. You don't see that very often. I'm in the middle of the 2nd October Daye book right now, as a matter of fact. I haven't fallen in love yet, but I hope to soon. So many readers I really respect love that series. I haven't read beyond the first Kim Harrison book either. The first one kind of put me off. I owe it another visit, though.

      Off to check out your list. :)

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  11. Sorry...I see I mixed up author and book in my message. I meant For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison! Sorry.

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    1. So easy to do. Great list, btw. I need to check out the Sharon Lee and the Wen Spencer. I've never heard of the first and have heard several good things about the Spencer. Thanks for reminding me. They look great!

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  12. I haven't read many of these. I do seem to have gone off both paranormal romance and urban fantasy over the last couple of years.

    I have a strange relationship with Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series. If you were to ask me to list favourite books they would never cross my mind and yet every time I read one I am completely surprised again by how much I like them. I need to read the last couple I think.

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    1. Understandable, Marg. You can hit some real genre fatigue if you're not careful. It's certainly happened to me. Alexander's series kind of brought me back in and reminded me what I love about UF.

      That was one of the ones that surprised me by earning a place on the list! I hadn't thought of them in awhile, and then I went over my thoughts and feelings I remembered how I really love the characters and their dangerous world. So on the list they went! I think I'm ready to read the last one.

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  13. Woohoo Kate Daniels! Magic Strikes would definitely make it to my list as well. I still need to read Nightshifted, it's been waiting patiently in my TBR pile for some time now.

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    1. How could it not? It's a hell of a book.

      I think you'd like NIGHTSHIFTED, Chach!

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  14. I love, love, love that you have ACSOL on this list. <3

    I really like the Kate Andrews and Mercy Thompson series, too. Have you read WRITTEN IN RED by Anne Bishop yet, Angie? It's a brand new urban fantasy book that I'd never heard of until it landed on my doorstep, but it's the best UF I've read in at least a year. Literally dozens of friends have since read and loved it too, so...might be worthwhile to check out if you're in the mood to try something new!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Oh, that beautiful book. Certain scenes and lines are constantly sifting through my mind.

      I have not read WRITTEN IN RED yet. That is some pretty high praise there, Wendy. I will definitely be checking it out.

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    2. Kate Andrews! What is the matter with me! Obviously, I meant Kate Daniels, written by Ilona Andrews, hah.

      Let me know if you end up reading WIR. :)

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    3. Lol. Obvs.

      Will do!

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  15. Angie! I spent the ENTIRETY of yesterday's author symposium sitting next to Jeri Smith-Ready and didn't even realize it till she got up for her panel. She was totally nice! I really liked what she had to say, but wasn't sure I was all that interested in her YA series--this one sounds much more up my alley. I really just started reading in this genre about a year ago, so I can't say much on this list for myself, but I WILL take your suggestions!

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    1. Ha! That's awesome. She is nice, isn't she? I started back in the day with her early, unusual novel REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD and she sent me an ARC of WICKED GAME after that. I've been a fan ever since. But her YA stuff is not my favorite. I read the first one and dropped out after that, very content to stick with her adult UF, which is great.

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  16. I can't even tell you how happy your list makes me - the only one I haven't tried on your list is Kat Richardson, but I'm definitely going to change that very soon. I had NO idea that you'd read the werecats series! that right there is one of my all time favourite UF series purely for character development alone, and that's saying something considering how intricate Rachel weaves her plot lines. you should try her new UF unbound series, such a perfect example of UF done well.

    Goodness knows I've tried to read Kim Harrison, think I even bought the first 3 books of that series because I was expecting to love it so and I just could not connect in the slightest. such a sense of discord with others when it comes to her writing; it just makes me feel indifferent.

    You know how I feel about Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson :D (now I want some cinnamon rolls)

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    1. The Richardson is worth it. Solid stuff.

      I am SO glad I made this list if just so I could discover who else I know is in love with the Werecats series! Seriously, it's made my day knowing you and Sarah both love them. I'm gonna finish it up soon, but I have to ask . . . were you happy with the way it ended?? I have the first book in the Unbound series in my stack. So happy to hear it's great, too.

      CARLA. Thank you for having trouble with the Kim Harrison books, too. I feel utterly alone there and keep wondering what's wrong with me for not being able to connect with them at all. But I just really can't. Indifferent is the word.

      Mercy + Kate = MY HEART.

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  17. So I took a look at that B&N list. Um. It makes me feel as if I'm missing something? I haven't heard of half those titles, and those that I've read, I couldn't seem to finish. I guess I'm not as well-read in UF as I thought! Love your list, though. I'm so glad you put Sunshine on your list; I feel like it's often overlooked--and indeed, I probably would overlook it myself for a paranormal fantasy list, because for some reason I keep on associating it more with fantasy than paranormal in my head, despite the obvious presence of vampires (I'm guessing it might be because of the McKinley name).

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    1. I know what you mean. I think there must be a ton of books published in the genre that I'm wholly unaware of. Which is sad, but I can't seem to keep up with reading all the ones I DO know about so . . .

      Yes to Sunshine. Always yes to Sunshine. Since it was really the first UF I read, I didn't really place it in that category until I'd read much more. For the longest time it was just Robin McKinley does vampires. And she does them sooooooooo well. :)

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  18. Given that you and I share some favorites, since I love a few on your list, I'm so glad you posted this - there are a couple on there that I should really get to! I also love the Kate Daniels series and I don't know how B&N managed to miss it out - would have preferred it to a few that they have chosen.

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    1. It's absence on the list is inexplicable. I rank it waaaay above several on the list.

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  19. Mercy! Mercy! Mercy Thompson was the first Urban Fantasy I read and it's still my one true UF love. I tried a few others and meh, nothing held. However, since you, Noelle, Carla, Rachel, and Steph all rave about Ilona Andrews, I am going to give Kate Daniels a try. I'm so easily peer pressured. But that's okay when it comes to books, right? :)

    -Maggie

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    1. Oh, Maggie. Definitely give Kate a whirl. I picked her up initially because of the Patricia Briggs blurb on the cover. And I was *not* disappointed.

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