Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Witches, Magic, and Things That Go Bump in the Night

I'm not sure who coined the term "urban fantasy" or what the first book categorized in the sub-genre actually was. (I've heard that it's Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, but don't have anything except Wikipedia to back it up -- I suspect there are older books that fall into the category, however.)

Anyway, in '04 I received a book that I think I really considered my first read in the genre, Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking.

I was blown away by Harrison's debut. It was utterly fabulous and I told all of my fellow coworkers and customers about it. I'm not exaggerating here -- I kept copies of it behind the counter at the register so I could spring it on people when I was working cashwrap.

In the book, Rachel Morgan, a bounty hunter with a supernatural agency the equivalent of the FBI, quits her job to open her own agency. Fortunately, she's not alone. She takes their best vamp agent with her and together with a pixie, they open their own doors as a sort-of paranormal PI firm. Unfortunately for Rachel, others are not so pleased with her newfound solo gig and a contract is put out on her name.

Now, Harrison's book takes place in the near future after a virus spread by genetically altered tomatoes has infected and killed off enough of the human population that the "others" out there come out of the closet. Imagine a world where you're afraid to eat ketchup and pizza (hell) and this is it. In fact, the biggest vamp in town owns a pizza parlor that is not too frequented by humans.

It's fun, it's catchy, and it's an infectiously addicting read. It was my gateway into the urban fantasy genre. Harrison set the bar for me.

As many books as there are with similar plots in the reading world, not limited to urban fantasy here, I think there's a reader for just about every one. I am a Harrison reader and since it was totally original for me at the time, Dead Witch Walking set the standard for me when reading anything remotely similar -- they have to stand out like this one did.

So far, there are seven titles in the Hollows series, and each one has a title that's a play on a Clint Eastwood film. Each new book has been just as fantastic as the last and each one gets you more and more wrapped up in the characters' stories.

Harrison has recently launched her young adult series with the brand-spanking-new, Once Dead, Twice Shy, featuring Madison Avery, a character from a story she contributed to the teen collection Prom Nights From Hell.

And Harrison has also contributed to some adult anthologies, the latest of which is the upcoming Unbound, which also includes tales from other urban fantasy mavens Vicki Pettersson, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, and Jocelynn Drake


Cheryl said...

I have yet to read any of these books. I will have to do so soon

Icedream said...

I've had Dead Witch Walking on my overstuffed shelf forever, I really need to read it! I'll add it to the "read your own book" challenge.

Becky LeJeune said...

That's a good one, "Read Your Own Book Challenge." I assume that means you aren't supposed to run out and buy a new one either? Argh, that would be tough. Somehow, I know all the books on my shelf (knock on wood) will still be there when I want them, so it's hard not to run out and grab more to add to the collection!

Vickie said...

You know, I want to say that Kim Harrison was my intro to UF, too. I love that first book and I need to get back to the series! The titles catch my eye, I am a sucker for a catchy title.