Badass Best of 2013: Urban Fantasy

Best of 2013

Welcome to the Badass Best of 2013.  We’re kicking off this year’s posts with one of our favorite genres, urban fantasy!  Take a look below for our ten favorite UFs from this year and a few honorable mentions just to be on the safe side.

 

Best of Spacer

Best of UF

 Best UF Books

 

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews || Published July 30th 2013 by Ace ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.  Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

Why We Love It: Ilona and Gordon delivered another excellent entry to the Kate Daniels series, but this time they shook things up by moving the characters away from their home base of Atlanta.  We always appreciate when authors take chances and we think this is one that paid off.  While Kate and Curran may not have been on the same page throughout most of Magic Rises, the Andrews duo still kept the heart and wit that made the series popular.

 

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs || Published March 5th 2013 by Ace ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more….  After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.  Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

Why We Love It: One of the strengths of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is just how much her characters grow and change.  Mercy has come so far since the first book, but Patricia is not one to rest on her laurels.  We loved seeing Mercy and Jessie working as a team without the strength of the werewolves at their back.  Getting to see Adam’s point of view in a few chapters was also a high point of Frost Burned for us.

 

Ever After by Kim Harrison || Published January 22nd 2013 by Harper Voyager ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse.  While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die.  But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan…

Why We Love It: The Rachel Morgan series is one of the most consistently great storylines around.  Kim Harrison is not afraid to put her characters through the ringer and Ever After was no exception.  Rachel really blossomed in this book and we loved seeing her finally fulfilling her true potential.  The delicious tension between her and Trent didn’t hurt either! 😉

 

Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey || Published July 30th 2013 by Harper Voyager ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.  The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottom feeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

Why We Love It: James Stark is one of the baddest mothers around and Richard Kadrey really got him back on track with this book.  We loved the dungeon crawler aspect to Kill City Blues as Stark and Co. travel in search of the Qomrama Om Ya.  One of our favorite things about this series is the world building.  You will be hard pressed to find another series with a world as detailed and well-researched as Kadrey’s Sandman Slim.

 

Written in Red by Anne Bishop || Published March 5th 2013 by NAL ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.  Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Why We Love It: We’ve read so many Urban Fantasy books with pretty much the same tropes that we’re delighted when we find something new. Yes, Written in Red has the usual gamut of supernatural creatures – vampires, shifters – but the world is definitely different: one where “the Others” are on top and humans are living on their sufferance. The world building was wonderfully creative, with characters that leaped off the page, and a message of tolerance and learning to live with one another.

 

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire || Published March 5th 2013 by DAW ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity–and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn’t quite work out that way. But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city’s readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there’s no way Verity can take that lying down. Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity’s apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ–assuming there’s anyone left standing when all is said and done. It’s a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit… and carnage.

Why We Love It: Seanan McGuire is a talented and prolific writer, but her Incryptid series has to be the most fun!  We love the world that Seanan has created but the definite highlight to this series is the cast of characters she populates it with.  From talking mice to dragon maidens and of course a ballroom dancing cryptozoologist, Midnight Blue-Light Special will introduce readers to characters they’ve never seen before.  We can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

 

A Kiss of Blood by Pamela Palmer || Published June 25th 2013 by Avon ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: One of the few humans who managed to escape the deadly twilight world of Vamp City, Quinn Lennox vows to never return. But the vampires want her back, for only she has the power to renew the magic of their crumbling world and free the vampires trapped within.  When the dangerous and all-too-seductive Arturo Mazza comes for her, Quinn knows she can never trust him after the betrayal she suffered at his hands. But with her beloved brother’s fate hanging in the balance, and her own power beginning to emerge, she chooses to risk all on yet another perilous journey back to Vamp City. And though she tries to deny it, her heart begins to hold hope that even a ruthless vampire can learn the meaning of true love.

Why We Love It: We love how frightening and bloodthirsty Pamela Palmer’s Vamp City world is.  Everything is richly detailed and the diversity of the paranormal creatures is interesting. We loved the element of danger that runs throughout A Kiss of Blood and of course we appreciate that the vampires don’t sparkle. There aren’t many other books where you find werewolves this creepy and primal either.

 

Dying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann || Published October 8th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death someone else dies in his place.  Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction.

Why We Love It: We love male-driven urban fantasy, but sometimes authors can go too far over to the “macho” side for our tastes.  Nicholas Kaufman brilliantly avoids that problem and manages to portray Trent, the male protagonist in Dying is My Business, as a kickass-don’t-mess-with-me, magical badass AND a lonely, insecure man.  The author is very subtle in showing the two sides of the same character and making you feel Trent’s loneliness even with no words spoken regarding how he felt.

 

Binding the Shadows by Jenn Bennett || Published May 28th 2013 by Pocket Books ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Renegade mage and bartender Arcadia Bell has had a rough year, but now the door to her already unstable world is unhinging. When a citywide crime wave erupts, Cady’s demon-friendly tiki bar is robbed by Earthbounds wielding surreal demonic abilities that just flat-out shouldn’t exist. With the help of her devilishly delicious boyfriend, Lon Butler, Cady sets out to find the people who wronged her—but her targets aren’t the only ones experiencing unnatural metamorphoses. Can Cady track down the monsters responsible before the monster inside her destroys everything—and everyone—she loves? If she survives this adventure, one thing is certain: it’s last call for life as she knows it.

Why We Love It:  If you’ve read Binding the Shadows, you know that Jenn Bennett left us with one of the cruelest cliff hangers in UF this year!  The only reason this cliffhanger was so effective though is because of the strength of the characters.  We care so much for all the characters in the Arcadia Bell series that we can’t bear to see them in pain or fear.  Jenn writes such multifaceted characters and gives them such strong development arcs that you can’t help thinking of them as literary family.

 

Terminated by Rachel Caine || Published August 6th 2013 by Roc ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Already addicted to the pharmaceutical drug that keeps her body from decomposing, Bryn has to stop a secretive group of rich and powerful investors from eliminating the existing Returné addicts altogether. To ensure their plan to launch a new, military-grade strain of nanotech, the investors’ undead assassin—who just happens to be the ex-wife of Bryn’s lover Patrick—is on the hunt for anyone that stands in their way.  And while Bryn’s allies aren’t about to go down without a fight, the secret she’s been keeping threatens to put those closest to her in even more danger. Poised to become a monster that her own side—and her own lover—will have to trap and kill, Bryn needs to find the cure to have any hope of preserving the lives of her friends, and her own dwindling humanity.

Why We Love It: Rachel Caine’s Revivalist series is definitely not your usual zombie series. It’s not your usual urban fantasy either, combing elements of a conspiracy thriller and being just all-around awesome! Terminated features spy craft, sinister pharmaceutical companies, crazy evil villain, and paranoid (with a good reason) characters.  We thought it was just amazing.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Chimes at MidnightElysian FieldsHot BloodedWildfire GospelHuntedWrong Ways Down24 - mountain echoes17-blood winterdeath rejoices

Best of Spacer

Other Badass Best of 2013 Lists:
Paranormal Romance
Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror
Mystery, Romance, and Historical
YA & NA Fantasy, Paranormal, and Science Fiction
YA & NA Dystopian, Horror, and Mystery
YA & NA Contemporary, Historical, and Romance
Our Best Discoveries
Our Literary Slambook
Our Most Anticipated Books of 2014

© 2013 – 2014, Badass Book Reviews. All rights reserved.

Comments 48