Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Chuckles Chat #65 Scenarios We Love And Hate About Urban Fantasy

Welcome to Chuckles Chat where great blogging minds unite to discuss the topics of the day mainly in the book and blogging world. I'll be sharing my thoughts on a topic and then inviting you all to share your thoughts. It's ok to disagree but PLEASE be respectful of each other's views! All of the comments on my blog are moderated and offensive posts ie racist, bigoted will not be published! 

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Over the coming weeks I'm looking at our book buying life. By this what I mean is, what are the scenarios in a book blurb that make us really want to pick up that book and start reading? What do we love about the genre and what puts us off?

Until I joined Goodreads, I never knew that urban fantasy was a thing, as to me vampires and werewolves were just part of horror. I generally saw them in books by Stephen King or Richard Laymon. One day I was sitting in front of my computer thinking how I hadn't read any good werewolf books for a while, so I googled it and there were links to Goodreads where I saw the name 'urban fantasy' and various authors like Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs. I looked up vampires which lead me to Charlaine Harris and Jeaniene Frost, then I joined Goodreads and that started my out of control book buying!

For me, I loved reading about these monsters in a modern setting rather than Dracula era vampires or an American Werwolf in London plot. I loved finding fast paced books where they could be either the heroes or the bad guys and there were just so many kinds of vampires from the shiny Twilight ones to the traditional Dracula style, and werewolves that were in government or living in pack structures. So many authors were writing about them and putting their own spin on them. It opened up a world of possibilities! I discovered a lot of authors and a ton of books which led me to books about witches, demons and other kinds of shifter. I was now reading about werecats and werebears and so on which was kind of exciting! 

The difficulty I find with this genre is the crossover between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. In my opinion there are pretty clear lines between the two but recently authors seem determined to blur those lines or completely destroy them. If I was picking up a book labelled UF I would expect supernatural creatures or monsters in a modern setting, with the plot revolving around what is being sought, investigated, stopping the bad guys etc. There may or may not be romance elements in it but they are background to the main plot. If I was to pick a book labelled PNR I'd expect the romance elements to dominate the book with a story of some kind running alongside or in the background. That is how I would define them. But recently most books that call themselves UF then seem to be focused so much on romance and bloody love triangles that the plot just feels like a second thought and it has led me to DNF books that I had high hopes for. 

I'm getting tired of being sold UF and getting PNR. This is actually putting me off from trying as many new authors in this genre. I study the blurbs and pick ones that don't mention the hot but annoying guy our heroine is forced to work with, ones that don't mention love triangles and soulmates...yet a high percentage still seem to be PNR with constant sex and relationship angst when they should be completing a mission. I get frustrated with this. I'm not saying don't write PNR, of course I'm not saying that. What I want is for the book blurb to be honest about what you are going to be reading. Don't call it one thing and serve up another as you are likely to disappoint readers and gain more low star reviews! Tell us which you have written so that we can make a more informed choice about what we pick up.

My favourite urban fantasy plots have a strong male or female MC who is not whiny or arrogant or obnoxious. He/She must be someone I can like or I won't get far. They don't need to have superpowers but I do like if they can do magic or have vampire or werewolf special skills, or other more human skills that add interest to the story. I like when the MC is part of a quirky team, each with different skills and personalities like in MLN Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter series or James R Tuck's Deacon Chalk. I like interesting sidekicks like talking animals and supernatural creatures as they are fun and bring some humour and banter ie RL Naquin's Monster Haven. I like the story to be fast paced and if it has lots of action and humour, that is ideal ie Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid. I like battles against a supernatural bad guy, where our MC or group face constant dangers. I love varied creatures!

I don't like too much romance and sex in it. I'm ok with a romance if I love both characters and their relationship is more than just the sex ie Cat and Bones. I do prefer reading about a romance that is already established when we begin the book to avoid the soul mate and angst elements and focus on the story. We don't see enough settled married couples in the genre, whether they work together or meet at the end of a hard day, and look at the non sexual side of their relationship. I don't like it when the story focuses on angst between the couple or someone trying to split them up especially if I like them together. I don't like constant annoying bickering between MCs. I don't like UF that features the traditional Fae Courts with the Fae being horrible and unlikable. I don't like ones where the MC is a detective or investigator and spends most of the book interviewing witnesses over and over like a crime novel and having a ton of police procedure stuff.

What do you like about urban fantasy and what drives you mad? Do you think there should be clearer lines between UF and PNR? Have you bought UF books then been disappointed by getting PNR?  

18 comments:

  1. It's not just UF that this is happening to, sadly. It's happening to SF more and more too. Lindsay Buroker is a prime example of romance within a SF setting.

    It seems to take a ton of research to find out if a book is truly SFF or a romance in a SFF wrapper. I don't have time for that in all honestly. My solution has been a scorched earth policy. I avoid a recent book if it's written by a woman I am not familiar with. Sure, I KNOW I'm going to miss out on some good books, but I avoid the switch and bait and disappointment you talk about.

    I shouldn't have to take time away from reading to "research" a book. I wish there was a better way to separate the wheat from the chaff though.

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    1. I've always figured that if I was in a life or death situation ie zombies, alien invasion, apocalypses etc, I'd be focused on staying alive or fighting back, not getting involved in love triangles! That's why I have little patience for romance getting in the way of plot. I think blurbs need to be clear on levels of romance so we can better choose. I read a so called UF book where there were FOUR love interests-how could she find time to save the world? I can understand why you are avoiding the female authors because of this. I totally agree that the authors/publishers should inform rather than the reader doing levels of research to see if there is a bad romance!

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  2. I haven’t read much urban fantasy, and what I have read I haven’t liked. Probably because they were paranormal romance and not urban fantasy. I don’t know. The ones I read had way too much romantic angst for me.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. That is what bugs me so much. There is a whole category for paranormal romance without it being wrongly called urban fantasy, and it feels like a deliberate trick to get us UF fans to buy it under false pretenses. If they really seperated the two I'd be writing fewer low star reviews about romance destroying the plots! I read things by Patricia Briggs and Kelley Armstrong that have romance but the plot is always strong so I'm ok with that. It's when the MC is bedding various guys when she is meant to be searching for bad guys that it bugs me!

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  3. I have a hard time with urban fantasy reads that are mostly about the Fae, because I really don't enjoy the world of the Fae. I prefer Harry Dresden and Alex Verus type reads (although I don't mind a little romance sneaking in now and then). :)

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    1. Romance in UF is fine if it fits the book and doesn't dominate everything. Some of my favourite series do have romances but not at the expense of the story. The Fae always seem so cold and nasty. One of the few I liked was Sonya Bateman's 'Wrong Side Of Hell'.

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    2. Mmm...I'll have to try that one. :)

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    3. I think she's a great author, from what I've tried of her.

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  4. The romance can be really offputting. Like, this is really your concern? Really??! The world's falling apart, pick up your sword/gun/magic and work on fixing things, not your lovelife! Heh.

    I mean, sometimes it works as a kind of 'life goes on' thing, but I hate it when it becomes the priority. Guys, no!

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    1. Exactly! I never bother with my lovelife at the best of times so I would give priority to surviving the disaster! I've seen zombie books where the MC is in her compound and sleeping her way through the eligible men while others fight the zombies. Not cool!

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  5. you hit so many points I share with you. The problem I have with reading adult urban fantasy is when its too much paranormal romance and it has a ton of sex. I don't need sex in my books. I don't mind the romance if its done well. in ya Urban fantasy or paranormal romance may not be a lot of sex but too much angst. finding the medium is hard. the others is really good. I have only read written in red, the first book. But it finds the medium quite well and heavy on the urban fantasy not the romance.

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    1. Joining an established couple and focusing on their emotional relationship would suit me much better or if it develops during a series rather than the soulmate stuff. I hate relationship angst! PNR is fine as long as it is cleary marked so I can avoid it!

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  6. I like romance sometimes but I have to be in a mood for it and I agree it so hard to know when one of these books is going to include one and surprise me in a bad way. That always makes me grumpy. Add in a love triangle and I am out!

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    1. Bloody love triangles! I hate how they so often spoil really good books! You wonder why so many authors include them when so many people hate them.

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  7. All the genres confuse. Do I add all that I think apply or just what is listed on Amazon? Urban fantasy...what is it? I never heard of it til blogging and all it does is confuse me even more.
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. PNR focuses on romantic love with elements of SF, horror, paranormal, fantasy etc. The focus on that is the romance. UF is a subgenre of fantasy but in an urban setting. So basically fantasy monsters and mythology based in modern or futuristic settings. There is no mention of romance as a main element. That's why diehard UF fans get annoyed when there are love triangles and lots of sex in UF, as that fits more into PNR.

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  8. I want to read more urban fantasy but so much of it seems to be PNR that I hesitate a lot to start a series. I also like varied creatures, or uncommon ones that maybe don't show up a lot? I'm slowly finding some that I like. I do think the fae courts thing is getting a bit overdone. I'm hoping to see some different takes in the future?

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    1. Books that focus on plot rather than romance include Sonya Bateman (her djinn and fae books-the fae one is better than most fae I've read), DD Barant, Kelly Meding's Dreg City (she also does YA superhero books), Benedict Jacka's Alex verus books, Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid, Kendra C Highley's Matt Archer Monster Hunter, Es Moore's Kat Redding, CE Murphy's Walker Papers, Nicholas Olivo's Caulborn, KA Stewart's Jesse James Dawson, Jaye Wells.

      Books with limited romance are Christina Henry's first Black Wings, MLN Hanover's first Black Sun's Daughter, James R Tuck's Deacon Chalk books, Simone Pond's Coastview Prophecies, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville, RL Naquin's Monster Haven

      These books do have sex scenes but strong plots as well-Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire, Jeaniene Frost's main Night Huntress series. The spinoffs are PNR.

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