|No. This isn't another one of our cats. Megan just thought it was funny.|
Rachel Aaron: Dear Orbit Publishing. Hello, my name is Meghan B, and if you do not give me the next book in Rachel Aaron's series, I will die. Do you want my death on your hands? I thought not. What makes me so rabid for Rachel Aaron's books? The first three books out in the Legend of Eli Monpress are staggering works of witty fantasy. Eli is the best thief in the world, dashing and charming and just crazy enough to kidnap anything that proves a suitable challenge. I love Eli so much. Following him are his swordsman Josef and a girl named Nico with a dark secret. Every character is fully fleshed out and the books are insanely addicting. The fantasy world created by Aaron is easy to fall into but hard to climb back out of. Every time I had to stop reading, I felt like I was poorer for not living in a world with so much magic and intrigue. The first three books are out now and are called, respectively, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion and The Spirit Eater. Trust me, they are wonderful. And Orbit? E-mail me about that fourth volume, yes? -Meghan B.
Kelley Armstrong: Don't let the fact that I'm only writing about one author fool you. I adore a number of the writers on the list but everybody else snapped 'em up before I could. However, if I had to be left with just one to review, I'm glad it was Kelley Armstrong 'cause I love the crap out of her Women of the Otherworld series. The Urban Fantasy works are a collection of novels focusing on a loosely knit group of women including werewolves, witches, necromancers, demons, and vampires. The protagonist varies from book to book which could be tricky when trying to ensure that each character is distinct and fully realized while still being totally likeable but Armstrong does it with ease. Each book is more than just a mystery, it's a peek at the personal lives of so many different types of women a number of which are not often portrayed in UF like first time moms, women of color, and older ladies. The crimes are always interesting and entertaining but it's the varied protagonists that make the Women of the Otherworld shine. -Megan S.
Iain M. Banks: Banks imagines worlds so big that the reader feels small. His sci fi novels feature breathtaking technological advances and seemingly limitless understanding and control of biological processes. At the same time, the human race's petty cruelties and bone-deep evil remain and are exaggerated as they encounter other lifeforms across the universe. The books often feel as if they're driven by the head rather than the heart, but the stories are vast -- as is befitting the far-flung reaches of space. -Sara N.
Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files are the gold standard for urban fantasy. In fact, Jim Butcher has created one of the finest series of this millennium, no matter what genre. The books are narrated by Harry Dresden, wizard, who is a genuinely likeable character and a bundle of contradictions: sarcastic and compassionate, angry and funny, powerful and lonely. While many ongoing series experience a decrease in quality as time goes on, the Dresden Files just get better and better. Characters grow and change. Plots become darker. Threads from previous books weave together in unexpected ways. The end of book 12, which was released last year, left fans absolutely desperate for the next installment, so steep was the metaphorical cliff upon which Butcher had hung Harry. Thankfully, the wait is almost over; Ghost Story will be released on July 26. The wait has been excruciating, but I'm optimistic that Butcher won't let us down. -Sara N.
Mike Carey: Felix Castor can be kind of a jerk. He's a good man and the best exorcist in London, but he's tough to work with and seems to have no filter between his brain and his mouth. Castor is half detective and half ghostbuster armed with a tin whistle to channel his power. The world that Castor inhabits is a frightening one. The dead rise in the form of ghosts and no one is entirely sure how or why. Demons walk the earth, people ward their doors with herbs and charms, and an increasing number of creatures are going bump in the night. Almost more frightening than the demons is Dr. Jenna Jane Mulbridge, a modern-day Mengele who receives government funding to experiment upon the dead and the supernatural. She's the perfectly urbane, frighteningly lucid mad scientist that seems to make perfect sense in a mad world. As Castor gets closer to unraveling what's truly going on in his world, it's clear he's only one man fighting against an ocean of change. -Laurie K.
Gail Carriger: Gail Carriger is nothing short of phenomenal. Her breakout steampunk series, The Parasol Protectorate, is an incredible and heady mix of humor, Victoriana, dandy vampires and Healthcliff-esque werewolves. Look for my review of her latest book, Heartless, later this week! -Meghan B.
Mira Grant: The zombie world that Grant has created is a unique departure form the usual "brutal struggle to survive in a ravaged wasteland" zombie tales. This fresh approach has made for two stunning novels, Feed and Deadline, which are must-reads for zombie fans. (We reviewed the latter earlier this month.) Humans have found a way to overcome the zombies (sort of) and they live relatively normal lives, although they are surrounded by invasive technology and a prevalent fear of the systems breaking down, leading to horrible death by zombies (or the government, whichever arrives first). Grant has created a fully imagined civilization that unfolds in a meticulously detailed way that will delight and horrify readers with possibilities. Grants books will scare you and will break your heart. Read them. Read them now. -Sara N.
N.K Jemisin: A newcomer to the epic fantasy scene, Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy builds a rich and intricate world of gods, demigods, and the conflict between them. The books follow the mortals that become caught up in the bitter feud between two cosmic powers and their offspring. One of the interesting things about this series is its format; it is not a traditional "follow the hero" sort of thing. The award-winning first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is a fantasy epic that drives political and ideological change to the entire world, while the second book, The Broken Kingdoms, is a much more intimate tale of a blind girl whose kindness toward a surly stranger has unforeseen consequences. Book three, The Kingdom of the Gods, is due out in October of 2011 and Jemisin has said it will be set in more modern times. It's a novel approach to the tired "three and out" fantasy trilogy, and it works quite well. -Laurie K.
Christopher Moore: There is no funnier author in this hemisphere than Christopher Moore. I would almost go so far as to say he's nearly an American Terry Pratchett. Each book is laugh-out-loud-so-hard-you're-crying funny while also being sentimental and poignant. If you haven't picked up any of these books, you must go and do so now. Between hilariously bad vampires, impressive Shakespearian satire and using Emperor Norton to his full comedic abilities, you can not help but love every single word Moore has committed to page. Reading The Stupiest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Horror has become a holiday tradition for me. How can you not love a Christmas story that has zombies? -Meghan B.
Jennifer Rardin: I've just started reading Rardin's Jaz Parks series, and so far I'm digging the characters and storyline. But what attracted me to the series in the first place are the unconventional covers. You won't see the heroine lurking in a dark, shadowy alley, presenting her black-leather clad hind-quarters for all the world to see on these covers. Instead, they are a bright white, which makes the arresting cover images pop. They stand out in a sea of greys and blacks. On a sad note, Rardin died unexpectedly in 2010. It's a genuinely sad loss for paranormal literature. -Sara N.
Lilith Saintcrow: A little off the beaten path for urban fantasy lies Lillith Saintcrow. Saintcrow builds darkly beautiful worlds and peoples them with the brave and the broken, and her characters never take the easy way out. In fact, I'm not sure the easy way out has ever been an option for them, the poor bastards. Her Dante Valentine books exemplify a grim and realistic view of what a paranormal romance might be like (hint: it's not all hearts and flowers) in a setting that's the offspring of both military science fiction and urban fantasy. The Jill Kismet books are a study in doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and just how slippery that slope can be. Snappy one-liners and easy choices have no place in Saintcrow's books, and I wouldn't have it any other way. -Laurie K.
Charles Stross: While I haven't read his hard sci-fi books, the Lovecraftian spy thrillers he's written are amazing. The first is the Atrocity Archive and is jam-packed with everything from Nazis, strange magical mathematics and amazing characters. It's a riff on James Bond that is extremely satisfying and often times bizarre and hilarious. The main character, Bob Howard, follows in the grand tradition of British characters thrown into circumstances they can barely grasp and yet are entrusted to save the day (see also Arthur Dent). -Meghan B.