Okay, so it’s time to reveal my inner geek. At this point in my life, I look fairly normal and put together, but by the time someone is 25 years old and working in an office, that’s to be expected. When I was younger, though, not only was I a gothy “art kid,” I inhaled fantasy books like they were potato chips. I think at my peak I was easily reading 500 pages a day. Part of that is because in grade school I was ready to check out of all of that backstabbing and gossip. But the other part is to this day, fantasy books just capture my imagination and excite me unlike any other type of media. Music, movies, art, TV shows – nothing compares to a kick-ass heroine with a solid storyline living in a world of witches, werewolves, dragons, and other magical creatures. And I’m so in love with shapeshifters I could probably do a post just on those novels.
Since the sheer number of these stories that I’ve read is staggering, I figure I’d share some of my favorites with you. Now since fantasy novels can appear to be somewhat “trashy,” let me be clear, I have SOME standards. It needs to be at least marginally well written and contain a likable lead that isn’t 100% expected. Bonus points for a creative magical world. Here’s what I’d recommend:
The Mercy Thompson Series – Mercy is an auto-mechanic and shifter living in the Pacific Northwest. She has a sexy werewolf as a neighbor and a gremlin is her former boss, plus the lesser fae have recently “come out” to the humans. A truly lovable lead and a solid writing style means this series is one of the few where I greatly anticipate new releases.
The Southern Vampire Mysteries – The basis for the HBO series True Blood, these books have quite a different tone from the overly sexual and dark story of the show. Significantly more light and almost silly, the plot focuses entirely on and is narrated by the main character Sookie. I found the TV show nearly unwatchable, since I was so attached to these novels.
Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter – In the traditional of Anne Rice, Laurel K. Hamilton has created a dark and deeply disturbing world of vampires, werewolves, and other supernaturals. At the heart is spunky and very short Anita who has a hell of a mouth and an enviable amount of courage. Watching her change as a person over the course of the series is one of the best character growths I’ve ever witnessed.
Dante Valentine – Set in a slightly futuristic universe where magic meets sci-fi/cyberpunk, Dante rides the perfect line between being a badass necromancer who no one will mess with and broken woman with a whole lot of scars. The first two books are the best, with a unique love story at its center.
The Others – I never could get into Anne Bishop’s other fantasy books, but this world captured my imagination. The Others are unearthly entities who inhabit the Lakeside Courtyard, a business district where humans are not allowed. Meg, a human and blood prophet, winds up there after fleeing captivity and is embraced by the unusual creatures she finds.
Kate Daniels – Kate is snarky, fiercely independent, and should be a nothing-new action hero, but for some reason she’s so much more alive and dynamic than that. In slightly futuristic Atlanta, technology and magic come and go in waves. Each book has a unique, mostly contained plot, but the books build to a finale involving Kate’s unbelievable heritage.
Kitty Norville – More entertaining than groundbreaking, this series still has a solid premise. Kitty is a closeted werewolf and late-night radio show host. With mystery plot lines and excellent support from secondary characters, reading these books is like eating junk food.
Nightside – Finally a series with a male lead. What makes these books so enrapturing is the whimsical underworld in which the story is set. Simon R. Green creates magical ideas and fantastic characters unlike any you’ve seen in classic film noir private eye style.
Odd Thomas – At first a seemly unassuming short-order cook in a little desert town, Odd Thomas can see the dead. Sometimes they want his help, but when an evil stranger comes to town, Odd will need to work to prevent deaths, not avenge them. Odd is a truly endearing narrative voice.
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater is famous for her Shiver trilogy, but I find this story to be the most captivating. Blue’s family is psychic, but she’s never seen anything until this year when she witnesses a vision of a boy who will die soon. Gansey is that boy, although he doesn’t know it yet. Gansey and his crew of misfits are students at the rich private school in town and their lives tangle with Blue’s as sinister and mysterious magical events begin happening.