2010 was a watershed year for paranormal fantasy. The deluge of stellar paranormal fantasy releases was simply phenomenal: even compared to the extraordinary outputs of 2007, 2008 and 2009. But this year, for the first time since the paranormal fantasy revolution began approximately a decade ago (I officially mark the beginning of the Golden Age of paranormal fantasy on January 1, 2000, when Laurell K. Hamilton’s Obsidian Butterfly, the ninth installment of her Anita Blake saga, was released in hardcover), I’m seeing an over-saturation of sorts in the market – for the first time, I’m reading more than a few debut paranormal fantasy novels that are mediocre or just plain bad, I’m experiencing formulaic storylines and clichéd narrative elements, I’m even seeing some of the elite paranormal fantasy sagas lose some of their steam.

 

But the Charles Caleb Colton quote – “Imitation is the sincerest flattery” – is so fitting when talking about genre fiction. This over-saturation of paranormal fantasy was inevitable. Remember the flood of derivative thrillers published in the years following the release of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in 2003? Or how about all of the young adult vampire fiction released after the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga?

 

But just because there is more uninspired paranormal fantasy bring produced doesn't mean this Golden Age of Paranormal Fantasy is ending, not by a long shot – 2010 was, in my opinion, collectively the best year ever for paranormal fantasy. Trying to condense my “Year's Best” list to less than a dozen titles was impossible. There were so many unforgettable, singularly unique, audaciously innovative, genre-redefining masterworks; this list is like an all-star roster – every single release is a standout novel in its own right. And while some of you may disagree about the placement of a title or two, I think the majority will agree with me – all of these titles are extraordinary and every single author listed should be applauded, for they are the Kings and Queens of this Golden Age.

 

So, without further ado, here are my best paranormal fantasy releases of 2010…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Stacia Kane’s Downside saga (Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, and City of Ghosts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Labyrinth by Kat Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. and Falling, Fly by Skyler White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Three Days to Dead   by Kelly Meding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


8. A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Teeth of Beasts by Marcus Pelegrimas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


12. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking over this list, even now, I’m conflicted. There were so many more great reads released in 2010 – Circus of Sins by Natasha Rhodes, Adrian Phoenix’s Black Dust Mambo, Mark Henry’s Battle of the Network Zombies, Master of None by Sonya Bateman, Richelle Mead’s Succubus Shadows, etc. – but I have to go with my heart and my heart says that this is the list.

 

What was your favorite paranormal fantasy read of 2010?

 

 

 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.

 

 

 

Comments
by on ‎12-16-2010 08:10 PM

Great job Paul! I've read and enjoy all but one of these books, and that one is on my TBR list. The 12 books that I read were all stellar examples of UF, and all but one represented the best of the series to which they belong. All of these books were so good I don't know how you managed to sequentially order them.:smileyhappy:   

by on ‎12-16-2010 08:29 PM

Paul,

 

There are a couple of books that I haven't read this year but of the ones that I have I will agree with.  I think that I would have a hard time making my list any shorter.  Two books that I would add to that list are Stormwalker and Firewalker by Allyson James.  I really loved those two books.  Still an awesome list.

 

Toni

by kenwalters on ‎12-16-2010 09:13 PM

Paul, I thought Jim Butcher's "Changes" was a solid read.  I enjoyed it more than a few others on the list.  Just my 2 cents.

by LordRuthven on ‎12-16-2010 10:25 PM

White's "and Falling, Fly" was the best standalone, and Kane's "Downside" was the best new series.

by LordRuthven on ‎12-16-2010 10:26 PM

Er, I should say, "of the books that I actually read this year" :smileywink:

by on ‎12-16-2010 11:12 PM

For the record the only one I know to be a standalone is and Falling, Fly; and I've read all of them except that particular book which is on my TBR list.:smileyhappy: I also think that Kane's Downside Ghosts series was the best new series because of it's grittiness, content, breakthrough characters and horror edge. 

by LordRuthven on ‎12-16-2010 11:45 PM

Perhaps a better way to put it is, "and Falling, Fly" was the best single title I have read to be published this year.

 

And I agree that the "horror" element is one of the things that really kicks the "Downside" books to the top of the urban fantasy genre for me.

by Author KatRichardson on ‎12-17-2010 03:09 AM

Oh wow, that's an amazing list--some really fantastic writers and great books to be in company with. And so many more that were just dazzling being mentioned here. Really, it was an INCREDIBLE year for paranormal fantasy.

by Author JayeWells on ‎12-17-2010 08:49 AM

Wow! I'm so honored to have The Mage in Black included on a list with so many of my talented colleagues. Thanks, Paul, for all you do to promote the genre. Here's to an even more kick-ass 2011!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎12-17-2010 09:22 AM

I've only read one of the books on your list and I did really like it. Several of the others are in my frightening to-be-read pile. I wish I could read faster! Much as I love paranormal, I tend to read more mystery and romance. I still read paranormal, I just tend to get to the books later than the hard core fans. This means the books at the top of my list didn't always come out the same year.

 

Some of my favorites of the paranormals I read this year: FALLEN and TORMENT by Lauren Kate, THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook, STONE KISSED by Keri Stevens, any and all books by Nalini Singh, Shana Abe, J. R. Ward and Virginia Kantra. 

by Hooked_On_Vamps on ‎12-17-2010 10:25 AM

What a fantastic list. I've only read a couple on this list. I did add all the others to my "must read" list. I LOVE Kim Harrison's Black Magic Sanction. I think that The Hollows series is fabulous. I also really enjoyed Tracking the Tempest.

I really enjoyed Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh that was released in February 2010. I'm really looking forward to the next one in the series.

by Chomp on ‎12-17-2010 10:36 AM

Paul, as always, a great list. I will be back later to comment more.

 

Carol

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎12-17-2010 10:57 AM

Paul, great article. Gosh my favorite, that's like asking to pick a favorite kid. I've read a good number of the ones up there and I'll just say that Jaye Wells and Jennifer Estep know their stuff.

Happy Holidays to all you paranormal fans out there and to a another stellar paranormal year in 2011!!!

 

Deb

by PhyllisJ on ‎12-18-2010 02:53 AM

Hi Paul, what an awesome list.  I have read everything on your list except for two books and they are in my tall TBR pile waiting their turn.  :-)  Happy Reading.

by Lizzy_Funk on ‎12-18-2010 11:21 AM

Paul I am going to not necessarily agree or disagree but maybe tweek your list some.  I noticed some of the commentors here said something similar to what I was thinking: stand alone books vs. non stand alone books.  Many of them are series and some are ones that are not the first of their series.  My one true pet peeve about series books (not all but some) is that many cannot stand alone; a person could not pick up a book and get into the story because there is so much back story involved from other books, they simply cannot catch up. [Rant over] So in keeping with my peeve - I would break the list, one list simply for stand alone books and another for a step in a series that someone would need to read the back story to understand.  However, I liked your list.  I have read all of the books on it this year and the books accompanying them in their series.  I am not sure I could or would want to add any others.

 

~Double H

by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎12-18-2010 11:28 AM

Double H:

You're absolutely right (as usual) about series vs. standalone – but it's the way it is. I ranted about this a few months ago – about how so few authors nowadays just write one novel then move on to a new topic – but with that in mind, there was really no way to separate the lists – most paranormal fantasy is series-related. But that said, this list gives readers looking for  new paranormal fantasy series to read some exceptional suggestions – just pick a title that looks appealing, find out what the first book in the series is and go to town! :smileyhappy:

by on ‎12-18-2010 06:15 PM

 

Paul, here's a copy of your list indicating the particular series installment each book is.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Stacia Kane’s Downside saga (Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, and City of Ghosts) (first, second and third in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Labyrinth by Kat Richardson (fifth in series) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. and Falling, Fly by Skyler White (standalone)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison (eighth in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Three Days to Dead   by Kelly Meding (first in series which is presently comprised of two books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells (second in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


8. A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu (third in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (second in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Teeth of Beasts by Marcus Pelegrimas (third in series which is presently comprised of four books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs (fifth in series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


12. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep (first in series which is presently comprised of three books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (second in series which is presently comprised of three books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

by BrandieC on ‎12-19-2010 11:00 PM

Paul, based on your stellar reviews of the Skinners saga, I have had it on my wishlist for some time.  I just finished Blood Blade, and I was very disappointed.  I found the frequent spelling/grammatical errors ("laying" instead of "lying," hair that was "tussled" instead of "tousled") distracting, but, more importantly, I thought the story was fragmented.  Did you pick the third book in the series in recognition of the lesser quality of the earlier volumes, or am I just not seeing what's exciting you?

 

You write wonderful reviews which always make me want to run right out and get the books you recommend, and you've never steered me wrong before.  I don't know if I just need to agree to disagree with you on this particular series, or if I should stick with the series to see if I can get past the things that bothered me in Blood Blade.

by Moderator paulgoatallen ‎12-20-2010 05:29 PM - edited ‎12-20-2010 05:39 PM

BrandieC:

The very reason I – and others – love the Pelegrimas saga is probably the same reason why some don't get into it.  I have obviously read a tonnage of paranormal fantasy and the thing that struck me about Blood Blade was its uniqueness. Here is an excerpt from an earlier blog where I called Marcus "the Bram Stoker of the 21st Century:"

 

"Paranormal fantasy is loaded with stellar romantic/erotic sagas (LKH’s Anita Blake, Christine Feehan’s Dark novels, etc.) and excellent mystery series (Butcher’s Dresden Files, Madelyn Alt’s Bewitching Mysteries, etc.) but there aren’t that many top-notch series that embrace their horror roots quite like the Skinners novels. Pelegrimas cleverly explores and injects new life into numerous mythologies (vampires, shapeshifters, nymphs, etc.), meticulously creates and describes hierarchies of distinctive monsters, and weaves together a narrative that is simultaneously gruesome and gratifying..."

 

This is definitely a more horror-nuanced paranormal fantasy saga and may not appeal to some readers but as far as the story being fragmented in the first novel, the storyline definitely comes together in the sequels and creates a masterfully character driven, pedal-to-the-metal narrative that, for me at least, is just addictively readable. I absolutely love these novels:

 

"Just as Bram Stoker reinvigorated Gothic horror in the late 19th century—and brought vampires to the forefront of bibliophilic consciousness—so too does Pelegrimas have the potential to do the same thing here in the 21st century with his myriad of monstrosities. His storytelling style is utterly readable, his characters are unconventional and endearing, his wry sense of humor priceless."

 

Since you didn't enjoy Blood Blade, I'm hesitant to suggest reading Howling Legion but, grammatical errors aside, if you're interested in the main characters, I'd read on!   :smileyhappy:

 

 

by on ‎12-21-2010 08:35 PM

BrandieC

 

It's been a while since I read Blood Blade, but I remember that it started with a bloody bang then unwound a tale that was somewhat fragmented but really interesting, especially as regards the varying kinds of supernatural creatures and distinctive Skinner weaponry. The role of the Full-Blood Henry in the series is vague in the first book, and sort of muddles things. Eventually, the third book explains Henry's role and fate. IMO, the second and third books have more internal cohesion and solidify the overall story arc. Both are action packed with really imaginative monsters and engaging main characters. 

by BrandieC on ‎12-22-2010 07:57 PM

@dalnewt:

 

Thanks.  I'll probably give the subsequent books a try, to see if the series "grows" on me once I get into it a little more.

by BrandieC on ‎01-09-2011 12:25 AM

Hey, Paul, I just gobbled up Stacia Kane's Downside books in two days, and they were awesome.  Thanks for bringing this trilogy to my attention!

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