Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Beginning scenes: UF edition

So, it turns out I have six UF novels on my Kindle right now, all of them the first book of one series or another, all of them recommended by somebody (though sometimes I don’t remember who). Last night I opened each of them and read just a bit. (I’m actually reading something else right now, but I was curious.)

You know, I hadn’t realized how universally UF novels draw on police procedural or murder mystery tropes. I knew that was a Thing in Urban Fantasy, but now I know it better. All but one of these draws on that kind of set up. Also, I’m glad to see that two out of six of these stories were written in the third person. First can work for me, but unless it’s especially well done, I generally prefer third. For a while it looked like paranormal and UF were both going to be completely taken over by first person narration, but evidently that hasn’t happened.

Anyway, take a look and see what you think:

1. Tempting Danger, the first book of the Lupi series, by Eileen Wilks. This one was recommended by Chachic. I’ve been slow to try it because the series is up to ten books or so and I haven’t wanted to risk being drawn in. I do have time now for this series, though if I’m going to read this book, I’d better do it soon, before I run out of time for a long series. I do expect to get busy with stuff again in November, after all, though maybe not the first half of the month because the World Fantasy Convention and WindyCon are right there. Anyway:

TemptingDanger

He didn’t have much face left. Lily stood well back, keeping her new black heels out of the pool of blood that was dry at the edges, still gummy near the body. She’d seen worse when she worked Traffic Division, she reminded herself.

But it was different when the mangling had been done on purpose.

Mist hung in the warm air, visible in front of the police spotlights, clammy against her face. The smell of blood was thick in her nostrils. Flashes went off in a crisp one-two as the photographer recorded the scene.

“Hey, Yu,” the officer behind the camera called. He was a short man with chipmunk cheeks and red hair cut so short it looked like the fuzz on a peach.

She grimaced. O’Brien never tired of a joke, no matter how stale. If tey both lived to be a hundred and ran into each other in the nursing home, the first thing he’d say to her would be, “Hey, Yu!”

2. Nightshifted, the first book of the Edie Spence series, by Cassie Alexander. I can’t remember who recommended this, or if it just sounded like it might be good. I like the title and the idea of a nurse protagonist, and I like the beginning, too.

Nightshifted

“How can your liver be this good?” I stood outside Mr. November’s room, watching him stir restlessly. Normal people couldn’t get 20,000 micrograms of fentanyl and 80 milligrams of Versed an hour and live, much less still be attempting another slow-motion escape from their hospital bed.

But I knew Mr. November wasn’t normal. From my assessment, when I’d seen his chipped yellow fangs around his titanium-tipped endotracheal tube, and from the way he was restrained in bed – six soft cuffs, two on each arm, one on each leg, a Posey vest wrapped around his chest and tied beneath the bedframe – and from the fact that he was here on Floor Y4 to begin with. No one here was normal, except for me.

3. Dark Currents, the first book of the Agent of Hel series by Jacqueline Carey. I loved the Kushiel series and, though I found the Naamah trilogy rather too much, I do admire Carey’s writing. So I’m interested to see what she does with UF.

Dark Currents

It was an idyllic summer evening in Pemkowet the night the Vanderhei kid died. No one could have guessed that the town was hovering on the brink of tragedy. Well, I suppose that’s not technically true. The Sphinx might have known, and the Norns, too, come to think of it. But if they did, they kept it to themselves.

There’s some sort of Soothsayers’ Code that prevents soothsayers from soothsaying on a day-to-day basis, when it might, you know, avert this kind of ordinary, everyday tragedy. Something about the laws of causality being broken and the order of creation overturned, resulting in a world run amok, rivers running backward, the sun rising in the west, cats and dogs getting married . . .

I don’t know, don’t ask me.

I don’t pretend to understand, especially since it wasn’t an ordinary, everyday tragedy after all.

4. The Check Your Luck Agency, the first book of that series, by Cara d’Bastian. I wanted to try this because it was recommended by Andrea K Höst. I like the cover. It’s essentially a novella — it’s really short, anyway — which means I may be inclined to try it first of this lot. “Cara d’Bastian” is a pen name, btw, and the five Check Your Luck stories have now been reissued as The Complete Check Your Luck Agency under the name KS Augustin.

CheckYourLuck

There’s one thing I hate more than being wrong, and that’s being right about presuming somebody is as big a scumbag as they turn out to be.

“Are you sure about this, Xiao Chong?”

A small cherubic face looked up at me and nodded vigorously.

Looking at us together, a casual passer by – if they noticed us at all in the crush of people – would think I was merely placing a takeaway order from one of the nearby stalls. The covered open-air food court was noisy with the chatter of hungry diners and the hard surface of concrete, plastic, steel and melamine kept all those voices bouncing off each other until they combined and reached a crescendo of sound. It was late, I was hungry, and between my growling stomach and the clattering din, I was getting a headache.
I hate eating when everyone else does, shoving elbows that have intruded into my personal space and my meal. I hated the case Fiona had handed me. But most of all, I hated that I was right.

5. Written in Red, the first book of the Others series by Anne Bishop. The Black Jewels trilogy was not without flaws, but I enjoyed it very much, so I’m interested to see what Bishop does with this UF. I did not like the long infodump prologue, though. So your world has a history: they generally do. Why not work that into the actual story? My snippet is the actual beginning of the story.

WrittenInRed

Half blinded by the storm, she stumbled into the open area between two buildings. Hoping to hide from whomever was hunting for her as well as get some relief from the snow and wind, she followed an angled wall and ducked aroun the corner. Her socks and sneakers were soaked, ad her feet were so cold she couldn’t feel them. She knew that wasn’t good, wasn’t safe, but she had taken the clothing available just as she had taken the opportunity to run.

No sound of footsteps that would confirm she was being followed, but that didn’t mean anything. Blocked by the wall, even the sounds of the slow-moving traffic were muted.
She had to find shelter. It was too cold to be out here tonight. As part of her training, she’d been shown pictures

of people who had frozen to death, so she knew she couldn’t stay out here much longer. Bu the city shelters that provided a place for the homeless would be the first places the hunters would look for her.

Was she going to die tonight?

6. Clean Sweep, book one of the Innkeeper series, by Ilona Andrews. No one had to recommend this. I mean, it’s by Ilona Andrews! So I picked it up.

CleanSweep

Brutus was dead. His body lay under an oak on the Hendersons’ lawn. A small group of neighbors had gathered around his corpse, their faces sad and shocked.

It had been such a nice morning. The Texas summer had finally cooled a little, allowing for a light, happy breeze. Not a single cloud marked the blue sky, and the walk to the twenty-four-hour gas-station convenience store had turned out to be downright pleasant. Normally I didn’t go shopping at the gas station at seven thirty on Friday morning, but when you run a bed-and-breakfast, it’s a good policy to accommodate requests from your guests, especially if they’ve paid for a lifetime membership. So I gathered my blond hair in a ponytail, put on my flowered skirt and a pair of sandals, and hightailed it half a mile to the store.

I was coming back, carrying my purchases, when I saw my neighbors gathered under the tree. And just like that, my happy day ground to a halt.

“Hey, Dina,” Margaret Pineda said.

“Hello.” I glanced at the body. A second’s worth of looking told me everything I needed to know. Just like the other two.

Brutus hadn’t been what you would call a good dog. An oversized black Chow Chow, he’d been suspicious of everyone, ornery, and often too loud for his own good. His chief activity when he’d managed to escape Mr. Byrne’s yard had been hiding behind trash cans and exploding with thunderous barking at anyone who dared to walk by. But no matter how annoying he’d been, he hadn’t deserved to die this way.

There you go: a look at a handful of UF titles. What do you all think of these?

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5 Comments Beginning scenes: UF edition

  1. SarahBeth

    I really enjoyed Clean Sweep. It reminded me a bit of Tanya Huff’s Summon the Keeper which you should try if you haven’t.

    I couldn’t finish Nightshifted.

    The Check Your Luck Agency just got added to my wish list. 41

    If you haven’t tried Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin, you might enjoy that one. It’s the only one so far with a bunch of short stories published prior to the novel.

  2. Estara Swanberg

    World of the Lupi – Eileen Wilks: also recommended by me ^^. Am currently reading the newest release and although the focus is not on Lily and Rule who are the main couple of the series, I really like the further developments of the plot and the other characters highlighted. It’s more cerebral thriller-like so far than the previous books which have been mostly action thriller/police procedural/mystery like.

    I’ve read Written in Red and it’s follow-up and I enjoyed them, too. But, you know, I thought the books would be about the girl on the cover and how she gets agency in her world after coming from a truly horrid situation – and that is a part of the story – but the main focus is now on the leader of the others who has to integrate her into his responsibility and how the others interact with humans – which, still, fascinating: but not what I thought the series was about. She gets somewhat sidelined.

    Clean Sweep: Very much a first in a prospective series, with Ilona Andrews brand humor ^^. I like it.

  3. Rachel

    SarahBeth — I haven’t tried Summon the Keeper, but I’ll add it to my wishlist. Tanya Huff is hit-or-miss for me, but I loved the Valor series SO MUCH. And I’ll have to take a look at Deadly Curiosities!

    Estara, that’s right, I think I’ve seen the Lupi series recommended in quite a few different places by now! I’m looking forward to trying it.

  4. elaine T

    I’ve had the Check Your Luck Agency sample on my Kindle for a long time but haven’t gotten to it. Moves it up.

    Of the samples here, the Carey first line put me off, then the subsequent ones drew me in. Nightshifted looked interesting for the narrator’s take on the odditiies. Bishop’s I had sampled and never went further. The Andrews looks interesting. The Wilkes looks blah. Not enough personality, I think.

  5. SarahBeth

    Rachel I know what you mean about Tanya Huff. I liked the idea of the Keeper series, and I loved character in the basement.

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