This is a repeat topic from last year, but as it’s a good one AND interchangeable so it can be different each year, it’s back again.
I realized while writing this that I didn’t have enough books for any paranormal creature that I actually liked, so I’m going to give a few recommendations for five different paranormal creatures.
If you’re tired of the angel = good, demon = bad dichotomy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was the first book about angels I’ve ever read that actually approached angels and demons in a morally gray way. I had read books about angels I had liked before – for example, the Shadowhunter Chronicles – but I was tired of how the demons were never really characters, they were just Evil, and they needed to be slaughtered. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, there are good and bad people on both sides, and that was really refreshing. Also, why would you ever want to miss Laini Taylor’s writing?
If you like diverse political fantasy and don’t care about demons: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard is one of the best fantasy series I’ve started this year. Books about angels are often very white, very straight and have religious undertones I don’t like, but not this series. This is a political fantasy story set in a very atmospheric version of post-apocalyptic Paris, and the main characters are either human, fallen angels, or Vietnamese shapeshifting dragons (mainly in the second book). Also, as of the second book, there are three queer couples! (Two of them f/f, one m/m).
If you like steampunk and vengeful heroines: The Falconer by Elizabeth May follows a girl who is the beautiful daughter of a Marquess by day and a vengeful fae hunter by night. I loved her just as much as I liked the worldbuilding – this book is set in Edimburgh in 1844, and the way it blends steampunk technology (flying machines!) with Scottish folklore was wonderful.
If you want a non-toxic, fun fae romance: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson is a book I read almost a year ago and really liked. My problem with fae books is that the romance is often toxic, but not here. Also, this is a fae book about how great it is to be human, instead of the usual, trite “fae are so much better than humans in every way, everyone wants to be fae” trope.
If you find all faeries far too tame and too “human”: Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng wins the award for “most twisted, most terrifying portrayal of fae” I’ve ever read. If you think the fae you usually find in fantasy are boring and just basically magical humans, read this. I’m sure you won’t forget it.
If you want non-western vampires: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a paranormal noir set in Mexico City, and one of the main characters is a bisexual Nahua vampire (tlāhuihpochtli) who gets into a relationship with a human at some point. It was interesting to see a story about a queer, non-western vampire that wasn’t about the romance and in which the usual romantic dynamic (human girl/older male vampire) was reversed.
If you like a weird romance and messy, reckless characters because that way it’s more fun: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. This book was… something. It was one of my favorite books before I started reviewing, and to this day it’s my favorite Holly Black book. It’s an urban fantasy story with a very weird but adorable vampire romance and the most messy cast ever. It’s about the romanticization of death in pop culture, and it’s the best vampire story I’ve ever read.
Dead Stuff, Still Moving
Becauze “zombies” sounds so restrictive.
If you like diverse creepy books, witches, and dead people walking: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova is probably the closest I’ve read to a zombie book, and it’s also one of my favorite YA fantasy books of 2018. This story follows a family of brujas (latinx witches) who live in New York – and the city is being swarmed by casimuertos, who really should be dead but are still walking. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric creepy story about grief and the intensity of teenage love.
If you like macabre nonsense and Russian folklore: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter is one of the weirdest YA books I know and I love it so much. It doesn’t make sense if you take it literally, but if you don’t? It’s great. This modern, surrealist retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful set in Brooklyn features chain stores walking around on chicken legs, disembodied hands that are still moving, girls turning into swans and wise but creepy talking dolls. Also: Night sees you, reader.
If you like reading about necromancy: For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig follows a girl who lives in a fantastical country whose political situation is inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization. She is a necromancer, so she’s able to see spirits and make them do what she wants – and, at the beginning of the story, she’s using them to make shadow plays with stringless puppets, which is probably the most original application of necromancy I’ve ever seen in a book. I loved the magic system here and I loved the main character, a bipolar girl who is trying to find a cure for her illness just as much as she’s trying to hide her powers.
If you want a Beauty and the Beast retelling: In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard is an f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a Vietnamese cast, and the “beast” of the story, Vu Côn, is a shapeshifting dragon. The romance is adorable, and the worldbuilding is great too – if you like reading about magical, dangerous palaces like the ones in Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, you need to read it.
If you like wintry, atmospheric books: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett is a YA fantasy book in which there are many magical creatures, including witches and really small dragons that are basically the main characters’ lamps. I thought this idea was really cute. Also, winter is approaching and this is the perfect book to read while it’s snowing outside.
Have you read any of these? What is your favorite paranormal creature?