Urban fantasy recs?

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Urban fantasy recs?

Post by Mel on Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:26 am

Hoping to get some urban fantasy recs from the book fans here... It's a genre I feel I should be really into, because I enjoy all other sorts of speculative fiction, and I loved stories that blended magic with the real world when I was a kid, but for some reason none of the more "mature" titles I've picked up have completely grabbed me.

I find I tend to prefer a blend that's more subtle on the fantasy side so it's easy for me to believe that this could theoretically be happening within the world as I know it, that stays in the real world rather than the magic mainly happening in a separate other "world" (a la Harry Potter) or the premise being some sort of alternate present, and not too focused on romance (a lot of urban fantasy veers too much into paranormal romance for my tastes--I prefer romance as a subplot, rather the main plot or a subplot-that-ends-up-taking-more-page-time-than-the-supposed-main-plot). And by urban fantasy I specifically mean magic and magical creatures as opposed to supernatural/paranormal stuff like ghosts, vampires, werewolves, etc., though I realize there's often overlap. Open to both YA and adult suggestions.

Some of the most popular ones I've already tried:
-a few of Holly Black's books (enjoyed them well enough but didn't love them)
-a few of Neil Gaiman's books (liked but didn't love AMERICAN GODS, meh on NEVERWHERE)
-a couple Harry Dresden books (liked all right but lacking that subtlety thing Wink )
-a few of Sarah Rees Brennan's books (THE DEMON'S LEXICON is one of the few urban fantasies I've liked a lot, but I was disappointed by the sequel and in general I find there's a little too much characters making quips rather than talking like the sort of people I can imagine knowing)
-various beginnings of popular series: Weather Wardens (ILL WIND), Walker Papers (URBAN SHAMAN), etc. (meh)
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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by fakely mctest on Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:38 am

I wholeheartedly recommend Emma Bull's War for the Oaks if you've never read it.  It's probably the one book where I've purchased it randomly for people and just kind of shoved it at them.

Oh, and maybe Pamela Dean's Tam Lin? It's kind of polarizing because some of the characters are sort of jerky, but it's extremely well written.

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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by Enail on Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:46 am

I have pretty similar problems to Mel with urban fantasy, and I liked both of those - though I think of them as more 'old-school' urban fantasy than the modern sort; they're almost two different genres in feel. I think Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock might qualify as well, and I loved that, though there are things I can see someone with different priorities in books from me hating about it.
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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by fakely mctest on Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:56 am

Enail wrote:I have pretty similar problems to Mel with urban fantasy, and I liked both of those - though I think of them as more 'old-school' urban fantasy than the modern sort; they're almost two different genres in feel.

Yeah, I definitely see what you mean. I read modern urban fantasy from time to time (I'm sort of keeping up with Dresden out of habit at this point), but there's nothing that's grabbed me in the way that those books did.

I know you said you weren't particularly interested in vampires (I don't care for them much myself either), but I will say that despite putting off reading Robin McKinley's Sunshine for yearrrrs because vampires, when I finally did read it I just loved the crap out of it. For one, the heroine is a baker and I definitely appreciate seeing a protagonist who's just a real life person with a real life person job rather than a mopey sadsack who's secretly The Chosen One or the ultimate warrior badass. For two, there is never any question that the vampires in the book are monstrous and alien.

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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by Mel on Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:05 pm

fakely mctest wrote:I wholeheartedly recommend Emma Bull's War for the Oaks if you've never read it.  It's probably the one book where I've purchased it randomly for people and just kind of shoved it at them.

Oh, and maybe Pamela Dean's Tam Lin?  It's kind of polarizing because some of the characters are sort of jerky, but it's extremely well written.

I've been meaning to give both of those a try at some point--though for some reason I'd gotten the impression they were somewhat of the "most of the magic takes place in another 'world'" (e.g., the faery realm) variety. Is that not the case? If I was mistaken, I'll have to move them up the to-read list!

Enail wrote:I have pretty similar problems to Mel with urban fantasy, and I liked both of those - though I think of them as more 'old-school' urban fantasy than the modern sort; they're almost two different genres in feel. I think Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock might qualify as well, and I loved that, though there are things I can see someone with different priorities in books from me hating about it.

FIRE AND HEMLOCK is one of my childhood faves. Smile It's always felt more MG than YA to me though, since so much of it is flashbacks to when the MC was quite young.

fakely mctest wrote:I know you said you weren't particularly interested in vampires (I don't care for them much myself either), but I will say that despite putting off reading Robin McKinley's Sunshine for yearrrrs because vampires, when I finally did read it I just loved the crap out of it.  For one, the heroine is a baker and I definitely appreciate seeing a protagonist who's just a real life person with a real life person job rather than a mopey sadsack who's secretly The Chosen One or the ultimate warrior badass.  For two, there is never any question that the vampires in the book are monstrous and alien.

It's not so much that I don't like vampires as I've had pretty good luck figuring out which vampire stories I'll like on my own (unlike figuring that out with urban fantasy...). Smile I have read SUNSHINE and liked a lot about it though I found the pacing/plotting a tad uneven for my tastes. The character stuff and the handling of the vampires was great.
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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by fakely mctest on Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:07 pm

Mel wrote:
fakely mctest wrote:I wholeheartedly recommend Emma Bull's War for the Oaks if you've never read it.  It's probably the one book where I've purchased it randomly for people and just kind of shoved it at them.

Oh, and maybe Pamela Dean's Tam Lin?  It's kind of polarizing because some of the characters are sort of jerky, but it's extremely well written.

I've been meaning to give both of those a try at some point--though for some reason I'd gotten the impression they were somewhat of the "most of the magic takes place in another 'world'" (e.g., the faery realm) variety. Is that not the case? If I was mistaken, I'll have to move them up the to-read list!

In both it's sort of like the realm opens up right beside the "real" world.  So you have stories set in Minneapolis and on the campus of a small liberal arts college where magical stuff sort of seeps in.

Oh, and that puts me in mind of a lot of Barbara Hodgeson's work actually.  In particular, I enjoyed Hippolyte's Island, where an adventurer antiquarian goes on a voyage near the Galapagos to try to find islands that disappeared from commonly-produced maps centuries earlier, and The Tattooed Map where a couple traveling in Morocco end up drawn into...something when a map that only the woman can see begins to appear on her hand and arm.  Barbara Hodgeson is a visual artist as well as an author so there are always a wealth of illustrations and things that make the books look like extremely pretty travel journals.  The Tattooed Map is more experimental in terms of plotting and resolution whereas Hippolyte's Island follows a more traditional narrative structure.

I do agree about Sunshine and its plotting.  I think I was so charmed by the characters that I just went with it.  I do wish McKinley had done a second novel in that universe.

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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by inertia on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:12 am

I really like Kalayna Price's Alex Craft Series. Its in a version of our world... I prefer the fantasy elements and creatures being more in a world more like our own.

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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by P_johnston on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:38 pm

If you like urban fantasy I would recommend Patrica Briggs Mercy Thompson series, DD Barant's The Bloodhound files, Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series (not exactly urban but close), and The first few books of Robert Asprins Dragon's series, The Fablehaven series (it is definitely written for a younger audience though), Charming by Elliot James, Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines (cannot recommend this one enough), and lastly the Iron druid series by Kevin Hearne (rough but still fun)

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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by InkAndComb on Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:24 am

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. It's a bit dark, and set in South Africa so there are some references to French. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003ZSIT0M?btkr=1
I picked a link as I am awful at descriptions, but it was a really gripping book. Also? Main character has a sloth familiar. Super awesome
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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by reboot on Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:36 am

Charles Stross's Laundry series was fun, although the writing itself (absent story) was not top notch. I am a sucker for a Cthulhu type story and John LeCarre, though, and these brought elements of both. There is some "crazy ex girlfriend" talk that annoyed me, but let it slide because it ends up not the way you would expect by book 4.
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Re: Urban fantasy recs?

Post by Guest on Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:06 am

I'm surprised Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series hasn't been mentioned, but perhaps it's only funny if you're British?

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