In defense of urban fantasy

A lot of blogs I follow have ‘themes,’ such as cooking blogs, travel blogs, entertainment blogs. For those of you who saw the title of this post and thought, “WTH?” then I’ll just say this — the theme for this blog is ‘My Life’ therefore the posts are varied in subject.

Last night, I drove to Baltimore for a book signing. Those of you who know me know that I’m a voracious reader. I love reading! If I like a book, I’ll start reading and likely won’t stop until I finish — which is the reason my parents refused to get me a NOOK until I finished grad school. Ignoring homework in favor of reading novels… yeah, I’d probably have done that.

Sorry, I’m not sorry.

The author in question was Kim Harrison, author of the The Hollows series (also known as the Rachel Morgan series). Her tenth book in the series, A Perfect Blood, was released on Tuesday, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet her in person.

So, I braved both the rain and rush hour traffic on the Beltway to drive to Baltimore to meet one of my favorite authors. And you know what? It was so worth it.

Swag for the attendees -- Rachel's pack tattoo

When I got to the signing at 6:15 (it started at 7:00), my line number was #102. And here I thought I’d arrived decently early. It didn’t matter. I had the chance to meet and chat with (for two hours) Erika from Your Urban Fantasy, which was fantastic. It’s so nice to chat with someone who’s just as big a fan of the books as you are! We discussed our favorite characters, plot points, and who we hope Rachel ends up with at the end of the series (Trent).

But standing in line for two hours (why oh why did I wear my boots with heels?) totally paid off when I got to the front to meet one of my favorite authors.

I met her!

She was SO NICE! I’ve commented on her blog before, and she replied — how awesome is that? She maintains her own blog and replies to comments — but it was so cool to meet her in person. To tell her about how much I’ve loved seeing Trent (my favorite character) evolve over the past ten books in person was surreal. This woman — this amazing, talented writer — who takes time to listen and communicate with her fans… it was the best part of my month.

Those of you who know me know that I love to write, and one day, I hope to publish my own books. All I can say is that if my books are only a fraction as good as Kim’s, then I’ll be one happy writer.

Now, moving to a slightly different (yet relevant topic): why urban fantasy?

I get this question a lot — usually from my family. If they see I’m reading a book, their first question is usually, “Is that one of those weird vampire books?”

My question is: Why are vampire books (and fantasy books in general) considered weird?

I’ve made no bones about my love for Harry Potter, but those are far from the only fantasy books I enjoy. I’ve read nearly every book written by Anne Rice, enjoyed the Anita Blake books (up through Incubus Dreams, at least), and I’m getting into A Song of Ice and Fire — better known as the Game of Thrones series.

But yet, the voice of my mother asks, “Why do they appeal to you?”

It’s hard to succinctly define why these books are so appealing. But there are a few themes that ring true in nearly every single fantasy book I’ve ever read.

Strong characters: No one wants to read a book where the main character is a limp noodle — I’m looking at you, Twilight. The woman in fantasy books have a tendency to kick some serious ass, and it’s awesome! Rachel Morgan is the typical girl next door (er, witch next door), and while she often gets her own ass kicked as often as she’s doing the kicking, you can relate to her struggles. She doesn’t sit around and wait for the men in her life to come to her rescue — she’s out there, saving her own skin. Daenerys Targaryen grew from a young girl whose life was controlled by her older brother into a strong, confident woman — a khaleesi in her own right. And when Ron left, Hermione didn’t sit around and wait for him to come back. She helped Harry find the Horcruxes needed to kill Lord Voldemort.

Another world alongside our own: In The Hollows, you can get your insurance from werewolves. Witches sell charms that work better than asprin, and the most powerful bachelor in Cincinnati is secretly (or not so secretly) an elf. Hidden from humans until a virus wiped out a quarter of the world’ populations in the 1960s, Inderlanders (supernaturals) came out of the closet and helped restore order. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake is an “animator” — a person who temporarily raises the dead so they can be questioned for legal purposes. She’s also a licensed vampire hunter/executioner and a federal marshal. There’s another world running parallel to our own, which brings me to…

The mythology: In urban fantasy, the hero/heroine’s world is expanded upon with each passing book. I loved learning more about the origins of demons and elves in Kim Harrison’s books, how witches evolved from a curse put upon the demons by the elves during the last great war between the two species. The world of Harry Potter is so rich and incredibly detailed that the mind just boggles. There’s just so much possibility in these worlds; while reality might blow, you can pick up a fantasy novel and get lost in a different world for a time.

There’s a little bit of everything: You want romance? Action? Mystery? Danger? Magic? I need say no more.

Power: While it might seem like I’m solely an urban fantasy fan, that’s not the case. But in UF books, the individual has real, tangible power. Rachel Morgan (I keep going back to her, but I love those books so much) has the power to end the war between the elves and demons, to restore balance in Inderlander society. Her actions have rippling consequences, both good and bad. This is someone whose life is (in my opinion) so much more exciting than my own.

Imagination: These books are so fantastically not reality that I’m drawn to them. When I read a book, I like to escape. And reading books about normal, everyday life just doesn’t always appeal to me. I live that everyday — I want to read something new. Something exciting. πŸ™‚

Love.

So, what do you think? What sort of books appeal to you, and why?

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7 thoughts on “In defense of urban fantasy

  1. Great post, Virgina! And it was fantastic to meet you as well! I totally agree with your assessment. You’ve made some excellent points. Urban Fantasy is definitely my favorite genre because it’s relatable while still maintaining a level of mystery and incredible world building that appeals to my imagination. Like you, I enjoy reading fiction as a great escape from the real world. I deal with it everyday, so in my leisure time I just want to be entertained. No, I don’t want any Mary Sue types, but I also don’t want any Bella Swans either.

    • Thank you, Erika! Urban fantasy is such a varied genre with something for everyone, I think, and it’s such a great escape that it’s definitely my favorite.

      So great to meet you — and I agree, let’s keep in touch! πŸ˜€

  2. Pingback: She had her nose in a book… | The Virginia Diaries

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