Monday, February 6, 2017

5 in 15 - Urban Legends

In December I recorded a Readers' Advisory video for the Mass Library System, it's since been processed and uploaded (though it's official share date will be 2/15).  Of course since I recorded it, I've had a chance to read Battle Hill Bolero, but at the time I had to leave my review of it slightly vague.

Urban Legends: Urban Fantasy that's not Paranormal Romance


Script

Slide 1

Welcome to this Massachusetts Library System 5-in-15: Member Edition!

Slide 2

I’m Tegan Mannino, and among the many hats I wear I can be found as the Circulation Supervisor and Cataloger at the Monson Free Library, as a book reviewer, and as a freelance library technology consultant.

I’m also in the middle of far too many books, but a few are:
  • Snow Queen / Joan D. Vinge
  • You Can’t Touch My Hair / Phoebe Robinson (audio)

Slide 3

This month I’m talking about Urban Legends – Urban Fantasy that is not Paranormal Romance, and for something a little different I’ll be talking about series instead of individual books. Not that I don’t enjoy Paranormal Romance… but it’s become such a popular genre it has sort of subsumed Urban Fantasy, and sometimes I want my kickass action as the focus, not the characters getting some action.

As additional connecting themes, these series all have a hint of neo-noir and plenty of attitude.

Slide 4

First off – the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

Before the Winchester brothers, there was Harry Dresden, PI. You can find him under ‘Wizard’ in the Yellow Pages.

The stories follow the cases of Chicago’s only Wizard PI, with increasing supernatural complexity. The setting is gritty, the tone liberally laced with snark and wit, and Dresden is more stubborn and sarcastic than is good for him. At opening the series tackles the more expected paranormal threats – mad sorcerers, werewolves, vampires, etc. But it grows to feature a wider variety including some heavy-hitting fae, fallen angels, and some lovecraftian inspired horrors. Dresden makes enemies aplenty throughout the series, but he also makes allies and friends that change the scope of the story and help define who he is as a character.

Butcher does have a planned ending for the series, one that all of the novels are braided into, leading to good connections to a long-range plot arc. Up until book number 11, Turn Coat, you can get away with some amount of cherry picking and reading out of order (though you will encounter spoilers for earlier books if you do so), but at book number 12, Changes, a number of very significant plot points come together and bring the narrative arc to its next stage. Right now there are 15 books, plus a selection of short stories, novellas, and graphic novels.

Additionally the audio books are read by James Marsters who proves an ideal voice casting as Dresden.

Slide 5

October Daye by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire has become a go-to author for me, writing smart, fun, and compulsively readable books.

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, not quite human enough to fully belong in everyday life, and not fae enough to properly belong among fae. But that doesn’t stop her from getting pulled into the dangerous games the fae play and giving everything she has to protect her friends from harm. Being a Hero, even an unintended one, is hard work, but it turns out Toby is pretty hard to kill. For light reads, some of these books manage to hit pretty hard when playing with your sympathies.

The first book, Rosemary and Rue, drops you into a fully realized world and characters, then reveals things as the plot progresses. Overall, the series has a strong arc, and while Toby grows more powerful in some ways it’s offset by the challenges brought on by those very changes. The books build on each other, but there’s enough interlaced exposition and self-containment that you can pick up any of them and start reading without feeling too out of place. In addition to the novels , Seanan offers a selection of short fiction for download on her website, filling in gaps in the background and between novels as well as giving supporting characters their own time in the spotlight.

The most recent book, Once Broken Faith, came out this past September.

Slide 6

Bone Street Rumba by Daniel Jose Older

Paranormal Noir in New York City featuring Inbetweener Carlos Delacruz and his friends both living and dead as they confront dangers that threaten Brooklyn.

Rich, creative narratives with monsters that unsettle, strong characters, and a diverse cast. Book One, Half-Resurrection Blues, introduces us to the world and setting with Carlos as the sole narrator. Carlos is dead, or at least, half dead after a death and a partial resurrection he doesn’t remember, and in his unique status as an inbetweener he acts as an enforcer for the New York Council of the Dead. And then he meets another inbetweener.

Midnight Taxi Tango widens the narrative field by skillfully braiding in the strong voice of teenage Kia Summers who readers will recognize from the first book and introduces us to the powerful Reza Villalobos. Kia starts out as the queen of the botanica she works at, but then she starts seeing ghosts, and someone… something from her past thought long gone starts skittering back in. As a narrator, Kia has a dynamic voice that pushes this book for me ahead of its predecessor, and let me just say the threat they face is quite the unique creepy-crawly.

The third, and I believe final, book Battle Hill Bolero, has a publication date of January 2017 and is set up to be a stunning read.

Slide 7

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

After eleven years serving as a Gladiator in hell, magician James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has tricked his way back to L.A. and has a few scores to settle and some nasty tricks up his sleeve…

As a narrator, Stark (or Sandman Slim) never goes out of his way to paint himself as a particularly good guy. He exists pretty solidly in a grey area, and generally seems happy there, wanting little to do with any side but his own. But considering part of that involves avoiding attentions from both angry angels and demons, there’s some sense in that. This anti-hero never fails to take the story for a chaotic, explosive joyride into the wrong side of town and maybe even hell itself.

Gritty neo-noir infused with over-the-top supernatural mayhem. Charlene Harris describes it as if “Simon R. Green wrote an episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter”

Slide 8

Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

This new Dark Urban Fantasy series combines secret Templar societies, road warriors, urban legends, and the Wild Hunt.

Jimmy Aussapile travels the country, making a living as a trucker while patrolling for the monsters that haunt the highways. When he takes a ghost hitchhiker home he doesn’t expect to stumble into a serial killer cold case and an otherworldly urban legend preying on teenagers. Along with the leader or a motorcycle gang and a determined New Orleans cop, he must find a town not on any map or road before events come to a head.

The feel of the novel is more suspense than anything, but the presence of ghosts and magic make it undeniably Urban Fantasy. As you read it shows you the different strands of the story that you hope come together before it is too late, and definitely leaves an open road for more in the series. More are forthcoming, and an earlier published book, Nightwise, ties into the same world setting.

Slide 9

So that was five Urban Fantasy series for your consideration. I hope you find some inspiration from them.

And don’t forget - you too can do a 5 in 15. Contact Anna Popp or Kristi Chadwick for more information.

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