Sometimes, I just need a book full of bloodsucking vampires and furry werewolves- especially in October when the sights and sounds of Halloween are everywhere.
I love my Jane Austen (yes, she’s mine) and I love so many of the classics and the strong contemporary novels that critics rave about, but I also adore my supernatural thrillers. They reach some unreachable itch in the back of my mind that realistic fiction can’t touch and make me literarily content and happy inside.
Seriously, there’s nothing like a good ol’ vampiric book high.
On the chance that I’m not the only one who loves all things fang and furry, I thought since it was October that I would compile a list of my favorite supernatural thrillers. I love you Gentle Reader, and love means never letting your internet friends read subpar books.
If you’re looking for a fabulous urban fiction series full of vampires and shaper-shifters look no further than the Kate Daniel series by Ilona Andrews. These books are gritty, fast paced novels lightly kissed with a dystopian flair and they have a hidden depth to them.
The first book is Magic Bites. I’ll be honest, the first book is good but not full out great. That is what I love about this series- the author doesn’t give away all the secrets in the beginning. And unlike any other series I’ve read, the Kate Daniels books get better and better with each installment. There are now over ten books and novellas in this series, plus a spinoff novel, so you might just get enough vampires and werewolves to satisfy the supernatural freak inside of you. At least for a while.
If you are looking for a series that is a little less graphic, a bit more idealized, and not quite so raw in terms of language and sexuality, then you cannot go wrong with Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series (despite their slightly pornographic covers on some editions.) The first book in the series is Moon Called.
These books have action and romance and spunk and wonderful characters that you wished were real and lived next door. (But I get dibs of Stephen- he’s dreamy- in a slightly scary, blood-sucking way.) The books are full of vampires and werewolves, but they also have coyotes, witches, gremlins, and fairies- not to mention a scene stealing, homicidal snow elf in one of the installments.
Best of all, more than any other series, these characters are filled with so much diversity. Additionally, the these books have a nice Southwestern, Native American flavor, which makes them stand out among their supernatural peers. I give a solid two thumbs up for Mercy Thompson.
Perhaps you don’t want a series, maybe you just want a stand alone work of awesomeness that just happens to have some scary, freaky vampires in it. I’ve got you covered. You are looking for Sunshine by Robin McKinley.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times, Sunshine is the ultimate vampire book, my absolute favorite. The story begins with a rather ordinary appearing heroine who discovers her hidden talents and strengths as the book progresses. (I should also mention she bakes and this book is full of fantastic descriptions of all sorts of deliciousness- food porn at its vampiric best.)
All in all, McKinley creates an amazing alternative world with fully formed characters and a gripping plot that leaves you wanting more. So much more.
Now that I’ve shared with you my favorite vampire book of all time, let me introduce you to my favorite supernatural urban fiction book: Written in Red, by Anne Bishop.
What makes this book so fantastic? Well, I loved that the monsters in the story were actual monsters, not romantically inclined, sparkly control freaks. There is a unique feel to the overused tropes of shape-shifters and vampires that made this book feel fresh and new. The world building was mind blowing and the characters seemed like actual people that somehow got trapped inside the pages of a book. Best of all the pace was nice and even throughout the entire novel with some extreme tension at the climax of the story.
And my favorite thing about this book? There was absolutely no cliched love triangle. Even better- there was no romance, period. While there are faint hints at future romantic entanglements, this book stands solidly and solely on its story and people rather than embellished and over the top love scenes.
Other honorable mentions in the vampire/werewolf category are:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. I love this book greatly. Find my review here.
Chicagoland Vampire series, by Chloe Neill. The first four books are fun, filled with witty dialogue (so snarky!) and interesting characters. After those installments, however, I was less than impressed with the quality and writing.
Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison. This is the first of The Hollows series. These books are sexy, gritty, dark, and action driven. The world building is excellent and the characters are nicely fleshed out. (There also seems to be an inordinate amount of time spent describing clothing. If you are a clotheshorse or into fashion, this might be right up your alley.)
Soulless, by Gail Carriger. This is the first of the Parasol Protectorate series. How to describe this book? 50% supernatural, 50% steam-punk, 100% good, old fashioned, bodice-ripper romance story. Additionally, this book is written very much tongue in cheek and refuses to take itself seriously which is why is succeeds so well. Werewolves, vampires, steam engines, heaving bosoms, and Victorian England, oh my.
The Morganville Vampire series, by Rachel Caine. I enjoyed the first few books in this series. Lots of action, lots of mean vampires, lots of snark, and lots of teenagers making out. After a few books, though, this formula got a little old. But that’s the nice thing with series- there’s no law you have to finish them.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker. You have to love the original classic that started it all. Seriously, you have to, or you and I will have words. There is a reason this gothic tale has survived the test of time- it’s fabulous.
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. An epic scholarly thriller in the gothic style. Parts of this book scared the pants off me. And, if I’m completely honest, parts of this book dragged on a little bit and bored me slightly. Find my more complete review here.
Department Nineteen, by Will Hill (and no, I did not make up that author’s name.) I thought this was a solid YA novel that felt like a modern day spinoff of the original Dracula. I liked the whole secret government agency vibe to it and the high tech weapons the soldiers used to fight the evil vampires. On the other hand, my husband didn’t enjoy this novel and thought the main character was whiny and pouty. Whatever. Just one more example of how I’m always right and he’s wrong.
‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. Of course the master of horror wrote a vampire story, of course. And because it is written by Stephen King the pacing is fabulous, the characters feel real, and some seriously scary stuff happens. (Warning- Mr. King isn’t afraid to kill off your favorite characters, so be prepared.) However, Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and in my humble opinion, this is not his strongest work. Still, a so-so novel written by a great author is better than most stuff out there.
The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Part of my brain is convinced that this book is pure genius. Another part of my brain shouts loudly that this book is an incomplete and meandering mess. Sometimes books make us bi-polar and there’s no shame in that. I loved the apocalyptic, doomsday first half of the book, it reminded me a lot like Stephen King’s The Stand, but with super freaky, man-made vampires. However, where The Stand ends in a triumphant finale of good overcoming evil, The Passage only offers an ambiguous conclusion and a lengthy sequel. Still, this book garners a bunch of devoted, adoring fans. Try it out, at 784 pages there’s no shame in quitting if this book turns out to be not your cup of tea.
There you have it, Gentle Reader, my top picks in the vampire/werewolf category. And since I’m always on the lookout of a great supernatural thriller, be sure to shout out your favorite if it didn’t make my list. Remember, sharing is caring.