Monday, January 24, 2011

Vampires and Werewolves and Demons, oh my!

These days, its almost impossible to pick up a paranormal romance or urban fantasy without encountering vampires and/or werewolves.  Is there an end in sight? What with the Sookie Stackhouse ‘Southern Vampire’ series by Charlaine Harris and the ‘Vampire Diaries’ series by L. J. Smith; both of which have spawned cable TV programs; as well as the ‘Twilight’ books by Stephanie Meyer, which are the basis for a series of movies, it’s hard to see an end to vamps at least.  Werewolves (and other shape-changers) seem to be very much tied in with the vampires (with a few notable exceptions), so it seems that their marketability seems to be inextricably connected with the vampires.

So, where does that leave a reader who wants something different, but still wants to read paranormal romance and/or urban fantasy? 

There are a couple of choices.  Eileen Wilks writes about werewolves (among other magical creatures), but she does so in a way that’s fresh.  The first full-length novel in her ‘World of the Lupi’ books is Tempting Danger.  Lily Yu is a police detective (later with the FBI Magical Crimes Division) who is a ‘sensitive’in addition to being a good detective and an all-around wonderful character.  Rule Turner is a werewolf “prince”.  He and Lily are inextricably bound together. Joining them are Cullen Seabourne, a werewolf sorcerer; Cynna Weaver, a “finder”; and Grandmother, Lily Yu’s grandmother -- who knows more about a lot of things than she lets on.  All in all, a very fresh, modern take on werewolves (and other paranormal creatures).

Second, for a very much darker urban fantasy world, there’s Karen Marie Moning’s ‘Fever’ series.  The series follows Mackayla (“Mac”) Lane as she travels to an Ireland being taken over by darker and darker forces as she searches for her sister’s killer and for the mysterious Sinsar Dubh.  Who is Jericho Barrons and what does he really want?? This series is very bleak and dark (but very well written), so if you’re looking for something not quite so intense, I’d not recommend it.  I will, however, say that I love Ms. Moning’s style. Her character development is superb and while the picture she paints with her words is very dark, it is also very compelling.

Third, Anne Bishop has written some very intriguing books ('Black Jewels' series). They don't really fall into the categories I'm talking about, but they do have some of the characteristics of both urban fantasy and paranormal romance. They also have some of the characteristics of high fantasy. So, a little something for everyone here :)

I think I'll end this for now.  In a couple of days, I'll have some more authors (and series) that either shy away from the vamps and weres, or that deal with them in more imaginative ways.

Review: "Deadly Remains" by Katherine Bayless

If you are as tired of vampires and werewolves in urban fantasy and paranormal romance as I am, have I got a book for you!  “Deadly Remains” by Katherine Bayless is a breath of fresh air.

Lire (pronounced ‘Lear’) is a ‘touch clairvoyant.’ That means she can read anything that she touches... rocks, tables, people.... She started a company, along with a ‘normal’ (Jack) to use her powers in a way that is constructive and allows her to interact with people (but not touch unless wearing gloves). She ‘reads’ antiques for their true provenance, etc.  She also works with the police on occasion.  This story, like many in the genre, takes place in the Pacific Northwest.

This book is very well-written.  Lire is a well-rounded, three-dimensional character.  As the book progresses, she firms up, fills in and becomes a very pleasing addition to the UF/PNR realm.  She has her quirks -- She’s a caffeine freak. She has a ‘teddy bear’ named Red. She’s “well off” financially.  In this first book, she gets called upon by a police department to help with a murder investigation.  Our introduction to her is at the police station, in a room with Det. Vince Vanelli. Who really doesn’t like clairvoyants. Or anyone else with a gift.  What happens from this point on is a wonderful dance of darkness and light. Lire and Vanelli carefully circling each other, and working their way through a very well-thought-out murder mystery.

Throughout this story we meet all kinds of magical and mystical creatures and people: Djinn are the most memorable.  If you are actually looking for vampires and werewolves, you’ll have to make do with mention only, they are not a presence in this book. 

The only problem I had with this book was the name of the detective. When I first saw it, all I could think of was (a) vanilla = baking cookies or (b) Milli Vanilli.... I got over it, but it took a little bit.

I am looking forward to more by Ms. Bayless.  She has written a credible mystery, and has done so in a genre thick with vampires and were-creatures without using them. I’m going to be rather impatiently awaiting the next entry in what I hope is a lengthy series.