On Great Pagan Fantasy, Take II

andrewsThe problem with being a book lover is that new, awesome books are constantly being written and published. I will not live long enough to read all of the books on my To Read list. I just have to accept that — and make all of the other bibliophiles out there just as miserable as me by adding to their To Read lists. *insert evil laugh here*

In the mood for a great fantasy? Yeah, me, too. Well, here are four urban fantasies and one steampunk fantasy that I highly recommend. They may not be explicitly Pagan, but they definitely fall into the Pagan/polytheist-friendly camp.

The first is Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews, the opening volume in their new Hidden Legacy series. Let me sum up my reaction to this book: I got to the end, and wanted to cry in frustration when I discovered that I would have to wait for the next book. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted the book immediately.

Brief synopsis: Burn For Me is set on an Earth where the Osiris Serum, discovered in 1863, reawakened humanity’s latent magical ability. Magical dynasties quickly formed, with the most powerful individuals and families (the Primes) guiding the fates of entire nations. Our Heroine, Nevada Baylor, is a private investigator in debt to one of Houston’s Prime families — and when they call in her marker, she has no choice but to answer. That, in turn, earns her the attention of Mad Rogan, scion of a rival Prime family. Rich world-building, terrific characters, a fascinating magical system, narrow escapes, action, romance, and one totally insane final confrontation with the bad guy. I’m hooked.

Next up is The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, which might be loosely classified as a religious steampunk fantasy. Cato is a skilled enough author to make all the disparate elements work.

Brief synposis: Octavia Leander is a medician, a priestess/mage/physician whose ancient healing rites call upon the mysterious Lady. Enroute via dirigible to her first posting, Octavia finds herself befriended by a long-lost Princess, a rogue royal assassin/spy, a saint/architect, and a baby gremlin, among many others. She also finds herself the target of multiple kidnapping attempts. The question is, why? What plans does The Lady have for her most gifted devotee? Alternately exciting, frightening, sad, infuriating, and amazing, with multi-faceted characters. It also ends on a semi-cliffhanger; fortunately, the second book, The Clockwork Crown, is due out in June 2015.

Than there is The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin, the first in the SPI Files series. Unlike many urban fantasy novels, in which the protagonist stumbles upon a hidden supernatural world, Makenna Fraser knows all about the things that go bump in the night. She is a seer, one of the few people able to see through the glamours cast by werewolves, vampires, elves, and assorted others hiding in plain sight. Her skills prove invaluable when Tiamat (yes, that Tiamat) lets a pair of grendels loose in New York City. And those two grendels are making lots of little grendels, who are very, very hungry …. Badass heroes; an adorable, determined heroine; a gamer geek elf; lots of action; and a fascinating mash-up of Mesopotamian and Norse mythology. This is a great getaway-read after a stressful day at work.

Deborah Blake’s Wickedly Dangerous is the first in a new urban fantasy series about modern-day Baba Yagas. Yes, Yagas, plural. Here, Baga Yaga is a title borne by the handful of women responsible for guarding the boundary between the mundane realm and the magical realm; they answer directly to the Fae Queen. In this first volume, Barbara Yager answers a call for help when children begin disappearing in upstate New York. With the assistance of her dragon/pit bull, Chudo-Yudo, and her three loyal horsemen (e.g., Dawn, Sun, and Midnight, now in the guise of motorcyclists), and the grieving sheriff, she discovers a connection between a new hydrofracking venture and damage done to the Fae realm. But what does that have to do with the disappearing children …?

writtenBarbara Yager is a wonderfully snarky, secretly compassionate, character. And the Fae Queen is a hoot. The real draw for me, though, was Blake’s use of nontraditional mythology. One can only read so many variations on Arthurian mythology or Greek mythology or “generic Western European faux-medieval” mythology before going cross-eyed. The use of Russian mythology was a wonderful change of pace. So, if you are looking for a fun main character, fairies, a dog-dragon, and an urban fantasy with a strong environmental element, look no further!

Finally, there is Written on Skin by Erzabet Bishop. A short story set in the larger Sigil Fire universe, it is not necessary to have read the first book, but it does help. Here, Bishop tells the story of Genevieve, a young woman in search of “more.” What that “more” is she is not sure; but after she gets a tattoo from blood witch/vampire Fae, Genevieve discovers that there is far more to the world than she ever imagined. And that longing leads her straight to the Cirque Nocturne, and the beautiful copper-haired aerialist Maliah …. Bishop manages to pack a heck of a lot of story into only twenty-three pages. There is magic, mystery, passion, adventure, heartbreak, and one narrow escape. Oh, and a happily ever after.

As I have noted previously, fantasy is a wide-ranging and very Pagan-friendly genre. I have no doubt that I will find more books in very short order that will appeal to polytheist readers. And if you find any great fantasies, let me know!