Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

YA Urban Fantasy

There is a lot of YA (young adult for the uninitiated) out there, and even more is coming. True, a lot of it deals with high school, love triangles abound, and sometimes the angst-o-meter goes off the charts, but I still love to read it. Maybe I'm nostalgic, maybe I've never really grown up (actually, that one is a fact), or maybe I just like that although bad things might happen, almost universally YA books end with hope. Whatever the reason, I am very excited about quite a few new YA series.

One thing I've noticed is a trend towards darker, more adult themes. I think this is a reflection of both the large number of adult readers coming back to YA, and that teen readers are staying within YA longer than they might have in the past. I know when I was a teen I made the switch to adult books fairly quickly. Given today's abundance, I might have stayed in the YA stacks.

There are 2 series out right now that I feel are just a few steps away from adult Urban Fantasy. If you tacked on a few more years to these heroines, I think they would fit in well on my shelves next to Kate, Mercy and Rachel. Sure, they make lots of mistakes (show me an adult who never made mistakes as a kid and I'll show you a liar), and they have the usual teen insecurities, especially when it comes to boys. Teens get surly, think they know everything, and rebel at the most inopportune times. I know I did (and acted like a complete idiot around any boys I liked). This makes some people cringe, but neither of these heroines made me want to duck for cover - they felt like real teens in surreal circumstances.

First off we have Riley Blackthorne from Jana Oliver's Demon Trapper's series. Set in a world where skyrocketing energy costs have bankrupt cities, the world is a shaky, unsteady place. And there's demons.

Riley is the daughter of a Master Demon Hunter, and the only girl apprentice. Her dad doesn't want her following in his footsteps, but she doesn't want to do anything else. She's good at it too. Then her dad dies and every plan Riley's made changes.

The best part about Riley, and why I think she stands up with other UF heroines, is that she breaks down, then she builds herself back up again. She's also good to have on your side in a fight, but she is not invulnerable. Sometimes she has to retreat, yet when her moment comes, Riley steps up to the plate, no matter the cost. I also like that she thinks for herself. There are a lot of unknowns in her life, and she might not always make the best decisions, but she takes responsibility for herself.
Did I mention she has mad demon hunting skills, too? Always a plus when you're trying to hang with the "tough chicks with swords" crowd.

A side note about this series: Different from most YA, this one alternates POV between Riley (who is still the focus of the story and the one with the most air time) and Beck, her father's right hand man. At 22, Beck is technically a "young adult," but he has lived a lot in those 22 years. I like the different perspective it gives to the events and Riley.

Book 1 - The Demon Trapper's Daughter (available now); Book 2 - Soul Thief (out in August 2011)

Another heroine to watch is Billi SanGreal from Sarwat Chadda's Devil's Kiss series. Don't let the flowy, pretty cover fool you. This one is gritty, and even though I felt like I got punched in the gut a few times reading it, I was really glad I did.

Imagine you are a Templar, a knight fighting the good fight against demons, vampires and werewolves. You are a tough chick with a sword.

Now really imagine it - the constant fighting, training, inability to have a normal life, constant danger, short lifespan. Yeah, the reality would suck.

Billi is the daughter of the leader of Templars (a very Christian organization, although the book itself never feels preachy) and she is the only female squire. She also has a Muslim mother, murdered by the evil creatures that plague mankind. Her gender and her mixed background fuel the ire of some of the more traditional knights. You would think that perhaps her father would be a source of support, but he mercilessly pushes her to be stronger, to be a better knight. The constant stress has pushed her to a breaking point.

This of course means that all hell must choose this moment to break loose.

Billi does a lot of fighting - all of those years spent training were not wasted - but also must come to terms with who she is, who she wants to be, and what she is willing to sacrifice. Another heroine who is not invulnerable, but is tough enough to fight even when she knows the cost. A unique addition to the paranormal shelves.

Book 1 - Devil's Kiss; Book 2 - Dark Goddess, (both books available now)

Have a favorite, tough, YA heroine? Let me know your favorites in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for writing this post. I'm honored to be mentioned in the same post as Sarwat Chadda (Billi is an awesomely tormented heroine.)

    You said it perfectly: these young women need to come to terms with who they are, what they want to be and if the sacrifices they make (a normal life, boyfriends, a future) are something they're willing to make for their "cause." Heady subjects, but ones we all face over the course of our lives, even if we're not hunting evil.