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…
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.