9 Great Urban Fantasy Series You Don’t Want To Miss

In 2009 when I started writing The Worker Prince, my debut science fiction novel, I had no idea what urban fantasy was. Of course, as I got into the industry and reading I heard bits and pieces. True Blood showed up and I met and became friends with Kat Richardson and John A. Pitts whose novels fell in that category. One of the advantages of hosting Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat is that I get sent tons of books to read and deliberately book and ask for a variety of genres. So I finally managed to read John and Kat’s books and I loved them. I have never been that into paranormal. Poltergeist was amusing but silliness. I do believe in spirits but I’m don’t think about ghosts a lot, and vampires and zombies to me are about the most tired things out there. It takes a lot to get me interested in them. I loved Anne Rice’s series and that did it for me on vamps. Zombies have just never interested me. Let dead people stay in the ground. Just a body. Meh. On the other hand, urban fantasy is huge with tons of bestselling authors, including Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson…need I go on? So of course SFFWRTCHT needs to cover it and I need to be aware.

Now, I simply love it! One of my favorite genres and someday I will write some. I have ideas in development now, in fact. I read 52 books a year just for chat plus extras for blogging on SFSignal, etc. and blurbs, which I get asked for now. Usually 70 books at least is around the number, so it may take me a while to get through a lot of stuff (no Hamilton or Butcher yet). But these 9 are the Urban fantasy I’ve read so far. And I loved all of them for different reasons. They’re quite distinctive from each other.

1) Greywalker by Kat Richardson – Harper Blaine is a P.I. who died after an attack for two minutes then came back with the ability to see spirits. Yep, she’s a Greywalker now, and this series has gotten deserved high praise. [See Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Paul Goat Allen raving about them here. ]These are bestsellers for a reason and the seventh book, Seawitch, just arrived this month. Mysteries with Harper investigating and dealing with all kinds of spooky creatures from vampires to ghosts, etc., they are well paced with a great noir feel and make good use of their Pacific Northwest settings. From the cover description, although I like Kat as a person a lot, I was not at all sure I’d enjoy her books. Never have I been so wrong. I’ve read two so far and own all but the latest. Cannot wait to find time to read them!

2) Sarah Beauhall by  John A. Pitts – Another where I love the writer as a person but the description didn’t enthrall me. And again, I was soooo wrong. (Are you noticing a pattern?) Pitts has taken the old tropes and made them new with this one. Also set in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith apprentice and movie props maven whose prop sword turns out to be a magical dragon killing sword. The magical dragon killing sword. And she finds this out, of course, by encountering someone looking for the sword to kill dragons. But these are not the green, scaly dragons of legend and lore just yet. They are men and women who work on Wall Street and various places. And when their schemes begin to threaten Sarah and her world, she puts her sword to good use. Great fight sequences, a fun play with an SCA-like reenactment group, nice humor, and a touch of romance with Sarah struggling to open up to her girlfriend.  Packing enough testosterone-laced action to satisfy male readers and enough romantic emotional moments to please female readers, this series is for everyone and books 2 and 3 are out too. Fantastic!

3) Jane Yellowrock by Faith Hunter – A member of the illustrious Magical Words blog team with David B. Coe, amongst others, Hunter has been inspired by Anne Rice but made vampire tales set in New Orlean’s her own. If you read my introduction, you already know I would not have picked me up if her publicist hadn’t scheduled her for SFFWRTCHT. I’m so glad she did. The last of her kind, a part Cherokee vampire hunter and skinwalker capable of shapeshifting into any creature she wants, Jane’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps. In the process, she gets more than she bargained for when her employer is murdered and Jane winds up working for Leo, the head vampire of the entire region. In subsequent books, she works with Leo to investigate incidents involving other vampires, even heading off to North Carolina at one point as a mediator. Jane is not the dainty heroine but an ass kicking, motorcycle riding, take no prisoners badass, but yet Hunter manages to write the books with no gratuitous sex, violence or language, keeping it PG despite the violence. And I doubt you’d have noticed if I hadn’t said that. Great writing, inventive worldbuilding and pure fun. Highly recommended.

4) Hallie Michaels by Deborah Coates – Brand new, the first book having just arrived a few months back, this series surprised me too. A new author sent to me by Alexis Nixon, publicist at TOR, Coates’ stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Best American Fantasy, amongst other places. Hallie Michaels is a soldier fighting a war in Afghanistan when she’s called home for her sister’s funeral. The police and townsfolk say “suicide,” but Hallie can’t believe it and her investigation into it uncovers a startling plot that endangers the entire town. Something magical or supernatural is going on and a trail of bodies are associated with it. She soon discovers someone she used to know is responsible and winds up fighting for her life. I don’t know where book 2 will take us when it comes out, but Coates used the rural South Dakota setting masterfully in Wide Open and I can’t wait to read more!

5) Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris – I came to this series late, after already watching the TV show, because I was invited to interview Harris. (Confession: yes, I watch True Blood despite my lack of interest in vampires. It hooked me early on and I can’t look away, okay? Is that so wrong? Plus, I have a crush on Anna Paquin…)  The books are better than the series and filled with great humor, southern charm and fun. I really enjoyed these. Told solely from Sookie’s quirky point of view, these are fast, can’t put them down reads. I can’t wait to read more.


6) Control Point by Myke Cole – Not your typical urban fantasy, Cole, a veteran of the Gulf War, has envisioned a contemporary world with various types of magic. The military even has a special unit assigned to hunt down rogue users. A few with the approved classes of magic actually work for the military, but then Oscar Britton finds out he’s a portomancer–ah oh, verbotten–and he’s forced to run, leaving everything behind. Caught and interned for training by the military he’s sworn to serve, he discovers the gift is the least of his worries. An evil magical force is on the rise and this Army officer must save the world or else.  Packed with action and intrigue and great characters, Cole takes you inside military life in an intimate way and still makes you believe its a world where magic could happen. Gritty and powerful, this book opened my eyes to possibilities for creativity I hadn’t imagined and it’ll open yours too.

7) Grigori Legacy by Linda Poitevin – Ah, angels, the tired 80s trope are back. I booked Linda for chat and expected to be bored. Instead, I found myself reading two detective thrillers that just happened to have angels in them. Heaven and hell are at war and humans are caught in between, including homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis whose investigation of a serial killer points to a surprising and unusual suspect. Yes there’s angels and a romance between an angel and a human. Yes, there’s God and the Devil and some Catholic theological worldbuilding used here, but Poitevin used it to enhance worldbuilding not to sell an ideology or religion. Gritty, intense, fast-paced and engaging. Another set of books you won’t want to put down until you reach the end.

8 ) Low Town by Daniel Polansky – Another departure and one that’s hard to classify but I’m putting it here. Unlike the others, it’s not set in our contemporary world but a fictional medieval -type world and the protagonist is a disgraced intelligence agent and forgotten war hero turned independent drug dealer. Yes, that’s right. Known as the Warden, he leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs as he constantly hustles for customers and protecting his turf from competition. Then he discovers a murdered child and feels compelled to discover who’s responsible. The mission finds him caught up in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psy­chotic head of Black House intelligence bureau that once employed him. What he finds is far more sinister and dark than he’d ever imagined. Noir and action packed, Polansky has invented a genre almost. He mixes epic/adventure fantasy and urban fantasy with detective noir seamlessly and it’s a compelling debut. Book 2 arrives this Fall.

9) Magic Ex Libris by Jim C. Hines – Hines switches from Goblins and fairy tale princesses to an urban fantasy about Libriomancers, basically people who can pull magic from books and use it in the contemporary world. Hines is a smartass in real life and it extends to his writing, but that’s okay, because the book is laugh out loud funny as a result and endears you tot he characters. This is a voice you’ll be willing to spend time with for a while, and it won’t be long because Libriomancer is a fast, compelling read.   Isaac Vainio, a member of the secret order of Libriomancers founded by Johannes Gutenberg himself (yes, that Gutenberg), Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world and barely manages to escape. Then he discovers his mentor has been killed and Gutenberg himself kidnapped and a hot, motorcyle-riding dryad shows up asking him to help track down her former lover, leading to their discovery of a dark power that’s manipulating both vampires and humans and causing major havoc.  Hines cleverly incorporates the mythos of every vampire world you’ve encountered, creating a world of vampire types and layers, and throws in books by famous authors real and imagined as well. Fun, fast-paced, with plenty of action and good coming of age and romantic arcs, this book was a delightful way to while away hours. I can’t wait for the second one, coming from Daw next year.

So there you have 9 Urban Fantasy series that I think you’ll really like. Great weekend, summer or Fall reads to keep you entertained and remind you why you love books. I’m looking for more to read now. So what are some of your favorite Urban Fantasies? I’d love to hear about them in comments. Oh, and click here to buy any of these books, too. For what it’s worth…  To the writers, I love you guys!

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. A freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction and also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Conclave 36 Launch Report

Well, it’s Monday and I’m supposed to post, right?I know. It’s my usual day. Some of you come here looking for an interesting post to start your week, so here I am. I’ve been lying on bed post whirlwind Con Launch trip, trying to motivate myself to write and feeling overwhelmed. But I’ll do my best.

The Con itself brought many opportunities.

It began when I registered and dropped books with Larry Smith and Sally Kobee, the friendly dealers who graciously agreed to carry my books despite my ignorance of proper percentages and pretty much everything else. They had a huge table and I was honored to have them allow me any space. Thank goodness I finally had a few sales to give them something for their kindness! (Yes the photo is badly out of focus but stupid me forgot to take another in my rushing insanity of talking with readers so it’s the best I have. Apologies.) Sally and Larry frequent 36 cons a year and I remembered them from World Fantasy 2010 in Columbus.


1) My first panel as an Author. That was titled “The Death Of The American Author” and was supposed to cover the changing face of publishing, which we did. But we couldn’t decide if the title really was relevant to our beliefs about where publishing is going. My fellow panelists were new writer Gary W. Olson, whose debut novel is coming in December from Damnation, the same people who publish Realms Of Fantasy in its latest incarnation; Jim C. Hines, DAW author of seven fantasy novels about goblins, princesses and more; and L. Warren Douglas, author of 8 novels in the 90s and 2000s from Del Rey and other sources. To add to the pressure, Hines decided my first panel was the perfect spot to make me moderator. I, not wanting to fail to prove my mettle, took his challenge and rose to the occasion fairly successfully from what I could tell (and was later told). I don’t know that we solved any problems but the discussions was interesting.

After that, Hines, Olsen and I stayed put for the panel “Self Promotion and Marketing” with Hines moderating. This was an interesting discussion on self-promotion through social media, blogging, and other means as well as networking strategies and why it’s important at all to do it, but also to be true to yourself and your comfort zone. After all, bad publicity can be harmful and counter its opposite so working outside your comfort zone is not something to undertake without care.

Next, my first exposure to filk came with Seanan McGuire’s concert. The filk band Wild Mercy backed her. And unfortunately, late due to the panel, I then saw only about 20 minutes before my publisher texted to say he’d arrived with a shipment of my book, which I had not seen an actual final copy of yet. So naturally (and understandably to Seanan who later forgave me instantly upon hearing the reason), I rushed out the door to get my hands on those!

It was fun to meet Tim Ambrose, who’d accepted and suggested I make a series of my “North Star” space opera stories at Digital Dragon Magazine and

Next, on the free table, I discovered some real finds in great condition and snatched those up. These included Asimov and Leiber mint condition paperbacks from 1957 and A March 1967 and June 1968 issues of Analog featuring stories from the likes of Ben Bova, Harry Harrison and Poul Anderson and edited by John W. Campbell. Yes, that’s right, I said FREE!

Saturday began with “Keeping In Character,” a panel on techniques for characterization where Seanan nominated me to moderate, and so I again did. This panel had Emmy Jackson, a new fantasy novelist, Christian Klaver, and J. Warren Douglas on it in addition to Guest of Honor Seanan McGuire and myself, and devolved quickly with Mr. Douglas’ poorly chosen examples of points he tried to make which made the GOH wish to strangle him along with many attendees. To make matters worse, he proceeded then to continue trying to explain himself because “if we’d just understand him all would be fine.” Moderating such a situation is challenging to say the least but it did make for the most talked about panel at the Con, which I moderated, so I get that feather in my cap, I suppose.

Next, I had lunch with my publisher, Tim Ambrose and we discussed sequels, future projects, contracts and the con at a local middle eastern restaurant where our waitress vocalized her disappointment at my choice of Fish N Chip rather than middle eastern cuisine which 1) was what I was in the mood for and 2) would have meant choosing something I was unsure about and chancing dissatisfaction when Tim was paying and I was in dire need of my first meal of the day. So no thanks.

After that, I hung out in the dealer room a bit before joining Jim Hines, Emmy Jackson and Joe Ponepinto for a panel on “Writing Groups” wherein we gave insider tips on how to find a group, when you need a group, how groups operate, problems with groups, etc. Attending were such fun people as Charles Zaglanis and Christine Purcell from Elder Signs Press and Con security friend Laura (she and her husband Bill were a lot of laughs, especially the time I tested Bill’s security training by pick pocketing him).

Then it was rush back to my room and prepare time as I had a reading. I read through the passage again twice, ate a quick bite, and rushed back to the Con to await my most feared moment which then proceeded to go very well and wound up with everyone present except my unsupportive publisher (wink wink) buying a copy. I mean, gees, Tim, support your writers already… This led to my first autograph request, as opposed to earlier when I’d run through the Dealer Room signing every book in sight with the author’s name as a “courtesy” to future buyers. Despite Dealer’s complaints, I really do think those autographs were later a hit.

After that I hung out until Saladin (sal-uh-deen) Ahmed did a great reading from Chapter 3 of his forthcoming “Throne Of The Crescent Moon,” which he’d also read from at World Fantasy. And then hung with Saladin, Jim Hines, Christian Klaver, Tim Ambrose, and Seanan by the bar for a while. Here’s a picture of us pretending we actually like each other at Jim’s suggestion.

On Sunday, I pretty much hung out in the dealer room, after a nice breakfast with Charles Zaglanis and Christine Purcell, and spending time with Serena, my Brazilian website programmer, who came by just to see me and make sure I got to the airport. I think the city decided they’d had enough of my antics and wanted to be sure I left. Not sure. I do know that as soon as I got through security, they called my row and I had to bored so I was left little time for further mischief locally. And that was Conclave and the book launch of THE WORKER PRINCE, my novel debut.