“2011 was the best year ever for paranormal fantasy…”

– Paul Goat Allen

 

I’ll admit it: after the phenomenal year paranormal fantasy had in 2010 – I called it “a watershed year” – I thought that there was no realistic way that 2011 could be as strong, both in terms of quality and quantity of releases. But as I began to compile my “year’s best” list in late November, it hit me: this year’s releases were, collectively, far superior to those of 2010. And while there was no clear #1 pick this year, I found it virtually impossible to trim my list down to a baker’s dozen. So many 2011 releases were noteworthy, I couldn’t in good conscience exclude them. So this year, I’ve included an honorable mention list.

 

 

This year also continued the trend of more male authors – and male protagonists – in paranormal fantasy. A decade or so ago, paranormal fantasy was largely written by – and for – women. Fierce and endearing heroines like Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake ruled the roost and male leads like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden were a minority. Today, paranormal fantasy has evolved into a truly equal opportunity genre, written and read by men and women alike.

 

 

The reason that I even bring up debut novelists should be apparent – without new blood, any genre, no matter how popular, will eventually wither. Paranormal fantasy has the most creative writers in all of genre fiction – it’s the wild frontier of genre fiction – but if audacious, new novelists don’t continue to expand the boundaries of paranormal fantasy and redefine was it is, it’ll get stagnant pretty quickly.

 

I initially became a fan of paranormal fantasy back in the early ‘90s in large part because of its narrative limitless. Where else could I find novels that blended together elements of fantasy, romance, mystery, horror, etc. and couldn’t easily be shelved in bookstores? (Back in those days, when I managed bookstores, we shelved LKH’s Anita Blake novels in Fiction, Horror, and Romance!) Paranormal fantasy takes the best that every genre has to offer and blends them together in an intoxicating literary concoction that, if properly prepared, tastes uniquely different every time you sample it.

 

 

I’ll say this: 2011 was the best year ever for paranormal fantasy and if the quality of releases in 2012 can beat the list below, I’ll be shocked (but very happy)!

 

But before I get to the list, it would be remiss for me not to mention the tragic passing this year of Jennifer Rardin, the incredibly underappreciated author of the Jaz Parks saga (Once Bitten, Twice Shy; Another One Bites the Dust; et. al.), and L.A. Banks, a prolific novelist who wrote the Vampire Huntress Legend series (The Thirteenth, et. al.) and the Crimson Moon saga (Left for Undead, et. al.), to name a few. They will be missed.

 

So, without further ado, here are my best paranormal fantasy releases of 2011…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

 


 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 

 

 Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!

Comments
by on ‎12-10-2011 06:37 PM

Paul,

 

I love your list and I have a couple of more that I would Add Alien In The Family and Alien Poliferation by Gini Koch, Better Off Undead by DD Barant,.  But I have all the rest of the books on my list.

 

Toni

by Lizzy_Funk on ‎12-10-2011 09:19 PM

I have read 1, 6, 10, 12 and four of the Honorable Mentions

 

I had a difficult time with books this year.  I was impressed by some of the 'lesser known' authors and highly disappointed by some of the big names.  

 

I find that many (not all) authors of series stories have gone so far away from where their characters originated that if someone read the first book of the series and then that last one that is currently out they would be confused and ask if they were reading the same books.  

 

I love Paranormal Fantasy.  I will drive 80 miles one way just to get the new books by some of my favorites.  But this is the first year I was disappointed by many of them.  There were piece of books that I felt were important.  The protagonists finally started settling into who and what they were but this shouldn't take 5, 10, or 15 books to get there.  

 

My other giant peeve:  the books cannot stand alone. I know I know before someone tries to draw and quarter me they are part of a series and in order to fully appreciate them they must be read as such but what if I really just LOVE a book in the series and want to have a friend read it - they would spend half their time confused and the other half frustrated because they would have NO idea what is going on because there has been so much backstory in other books and because of of the authors forget that not everyone has read every single book in their series.

 

Many of the books in this list fall into both of those issues.  I love them, I will keep reading them, but I have a feeling I will continue to become more frustrated as time continues.

by on ‎12-10-2011 10:16 PM

I didn't get to all of these books this year. But I agree it was a great year. And I do have them in my TBR list.

by on ‎12-11-2011 01:32 AM

Great list Paul! I've read and throughly enjoyed all of em except Hounded. (Have you ever mentioned Hounded before?) Anyway since it's listed among the best paranormal fantasy releases, I'll have to  get it.:smileyhappy: 

by Rhyolight55 on ‎12-11-2011 07:50 AM

I wish you had mentioned Ben Aaronovitch's Midnight Riot and the sequel, Moon Over Soho. The protagonist is a young Englishman (his mother is from Sierra Leone,however) just leaving his first two years in the London police force and beginning to specialize. He's afraid they'll send him to a desk when he is approached by the last wizard on the force (Everyone knows there is a magical team on the police force, but it makes most people unhappy so it's not discussed).  The love the writer has for London, and his respect for/suspicion of the police, made this a specially good read for me. I like the characters (some of whom are women, and not just Barbie in a uniform, either) and I can't wait for the third volume to spend more time in this world.

by Chomp on ‎12-11-2011 02:29 PM

Paul, what a great post -- one of my favorites from this year, and not just because of the list. What I most appreciate is your description of what draws you to paranormal fantasy, as it mirrors how I feel about the genre. I love the blending, which ends up, if done well, giving us the best of so many literary worlds.

 

I am "behind" on so many of the series on your list as they are not ones I review, but I resolve to catch up!

 

Thanks for doing what you do, Paul, and for doing it so well. :smileyhappy:

Carol 

by Author _KimHarrison_ on ‎12-12-2011 08:09 AM

Paul, I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see Pale Demon  on your favorite releases of 2011.  Pursing through the list, I find myself nodding at all the others, feeling like I'm rubbing shoulders with some of the best talent out there, and it makes me feel as if there is some long legs in the genre.  It's going to make for an interesting decade as a lot of old series end and new ones begin.  Personally, I can't wait.

 

Thank you, again.  It is truly an honor to be listed here.  :-)

by Author JayeWells on ‎12-12-2011 09:06 AM

Paul, it is so exciting to see my work included on a list filled with so many genre icons and promising new talent. I'm excited to see the genre alchemy we're all going to bring in 2012 and beyond! Thanks for all you do to spread the gospel, Brother Allen.  

by JDeg on ‎12-12-2011 01:24 PM

Love that you have Kindling the Moon on this list - but it was way better than Sookie ;-)  It's also nice to see Adrian Phoenix on this list - she's such a good writer and there are so many out there who haven't give her books a chance.   And I loved, loved, loved the Shadow Reader - one of my favorites for the year.  I was a bit diappointed in Aloha from Hell, at least until the ending.  It's great to see Kim Harrison at the top this year - Pale Demon was most excellent!  I really must read Jaye Well's Sabrina Kane series this year.

by jpw2002 on ‎12-12-2011 01:30 PM

Wow... I just... I can't thank you enough.  So glad you enjoyed the book.  So many incredibly talented people on this list.  I'm just... Well, yes, time to cut myself off... but thank you.

 

Jonathan

by Author Adrian_Phoenix ‎12-12-2011 03:35 PM - edited ‎12-12-2011 04:10 PM

Thanks so much, Paul! I'm honored and thrilled to be included with all these kick-ass authors and books! This means so much to me!

 

Holy crap, I just realized Black Heart Loa received an honorable mention as well. Now I'm doubly thrilled and honored. My happy dance has turned into a happy pogo and it looks like my cats are breaking out the trank guns. LOL.

 

 

by Author KatRichardson on ‎12-13-2011 08:41 PM

I'm still blown away to be on this list--it's got so many good books and great writers on it and I can't stop squeeing to be in such amazing company. Thank you Paul and thanks for being such a thoughtful and generous supporter of the genre.

by Hazel_G on ‎12-16-2011 07:24 AM

I LOVE that you have Pale Demon in this list and Blood Work as an honerable mention. Both of these books were just fantastic. Some of these books I have read and some I haven't. So I will definitely be taking this list to the book store with me and catching up on 2011's best reads. There is one book I wished you had mentioned and thats Karen Chance's Hunt the Moon. Her Cassie Palmer series is wonderful and Hunt the Moon was definitely one of the best so far out of the series. Thanks for putting this list together. 

by ObsidianViolet on ‎01-29-2012 07:18 PM

Hit list really sorry but the Anita blake series has gotten so bad I do not see how it makes anyone's list.  THise series was one of my favorites but but I can not be bothered with the author's lazyness.

by IIP on ‎06-22-2012 02:11 PM

I admit, I hadn't heard of most of these, though the ones I have heard I guess you would call them more urban fantasy than paranormal? I will have to check some of them out.