Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Best paranormals of the decade —

What do you think belongs on this list?

I’m far from an expert on paranormals. Seriously. I get confused by the INFINITE NUMBER of fantasy novels with covers that depict A Woman With Weapon And Animal and the whole subgenre blurs together, so I only ever have read the ones recommended by particular bloggers whose taste I mostly share. Which has worked for me, but it means I’m only familiar with a small subset of paranormal auhors.

But Barnes and Noble recently did such a list: best 20 paranormals. Well, it IS B & N, maybe their list compiler (Paul Allen) was influenced by popularity more than by quality. Or not. But I have to say, not loving his top picks.

Kim Harrison’s series . . . sorry to point this out, but this is the one where Harrison refers to an animal as a “mink” all the way through her first book (and for all I know, all the way through her series), when the animal she is describing is actually a least weasel. Such a turnoff. I know, that’s just me. But I also didn’t like her excessively impulsive, idiotically emotional main character. Well, yes, I know, that’s just me, too, but give me a woman like Martha Well’s Tremaine ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

I haven’t read many of the B & N picks — five out of the twenty — but the ones I have read certainly would not make MY list of top paranormals. For example, any Laurell Hamilton after the first three or four is definitely not going to be on my list — too much sex for me, at the expense of not nearly enough plot.

Much, much closer to my own taste is this top ten list from Angieville. Angie certainly isn’t going by popularity! Check out some of her selections:

Sunshine by McKinley — I never thought of it as a paranormal romance, but of course it is! And it is a wonderful book! I loved everything about it — the way it starts off looking like our normal world and then takes a sudden hard left turn into weirdness, the characters — all of them, really, including quite minor secondary characters — the creepy, creepy vampires. Even Con is creepy, though on him it looks good. I only wish McKinley would write a sequel.

And A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb — that is one of my favorite books EVER, any genre, though again I hadn’t thought of this ghost story as a paranormal.

Angie also calls out Charlaine Harris, whose books I do enjoy though I don’t necessary grab each one the moment it comes out; and Patricia Briggs — you all know how much I love Patricia Briggs — and Ilona Andrews, who is my second-favorite paranormal author after Briggs.

Angie’s other five picks include books by Rachel Caine, Jeri Smith-Ready, Kat Richardson, Rachel Vincent, and Cassie Alexander — click through if you’re interested in the exact titles Angie chose for her list. Only the last of those authors was already on my radar. So . . . given that I am right there with Angie for five of her picks, I’m inclined to add all of her other picks to my wishlist, too.

If *I* were trying to pick three, just three, paranormal novels that totally establish how great this genre can be . . . perhaps for someone who had never read anything but Twilight, or who thinks the whole subgenre is nothing but Twilight — For me it would be Moon Called, the first Mercy Thompson book by Briggs; Sunshine by McKinley; and then either Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews (I don’t think that series took off till that book) or A Certain Slant of Light by Whitcomb. That last choice depends on whether I think my hypothetical introducee would prefer adventure or a quiet, literary romance.

What would be on your top-three list for paranormals?

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7 Comments Best paranormals of the decade —

  1. Elaine T

    I love SUNSHINE, and wouldn’t have thought of it as a paranormal. I suppose it has all the elements, though.

    How about Tim Powers? DECLARE, LAST CALL…? I think they don’t make the chronological cut, but they’re supernatural stuff happening in urban environments. But he’s never mentioned as part of the category. Is it limited to women leads and vampires or shifters?
    I don’t like everything he’s written, but I did enjoy those two I listed.

    Kat Richardson I’ve read and enjoyed although, as with so many series, I’ve had dwindling interest for the last few entries. Her protaganist, like Hallie Michaels in WIDE OPEN died and came back and.. well, Hallie’s summation ‘and now I see ghosts’, fits Harper pretty well, too. Both do more than see ghosts, of course, and Harper’s setting is Seattle, as closely observed as Coates’ SD. But I’ve been thinking about both since running across a review of WIDE OPEN which thought Hallie ought to have PTSD from dying, and the ghosts (etc.) might be all delusional. i thought that was both a complete misreading, and an ignorance of what I took to be genre givens: in this genre people die, are revived and develop new abilities. Not that I read a lot of it – I haven’t read most of the suggested top books in either list.

    Would Shinn’s Shifter Circle books count as paranormal? Off hand I’d say ‘no.’ because they seem grounded – however weirdly – in the mundane and in science. No forces, other than the changes of the shifters. No supernatural goings on.

  2. Rachel

    That was exactly my response to seeing SUNSHINE on a paranormal list: really? Well . . . I guess it is!

    I actually do think that to count as paranormal, a book really has to have more of a romantic component than Tim Powers — and maybe I even think it has to have a woman protagonist. Though I might be persuaded otherwise, with counterexamples.

    Sharon does think of her Shifter books as paranormals. The science is so minimal and the romance so over-the-top that I also think of them that way.

    I skimmed that review of WIDE OPEN, and I’m with you: it’s just odd to read Hallie’s ghosts as delusions, because ghosts are perfectly reasonable in the genre. For me, though, it does feel strange to include ghost stories as paranormals — that’s just me, but I mostly don’t think of ghost stories that way regardless of the other elements.

  3. Elaine T

    Examples of paranormals with male protaganist – Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Romance seems to happen (I’ve only read 3 or 4, although my husband has read the whole kit&kaboodle), vampires, fairies, shifters, etc. I gather the protagnist grows and changes over the course of the series, too. In fact a book or so back, I hear he died. But is still around without Hallie’s type of revival.

    One of these days I’ll read some more. I’m discovering I need to read many series with the installments spaced with other books otherwise, even if the individual series books are good, they start to feel stale and too much the same.

  4. kootch

    Definitely “Sunshine”, I love strong female characters and her powers are so cool. I haven’t read many paranormal books, skimmed through a Twilight book years ago and found the writing so awful that I gave similar looking books a miss.
    Anyway, I read Tanya Huff’s “The Silvered” recently and loved it! It’s got the lot, free nation ruled by the Pack (Huff depicts these shifters in a whole new way) and the Mage Pack is threatened by evil Empire. Female protagonist is a young mage considered weak who nevertheless sets off to rescue the Mage Pack when they are kidnapped by an elite force from the Empire. She is joined by the young brother of the Pack Leader, and together they give chase to the kidnappers, being hunted themselves by a captain of the Empire. Great story, great characters. I really, really hope Huff writes a sequel.
    Also liked Deborah Harkness’ book, A Discovery of Witches and the sequel, Shadow of Night.
    I liked Sharon Shinn’s book but found the last two dealing with shapeshifters rather blah. It’s just me, I get turned off by too much “selfless love” emoting.

  5. Rachel

    Hey, thanks for pointing out Huff’s The Silvered — I didn’t know she had a paranormal out and I loved the Valor series so much that I definitely need to try some of her more recent fantasy. I’ve been hearing good things about Harkness’ books, too; I really should add those to my wishlist so I don’t forget about them. Shinn’s shapeshifter books will never be my favorites of hers, for exactly that reason, but somehow when it’s Shinn I’m willing to tolerate a good bit more angst than from a different author.

  6. kootch

    Huff also wrote the Vicki Nelson books, and related series which are also very good. I like her hard-ass heroine.
    Speaking of Shinn, my favourites are her Twelve Houses books, love all those strong females and swashbuckling males.

  7. Rachel

    I’ll have to look up the Vicki Nelson books, since I’ve definitely been wanted to read more by Huff.

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