by Kristen B.
Do you remember the old Hershey’s Peanut Butter Cup ad? Who got their chocolate in my peanut butter? Who got their peanut butter in my chocolate? Sometimes, two great tastes go together! Urban fantasy follows this winning formula – you get all the modern conveniences candy-coated with some of your favorite myths and fairy tales.The genre can get a bad rap, though, with werewolves, witches, and vampires living among us, hidden in the hustle and bustle of cities.
But who doesn’t love a good series? However, they make for tricky book reviews because it’s hard to know where to begin. So, here’s a peek at four urban fantasy series by three of my favorite authors, all of whom have other work. You can decide whether you want to commit to the long – but rewarding – experience of either finding and reading a backlist title or starting at a good pickup point. Honestly, the author will tell you what you really need to know in setting up the newest book. If it turns out you enjoy urban fantasy, you’re in luck, because this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Some common, positive elements across all these series include found family, short and long narrative arcs across the series, and a subversive sense of humor.
Seanan McGuire: Incryptids & October Daye
McGuire is a beyond-prolific writer, maintaining multiple series at a time. The Incryptid series concerns the most recent generation of the Price/Healy clan, who have made it their goal to study and save all the “monsters” and myths who have managed to adapt and survive. The series begins with Verity Price, who is a competitive ballroom dancer for her day job. Tons of fun and super fast-paced, these books move main point-of-view characters every second or third book, so you have easy access points. Come for the scary and smart women, stay for the Aeslin Mice who worship them (no, really).
First book: Discount Armageddon
Most recent/last in series: Spelunking Through Hell, available via Interlibrary Loan
McGuire’s other big UF series follows changeling October Daye, born of a fairy mother and a mortal father. When the series begins, she has spent more than a the decade as a fish. Yep, you read that right. Toby finds work as a private investigator solving problems that involve the fey courts along the west coast. Sixteen books later, Sir Toby has made big strides with her abilities and sense of self-worth, as she strives to make the world a better place, because, honestly, she cannot leave well enough alone. Come for the wonderful cast of characters, and stay for the genuine other-ness, sometimes downright creepily so, of the faerie world.
First book: Rosemary and Rue (I started with An Artificial Night)
Most recent: Be the Serpent
Patricia Briggs: Mercy Thompson
These qualify as guilty pleasures, given the number of new, interesting books published every year. I still look forward to spending the occasional weekend with Mercy Thompson and the local werewolf pack. As the series begins, Mercy is eking out an existence for herself in the Tri-City area of Washington state, working as a mechanic and staying loosely connected to local fey community. She’s something of an oddity, as she can turn into a coyote at will but was raised in a werewolf family. The local pack lives, more or less, in her backyard, and their leader isn’t quite sure what to make of Mercy. The world-building may be a little haphazard, but it fits together well enough as repercussions from previous adventures circle around to cause further problems. Come for the sassy, stubborn VW mechanic/were-coyote, stay for a series that has grown with its protagonist.
First book: Moon Called
Most recent: Soul Taken
Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden
I have to admit these took a turn into gritty, almost grimdark, territory, and I’m a little behind with the series. As the series opens, Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only wizard for hire, complete with an ad in the yellow pages (wow, that dated quickly). He is a sarcastic, sardonic sort of knight in battered armor, tilting at windmills and living by his personal (slightly sexist) code of honor. One of Butcher’s strengths is that everybody gets their own story arc, affected by and, in turn, affecting Harry’s. Actions have consequences, and the series deals with a wide variety of disasters. Come for Harry’s adventures as he takes on high-powered enemies and frenemies – mortal, fey, and monstrous alike; stay for the sense of humor that brings you Sue the T-Rex (from the Field Museum) being animated by a one-man polka band.
First book: Storm Front
Most recent: Battle Ground
Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, dance, and watch baseball in season (but not all at the same time).