Genre: Urban Fantasy

We met Tuesday, May 24, 2011; 9:45am to 12:00N at the Tewksbury Public Library

Everyone should read the Urban Fantasy benchmark which is Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking

Read second Urban Fantasy title of your choice, and please post your RA review of the second title on the Wiki before or after our May meeting.

Appeal to be read for May meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors while reading, but really think about the importance of setting and character in Urban Fantasy.

Notes from the meeting on May 24, 2011

For the summer we will be doing audiobooks. In addition to the handouts Leane mentioned an article called “Getting the Word Out” in the May 16, 2011 issue of Publisher’s Weekly. She also recommended the following women narrators: Kate Redding, Lorelei King and Barbara Rosenblat.

Kim Harrison – Dead Witch Walking

Why did Leane choose this as a benchmark?

  • It fits all the characteristics of the genre.
  • approachable
  • Lots of twists and turns
  • Humor & funny dialogue

Diane & Sarah both thought that it took at while to get into the book. Diane felt that twists and turns with new information kept her from identifying with Rachel.

Appeal: Characters

Rachel :

  • a little bumbling, but she is actually a good bounty hunter.
  • Now that she is on the other side (the hunted) she tries to stay on the side of good magic, which presents a moral dilemma that is important throughout the series.
  • It’s a coming of age story for Rachel. She must choose what path she will take.
  • It’s about her finding confidence in herself to make her own decisions and the ability to trust and form relationships.  She has a hard time trusting people, but ends up creating a family with Ivy and Jenks.
  • She’s the White Knight. She has flaws, but they are based on her own moral code.
  • Rachel is like Stephanie Plum in that if something goes wrong and she can be the butt of a joke, she will be.
  • Rachel’s character is archetypal one of the first in Urban Fantasy. She is heroic. She’ll make the “right” decision even if it is detrimental to her.
  • She’s very optimistic.


  • Most everyone loved Jenks
  • Even though he’s a pixie, he’s a well-developed character
  • part of the family that Rachel develops


  • Not sure exactly where her loyalties lie
  • She has a fair amount of secrets
  • She’s like Rachel in that she is scarred by her family and they are both working through their moral dilemmas


  • He’s evil, but also likable in a way
  • Finds Rachel a worthy adversary


  • Harrison creates an interesting world where the “magical world” is almost ghettoized.
  • Leane pointed out that the magic in this book only touches the surface of what it will be in future books and Harrison plants a lot of seeds in this book that may take several books to bear fruit
  • Diane mentioned that the tomato that kept coming up was almost like the apple in fairy tales


  • Jan mentioned that the tone in this book was not as dark or as bleak as some others
  • Rachel’s optimism and the humor may help lighten the tone

Readalikes for this book might include Kate McCallister, Charlaine Harris and J.D. Robb.

Tricia asked Leane to talk about the origins of Urban Fantasy and Leane explained:

  • in Urban Fantasy the magical world becomes more a part of society instead of a secret
  • There was a huge audience for strong female characters and UF authors found a way to have a strong female character with flawed characteristics but who still had powers that you wouldn’t have as a human being. They are damaged in a way and they try to make themselves whole. Sarah pointed out that the damaged part makes them more human.
  • You can get away with anything if you can explain it with the worldbuilding
  • Urban setting often a recognizable place, but sometimes the magical world is more real

Secondary Titles

Leane: Leane mentioned Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks as a seminal work of urban fantasy where the magic system is based on music. But it is more fantasy than urban

Dead World – J.N. Duncan

Jackie and Laurel are partners in a world where the FBI understands the paranormal. Laurel is psychic. They are dealing with the world in between our world and the Dead World. They meet a PI who keeps turn up when they investigate a series of horrific murders.

Appeals – Chicago, Strong Female Characters, Camaraderie between partners, Sexual Tension but not a romance, lots of dialogue, not so much detail of the arcane parts of the world.

Jan: Guilty Pleasures – Laurel K. Hamilton

Anita Blake is an animator and a vampire hunter who is blackmailed into searching for whoever is murdering powerful vampires.

Appeal: Tone=dark, , ironic and sardonic tone,  mystery

Tatiana: Kraken ~ China Mieville

Appeal: Characters, Language (very descriptive, wordplay) very literary which slows down the pacing

Sarah: Halfway to the Grave ~ Jeaniene Frost

Half-Vampire Kat is a vampire hunter who is out of her league when she tries to stake Bones the vampire and bounty hunter, who ends up taking her on and teaching her how to be a better hunter.

Appeals: Strong female character, world-building, romance but not happily ever after, steamy, faced paced, humor in the dialogue.

Michelle: Rosemary & Rue

Toby is half-faerie, half human. She’s a knight-errant who has lost 14 years of her life. When she tries to track down whoever has caused her to lose her family, she is cursed by a dying woman and must investigate her murder.

Appeal: Grittier, Character: Toby is competent, but not an expert. She thinks things through. World-building. Ties to Shakespeare. A bit of a romance

Tricia: Moon Called ~ Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson is a shape shifter who can turn into a coyote. She was raised by werewolves, but is on her own now. When the local alpha gets kidnapped, Mercy must track him down.

Appeals: Character: Strong female character, interesting secondary characters, fast-paced, suspense

Diane: Tithe ~ Holly Black

Kay is a pixie who is living as a human – she was switched at birth. She moves to New Jersey and becomes involved in a war with the seelie and unseelie courts.

Appeals: Fast-paced, gritty, strong determined characters, subtle world-building, tone=atmospheric

Second Titles

Nanci Milone Hill

Guilty Pleasures: an Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel –  Laurell K. Hamilton
Appeal Factors: Setting: St. Louis, Tone: Gritty, Character: Moral Dilemma, Inner Turmoil, Strong sexual undercurrent

Anita Blake is a necromancer and works as an “animator.” She works bringing the dead back to life for legal purposes, such as getting answers when the deceased had no will. She is also a vampire executioner for the state. She also moonlights with the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team. Anita is a very strong female character with a strong moral compas. She was excommunicated from the Catholic Church because of her work re-animating the dead.

The story takes place in a present-day, alternate St. Louis where vampires have legal rights. In this novel (the first in the series), someone has been killing the vampires in the city but the police are getting nowhere finding the culprit. Nikolaos and Jean-Claude (master vampires) convince Anita to help them find the killer.

Jan Resnick

Guilty Pleasures – Laurell K. Hamilton
Appeal Factors: Pace – quick, relentless; Language – compelling, gritty;
Storyline – Plot-driven; Tone – Menacing, dark

Guilty Pleasures is the first in a series featuring Anita Blake, an animator who
raises the dead for a brief time to answer questions and resolve issues. In Guilty
Pleasures, Anita is forceably hired to investigate who is responsible for the mutilation and murder of some of the most powerful vampires in St. Louis. First
Anita is offered gold. When she refuses, her friends are threatened until she agrees to look for the killer. Ultimately the deaths are a power grab to become the most powerful vampire in the city. First Anita is offered gold, next her friends are threatened if she does not find the vampire killer. Ultimately the deaths are part of a plot to become the most powerful vampire in St. Louis.

Authors who may appeal to readers who like Guilty Pleasures: Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris

Leane Ellis

Deadworld – J.N. Duncan

She’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes
at an immortal price…Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup…So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give – even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie’s investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries – and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory—he wants revenge. Jackie’s partner Laurel has the ability to sense and speak to the dead.

The Deadworld is the place ghosts live/stay until they are released. Nice
world-building, Jackie is a self-sufficient woman who is the white knight in this
tale (probably a series) who has ethics and moral lines. She is damaged and deals
with that in her character–in some ways this is a COA tale. Great S/T between her and Nick. Promising premise. Nice 2nd characters. RED FLAG: If you get attached to main characters–this author is willing to kill them off and this may frustrate you. No one is sacred.

Diane Giarrusso

Tithe – Holly Black
Appeal Factors:  gritty, menacing, character centered, fast paced

Kaye is, unknown to her, a pixie who was switched for a human child when she was young. She has been raised as a human with her unstable mother. She and her mother move back to her childhood community where Kaye hopes to see some old friends. Hoping also to become reacquainted with the fairies she used to play with, she is asked to get involved in a fey turf war that will change her life
forever. These are not Disney fairies/fey, they are diabolical and menacing. It
becomes Kaye’s responsibility to navigate the dangerous underworld of the Seelie and Unseelie courts and save those she loves. This title doesn’t really qualify as Urban Fantasy as the fey do not live among humans. It falls more closely into Contemporary Fantasy.

Michelle Deschene-Warren

Rosemary and Rue – Seanan McGuire
(Book 1 in the October Daye series)
Appeal Factors: Character/Plot/Tone

October ‘Toby’ Daye understands loss; she lost fourteen years of her life, and her family with it. Returned to her true self after breaking the spell that held her captive, she ignores her Fae heritage, turning her back on the Court and her job as a knight errant (or, in more familiar terms: P.I. and problem solver). But as best laid plans go, Toby is pulled back into that world when Countess Evening Winterrose lays a curse on her (via answering machine), binding Toby to find the ones responsible for her murder or else suffer the Countess’ fate. With little else to do, Toby unwinds and unravels the threads, following each lead to a startling end.

This series delivers on every level. All of the characters – major, secondary and minor – are fully developed, interesting, flawed individuals. Toby, in fact, is one of the best UF heroines I’ve run across in a long time. And then there’s Tybalt, King of Cats; if you read this series for nothing else, read it for him. Fascinating, well-realized world-building and excellent atmosphere; fast, can’t-put-it-down pacing; and a strong plot that both lays down tracks for future books, but also resolves the main conflict.