So I have to admit it. I am a paranormal action junkie. I am NOT, however, a paranormal romance junkie. In general, if there’s more than a kiss or two, I start to sound like a cat with a hairball and put the book down. So if you’re looking for heaving chests and lots of lust, this list isn’t for you.
Anyway, I love books where a strong female character gets in over her head and somehow manages to save the day by becoming more than she thought she could. If you’re a big fan of strong female characters, I’m going to put together a few book bombs for you. At first I had planned to just do two, one for adults and then one for kids. However, I put my list of authors together and needless to say, I ended up with more authors and series than could be fit into one list. So I decided to split it up by type of fantasy. I’ve divided it into contemporary fantasy parts one and two, Steampunk, and then high fantasy. Once I’ve finished the lists for adults, I’ll move on to see how long the list is for kids.
We’ll start with one of my favorites. Patricia Briggs writes the Mercy Thompson series. Mercy Thompson is an unusual shape shifter. She is a shape shifter in the Native American tradition and can turn into a coyote at will. Set in the Pacific Northwest, I particularly like this series because Mercy owns her own business, a mechanic’s shop, and the series brings forth unusual dynamics within the supernatural communities. Any book that merges vampires, werewolves, gremlins, fairies and Strega Nona in a workable fashion is creative in a way that I like. Then there is a “romance” square going on in the series with two werewolves and a vampire all vying for Mercy’s affections, but there aren’t any hot and heavy love scenes. The best part is that since Mercy is smaller than everything she’s fighting against, she has to figure out unusual ways to win including traps, alliances, and the odd divine intervention. Moon Called is the first in the series.
If you like the Greek mythos, you will probably like Karen Chance’s Cassie (Cassandra) Palmer series. As a clairvoyant on the run from a mafia-like vampire family, Cassie Palmer has to figure out how to keep herself and her friends alive. This is made harder as she has foreseen her own murder. Luckily, Cassie has something other clairvoyants don’t have: the ability to talk to and befriend ghosts. Set in Vegas, this series is sexier than the other series in the list, but I still wouldn’t count it as a romance. Cassie is a likable character and there is a rich backstory. The first in the series, Touch the Dark, sometimes gets a little bogged down with the backstory, but the rest of the series picks up speed with emotionally troubled demons, lamia coming back to earth, traveling through ley lines, and a fight with the God Apollo, which turned out so well for the first Cassandra after all.
Karen Chance also wrote the Dorina Basarb series. This series is set in the same universe as the Cassie Palmer series. It actually makes more sense if you read the other series first, as some of the characters make their first appearance as secondary characters there. To be truthful, however, I prefer this series out of the two. Dorina is a dhampir, and thus the natural enemy of all vampires. Dhampirs are the child of a human and a vampire and are very rare. (Think Wesley Snipes in Blade) She came about because her father became a vampire due to a curse, not the normal way. The series is very dark. Dorina, or Dory, is manipulated by her father, hunts her Uncle Dracula for revenge because he killed her mother, has blackouts where she goes into homicidal rages, and is generally in need of serious mental help. There is a lot of discussion of vampire and fey politics and some really funny, odd humor. It is definitely not a series for you to read to your kids. It’s a little “sexy.” Most of the sexiness is more along the lines of frustration and admiring the abs of people. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.
Watch out for tomatoes! In Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, it’s a genetically engineered virus in tomatoes that kills most of humanity and exposes the weres, witches, and vampires that have been living amongst us for centuries. The main character in this series is white witch Rachel Morgan. One of my favorite things about this series is the strong supporting cast. There’s Ivy the living vampire and Jenks the hyper-potent pixie. The first book starts out with Rachel trying to quit her dead end job with Inderland Security, the equivalent of the FBI for the paranormal. The only problem is that all she gets are the bottom of the barrel assignments, and you can’t just “quit.” You have to hope to earn enough to buy off your contract and even then you normally don’t live that long. Her only hope is to bust a politician who might be peddling Brimstone, a new type of drug for paranormals.
Here is another one of my favorite tough talking, big-walking, spike-swinging, shape-shifting heroines. Jane Yellowrock is a Skinwalker who can take the shape of any animal of whom she has the DNA (or as she says the inner snake). Sometime in the past, she came to share a body with the soul of a female mountain lion called Beast. Beast is fiercely maternal, always hungry, and always on the prowl for a good fight or a good mate. Jane is up for all but the latter. In the first book of the series, Skinwalker, Jane heads down to New Orleans to do some freelance work hunting rogue vampires. The Jane Yellowrock series is written by Faith Hunter. The backstory is available in short story compilations.
OK. Saving the best for last - My all-time favorite is without a doubt Seanan McGuire. I have never before really considered myself a fan, but I have actually stood in line to get this woman’s autograph. Her writing is amazing. The first book in this series is Rosemary and Rue. It tells the story of October Day, a half elf who was working as a PI for the fae. She was working a missing person’s case and stumbled upon the wrong people in the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden. Next thing she knows, she’s spending 14 years as a fish. Needless to say, she eventually breaks the curse, comes back into San Francisco and works at your friendly neighborhood Safeway as the surly nightshift checkout girl. (You know you always thought the night clerk was a little odd. Now you know why.) She gets pulled back into her old life when a message is left on her answering machine from an old friend. The message turns out to be the last act of a dying elf, a death curse in fact. Toby is left with a choice: solve the murder of Countess Evening Winterrose or die. I love the quirkiness of the characters and the sarcasm inherent in Toby. She calls to the small part of me that just wants to smirk at the world even as I do my best to save it. And that’s one thing that Toby will always try to do no matter what. She was born to be a hero, a fate she can’t escape.