Tag Archive: Urban Fantasy


The Accidental Alchemist

I’The Accidental Alchemistve always had a fascination with how people explain bumps in the night. It started when my (military) family moved to Rome, Italy, when I was nine. I spent three years in the Eternal City, where I was surrounded by references to mythology both Greek and Roman, Etruscan and Egyptian. It moved on to still other cultures, where I compared their beliefs and looked for commonalities. The fact that others had come to the same conclusions before me wasn’t a disappointment. It told me I wasn’t alone in this fascination.

A year into my stay, I had also gained a fascination for science, and the subjects of history, science, and mythology mixed around in my head as I also started reading more and more science fiction and fantasy. I loved it. So very many fun things, all of which could run into each other at different angles, combining to form new stories, yet with familiar elements. It was like playing new games with old friends.

That only deepened as I grew older, and I found myself looking at alchemy in that tripartite way. I looked at it as a mythology, bound up in how people thought the world worked. I studied it as the precursor to chemistry, and the crazy uncle of physics. I delighted in the way the exploration of alchemy was so tied up in historical events, yet not quite so obvious in its connection, and therefore requiring careful exploration. It was a mythology not as glamorous as the gods of Mount Olympus; it was embarrassing to many scientists; and it was dismissed as irrelevant by most historians. I thought it was fun.

So, when I spotted The Accidental Alchemist, by Gigi Pandian, and read a review that mentioned the detailed research the author had undergone to write it, I thought it worth a try. And boy, am I glad I did. Continue reading

A pretty good description of me trying to read a random selection from the Paranormal Romance shelf.

A pretty good description of me trying to read a random selection from the Paranormal Romance shelf.

Most of the time, when someone refers to “romantic urban fantasy,” my brain starts turning off.

Now, I’m not opposed to chick lit; in fact, I’ve been so far to the other side that when I was a favorite target of schoolyard teasing, the one thing they never managed to get under my skin was that I avidly read Nancy Drew as far back as the fourth grade. I didn’t get why it was weird. I’d already read every Hardy Boys I could get my hands on, after all! But chick lit fantasy seems to mainly be a genre where you have mere variations on a woman swooning over a vampire, werewolf, or . . . well, no, just vampires and werewolves. Yeah. It’s gotten a bit stale out there.

Well, it turns out there’s a seven-book series that, while not exactly new (the first book came out nearly ten years ago), still brings new life to this particular sub-genre. Enchanted, Inc., by Shanna Swendson, kicks off a lighthearted romantic fantasy series staring one Katie Chandler, small-town Texan girl, who discovers that New York is weirder than most New Yorkers ever dream of. It’s smart, funny, enjoyable, and just a little addictive without ever coming close to “guilty pleasure” territory.

In fact, I suspect that many of my own readers would be interested in a romantic fantasy series that is 1) very fun to read, 2) cleverly described, 3) has no sex scenes, and 4) does not feature a vampiric or wolfish love interest. I welcome you all to prove me right.

contentI spent an enjoyable week and a half reading through the entire series, occasionally discussing it with my friend Lori, and generally just enjoying the change of pace from my usual fare. I wound up being a rather enthusiastic fan of the series by the end, and decided it was something to recommend far and wide. If, like me, you normally get your hackles up at the phrase “paranormal romance,” you owe it to yourself to check out this series.

I’ve got more stuff to say about it — this is a writing blog, after all, and there are some things to look at if you’re a writer yourself — but I’ll be splitting it off into a separate post because it ran long. For now, I’m concerned only with the review portion. Continue reading

download (1)I keep getting side-tracked when it comes to making blog posts. The new job, plus finishing contracts on the old one, is taking up a lot of time. However, I had to write up a review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher, the latest Dresden Files novel.

If you don’t know what The Dresden Files is (or if you only know it from the failed TV show that bares little in common with the books), here it is in a nutshell. Harry Dresden is a wizard. A professional wizard. The only professional wizard in Chicago, to be exact. He’s even in the phone book. He’s a card-carrying member of the White Council, the semi-secret (mainly because normal people don’t believe they exist rather than because they try to hide) semi-government of mortal magic users. They also, to some degree, protect mortals from supernatural threats: vampires, demons, warlocks, werewolves, faeries, and other things that go bump in the night. And, in Harry’s case, they try to pay the rent while doing it.  Continue reading

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