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Monday, January 7, 2013

H&W Investigations or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Urban Fantasy

It's only fair to admit I have (or rather HAD) a horrible prejudice against the Urban Fantasy genre.  My only experience with the genre was being forced by a really pushy roommate to read the first four books in a certain series, and while this particular series is really popular (no, I won't mention it by name here) I hated it with the fire of a thousand suns. So many people were baffled by my dislike of these books, and so many people insisted that this was the pinnacle of the genre, I just gave up right there. And so it was with profound trepidation (and excitement) that I picked up Jess Haines' books.

But woah! Hunted by the Others was funny and it was feisty, and five minutes after I finished it I was desperate to read the next one. Shiarra Waynest is a PI in a world where vampires, mages and were-creatures are living among humans. Humans and Others don't always mix well, and like a KKK for Other-haters a group called The White Hats openly opposes (and slightly less openly kills) anything non-human. Shiarra and her partner's PI agency isn't bringing in the kind of money they need, and so they reluctantly take a case involving Others. Almost instantly Shiarra realizes she's stuck in the middle of something bad, messy and way over her pay grade. She's already had her own tangles with Others in her personal life (her ex-boyfriend "wolfed out" on her after an intimate encounter, prompting their break up) and now she's got a high-profile (and yes, dead sexy) vampire to deal with as well as a bunch of angry White Hats, some mages and a pack of weres.

Shiarra is a great character: she's strong, but flawed (especially in the fourth book where she really falls to pieces for various interesting reasons I refuse to divulge) and she has a stubborn streak that is endearing and never over-the-top. The Others are equally interesting, and while there's not a lot of untrod ground in the Werewolf/ Vampire/ Human relationship, the human/Other relationships in this series have some unexpected twists and turns, largely related to the fact that Shiarra isn't hopping from coffin to coffin. I'm no prude but it's really nice to see a lady who can keep it in her metaphorical pants even when the supernatural lotharios are swarming her. I'm also a sucker for a good enchanted weapon of epic power, and I was delighted to see one pop up right away: a slayer's belt complete with stakes and  the soul of a warrior to give helpful tips.

I can't say I don't like Urban Fantasy anymore (I was also just reminded that The Dresden Files is considered UF as well, and I read those with delight) and I can't say that I'm tired of the Vamp/ Were/ Human tropes out there, because obviously I just needed to read someone who could do it this well. By the time I hit the end of the third book and realized the fourth was locked in my bookstore until Monday morning  I was so hooked I started calculating the time I'd need to make it to the store and back before the buses stopped running for the night. By the time I hit the end of the fourth book (which was the most satisfying and interesting so far) I was reading the excerpt for the next book and that's something I *never* do because reading five pages of a novel that's due out in six months is just pointless torture.

So I'm a convert! And since Jess is exceedingly nice to bloggers, I'll probably be able to share some cool stuff with you before the release of the next book, like the cover art. Stay tuned!

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