There is something about the werewolf mythology that lends itself very well to the trials of female adolescence. By making her particular brand of lycanthropy a secret matriarchy with strict rules, Christine Johnson marries her myth even closer to the teenage plight. By tradition, Claire doesn’t discover her heritage until her sixteenth birthday, making her a very human girl who has to deal a whole set of inhuman challenges.
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This is my first experience with this type of broad, category driven anthology, and I find myself as enamored with the physical organization of the book as I was with it’s contents. Opening with Charles de Lint’s exploration of Urban Fantasy and it’s more precise sub-categories, the book itself is divided into “Mythic Fiction”, “Paranormal Romance”, and “Noir Fantasy”. Each section begins with an essay that explores the origins and characterizations of this genre so much of us enjoy, and while the stories in each section don’t actually match the content from de Lint, Guran, or Lansdale’s essays, they do have an interesting relationship to one another that makes this anthology as thought provoking as it was enjoyable.
The whys and wherefores of Jeremiah Hunt’s world are fascinating, a mix of grim reality and arcane practicality. As the chapters switch between the past and present, Hunt’s growth from comfortable academic to iron-hard, isolated mystic unfolds page by page. While I loved all of the chapters from Hunt’s perspective, I could have done without the present-tense chapters from other characters’ points of view. They never reached Hunt’s level of charisma and interest, and I found myself anxious to get back to our hero.
The Madeline Black series employs a blend of two great, common urban fantasy tropes: the “big reveal” (where a mundane character discovers magic exists) and an open world where magic is commonly accepted. The mix of these two story-lines creates a chemistry that adds new zest to familiar concepts, an energy that I thoroughly enjoy.
It’s always entertaining when a book gets a physical reaction out of me, and THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST caused many a gasp and flinch as twelve year old Will Henry faced monsters and threats of both the physical and mental variety. While I enjoyed the grizzly, realistic science that is monstrumology, other details in the story were so gross and dark and disturbing that I sometimes dreaded reading further.
While it was the premise that caught my eye, ABITHICA held my attention with it’s contradictions. Despite having a light, playful tone, the concepts and situations driving this book are both complex and dark. The main character’s completely disorienting and frightening reality is leavened with silly banter, shoe philosophy, and a few Sleeping Beauty “dance with the animals” moments, and together, these elements worked for me.
A meticulous novel, AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES brought to mind an elaborate version of THE HISTORIAN, told from the vampire’s perspective. As much a historical novel as anything else, the supernatural elements of the story were as realistically imagined as any other aspect of daily life. To further add to the feeling of reading primary source material, Yarbro intermixes letters between the chapters, a device that made me feel as threatened and engaged as any of the main characters trying to unwind the political and religious intrigues around them.
A grown-up mix of Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew, GHOULS, GHOULS, GHOULS was a light, quick read that blends a realistic present day with a dash of the spirit world. An entertaining ghost story to fill a few hours, the characters of GHOULS, GHOULS, GHOULS didn’t leave enough of an impression for me to hurry out and pick up the rest of the series.
The House of Night series has always been filled with twists and turns, and AWAKENED doesn’t deviate from that score. Despite all that occurs, however, I felt that this book promises more than it delivers.
Vampire stories have become so prevalent in today’s fiction that even readers outside the genre are aware of the trend. This preponderance of preternatural fantasy can make it more and more difficult to find a truly original spin on the vampire myth. Sparkles, soul mates, daywalkers, and boarding school… even though there are great examples of each of these tropes, sometimes it’s hard to find the good hidden amongst the derivative. HUNTER AND PREY stands out from the crowd by being retro, embracing parts of the old school vampire myth that are largely neglected in Urban Fantasy today.