I love to read SF, fantasy and paranormal romance. Many of my favourite authors in the genres are the big bestsellers that you’ve probably read (or at least heard of) yourself. In fantasy: Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, George R.R. Martin, Ilona Andrews, Brent Weeks, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, Kevin Hearne, Faith Hunter, Anne Bishop, Django Wexler, Diana Rowland, Kim Harrison. In SF: Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh. In paranormal romance: Nalini Singh, Darynda Jones, Thea Harrison, Karen Marie Moning, J.R. Ward. All of these authors are auto-buys for me.
But there are also many authors who are equally good, but are lesser known. Here are my top five:
1/ Wen Spencer (SF and fantasy)
Okay, be warned, I’m probably going to gush here.
The first Wen Spencer book I read was A Brother’s Price about a world where women vastly outnumber the men and thus men are the cossetted, protected ones in society, who are expected to stay virgin until they marry a group of sisters. Thought-provoking role reversal, a healthy dollop of romance, and action. Of course, I then had to buy her other novels.
Next I read (and have since reread and reread) her Ukiah Oregon novels: SF with super cool aliens and a sweet P.I. hero with an eidetic memory and awesome tracking skills (he was raised by wolves). Seriously. Read the first chapter of Alien Taste. You will be hooked.
Then there’s her Tinker series. Tinker is an 18-year-old girl, a genius with mad inventing skills and a talent for trouble. It’s set in world where the city of Pittsburgh, through a temporal accident, is transferred to Elfhome every thirty days. Yes, really. Great characters, lots of action and magic. I LOVE this series.
2/ Carol Berg (fantasy)
If some cretin tries to tell you only men write awesome epic fantasy, shove some Carol Berg books in their face.
The first book I read by her was The Song of the Beast. The shattered hero has just been released from jail after a seven-year-sentence of silence—and he still doesn’t know what crime he committed. My heart ached for him—and then we find out why he was imprisoned, plus another twist that blew my mind.
Next I moved on to her Rai-Kirah trilogy. Book one Transformation features a hero who has been stripped of his magic and enslaved. Bad enough, and then Seyonne realizes a demon is trying to take over his arrogant master. High tension and the ending was bang-on perfect.
Her latest series duet Dust and Light/ Ash and Silver were both 5 star reads for me.
3/ Diana Pharaoh Francis
The first book I read by her was Bitter Night, first of the Horngate Witches series. In a sea of new urban fantasy books with kickass heroines, Max still stood out. I love the concept of the witches’ Shadowblades and Sunspears. The whole series is excellent.
More recent is her Diamond City Magic series which has its own unique setting--a mob-run city high in the snowy mountains—and very cool magic. Plus a sizzling romantic subplot. The perfect blend of UF and PNR.
4/ Rachel Aaron (fantasy) who also writes as Rachel Bach (SF)
The first Rachel Aaron book I read was The Spirit Thief. I was immediately hooked by the first scene in which Eli Monpress, the roguish thief hero, escapes prison by convincing the door that it’s underappreciated. Yes, the door. Cool magic, fascinating characters—not just Eli whose ambition it is to have a $1,000,000 price on his head—but his partners, a legendary swordsman and a girl being consumed by a demonseed. The series starts off quite light, but by books 4 & 5 has a more epic plot.
Her latest Heartstriker’s series about “nice” dragon Julius is in the same vein: fun, high-action, and inventive magic in an UF setting. Bob (a dragon seer) and his pigeon alone make these books worth reading. Go buy them!
Rachel also is well-known for her blog (Pretentious Title) about writing and her 2K to 10K book.
5/ Shannon K. Butcher (paranormal romance)
She also writes romantic suspense, but it’s her paranormal romance series The Sentinel Wars that have me hooked. Noble warriors who are dying out plus modern women and plenty of demon-fighting. Mmmm. Book one is Burning Alive. I am going to be so bummed if this series has been cut off.
And yes, she is the wife of Jim Butcher.
Huh. This list seems to be all women… Okay I’ll add one bonus guy:
6/ D.B. Jackson/David Coe
I heard David Coe talk at a panel at When Words Collide and decided to try some of his books. While I am enjoying his Justis Fearsson UF series, it’s his fast-paced historical fantasy Thieftaker series that he writes as D.B. Jackson that has really grabbed me. Set in Boston prior to the War for Independence (do I have that right? Canadian here) it combines mystery, magic and history, making for a heck of a ride. And the villain is female.
I could easily come up with five more (Tanya Huff, Gini Koch, Laura Resnick, K.A. Stewart, Leigh Evans—see?) but I’m out of space. Who are some of your lesser-known favorites?