Four Series That Could Be the Next Big Thing in Paranormal Fantasy

Kat Richardson's Greywalker

It’s an interesting time to be a paranormal fantasy fan. Over the last few years, some hugely popular series have ended—Nicole Peeler’s Jane True saga, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire sequence, the Sabina Kane series from Jaye Wells—and Kim Harrison’s phenomenally successful Hollows saga, featuring Rachel Morgan and crew, will soon reach its own highly anticipated conclusion (the penultimate installment, The Undead Pool, will be released on February 25).

This leaves a void at the top of the paranormal fantasy food chain. All these series found remarkable commercial success in large part because they found an audience of mainstream readers as well as fans of genre fiction. (Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels are a perfect example.) And although there are a lot of exceptional paranormal fantasy series out there, not many have that mainstream appeal—some may be too sexually explicit (Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake), and others too violent (Marcus Pelegrimas’s Skinners). So what sagas are poised to become that next big thing in paranormal fantasy, by capturing those mainstream readers looking for what to read next? Here are four predictions:

1. Kat Richardson’s Greywalker

Categorizing this extraordinary series—which features Seattle-based private investigator Harper Blaine, who, after being clinically dead for almost two minutes, can now see into the realm of ghosts—as just paranormal fantasy seems like a disservice. It’s classic supernatural fiction à la Algernon Blackwood that brilliantly blends together elements of noir-nuanced mystery and dark fantasy. It started in 2006 with Greywalker, and the eighth installment (Possession) was just released this summer.

Mainstream appeal: Endearing heroine, highly intelligent storyline, classy narrative undertones.

2. Adrian Phoenix’s The Maker’s Song

This series, which revolves around the sensually super-charged relationship between former FBI special agent Heather Wallace and vampire goth rock star Dante Baptist, has a decidedly dark and edgy feel. The carnal draw of Dante (who has been called the sexiest male character in paranormal fantasy) is obvious, but the real hook is the incredibly knotty storyline, which is essentially a pedal-to-the-metal thriller that incorporates elements from romance, horror, and dark fantasy. It began in 2008 with A Rush of Wings, and the fifth installment, On Midnight Wings, was just released.

Mainstream appeal: “I’ll-have-what-they’re-having” romance; intricately plotted, bombshell-laden storyline; and an edgy, Nine Inch Nails–scored backdrop. A line from On Midnight Wings describes this saga perfectly: “intoxicating and deadly.”

3. Stacia Kane’s Downside

The Downside saga, which began in 2010 with the release of Unholy Ghosts, is a visionary and thematically powerful paranormal fantasy series. Offering an alternate history in which, in 1997, ghosts rose from their graves and killed millions of innocents, Kane has created a world where all religions have effectively been proven false. The story revolves around the relationship between hardcore drug addict Cesaria “Chess” Putnam—a Debunker for the Church of Real Truth, whose job is to banish spirits of the dead—and Terrible, a muscular giant of an enforcer who works for the local drug dealer/pimp. The storyline is gritty, compelling, at times heartbreaking, and unlike anything you will ever read.

Mainstream appeal: immersive world-building, unforgettable characters, profoundly moving themes, and, above all else, a love story to die for!

 4. Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim

This one is a little more of a stretch, since the main character, John Stark—who has spent time in Hell (aka “Downtown”) and even worked as Lucifer for a stretch—is such a foul-mouthed badass antihero. And while it may not be everyone’s cup of brimstone, those who do seek out and read these novels (starting with Sandman Slim) may become dark disciples of Kadrey’s aggressive and deeply philosophical writing style. Some of my all-time favorite lines come from this series, like this one, from Kill the Dead: “The universe is a meat grinder and we’re just pork in designer shoes, keeping busy so we can pretend we’re not all headed for the sausage factory.”

Mainstream appeal: Acerbic sense of humor, over-the-top characters and storyline, corrupt yet charming protagonist, an abundance of memorable—and meaningful— one-liners.

What’s your vote for the next big thing in paranormal fantasy? 

What paranormal series do you think will become the next big thing?

  • Jo wren

    Sierra Dean’s Secret series is great. As is Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson series. And Nalini Singh series, of course. Oh, and Debra Dunbar’s Imp series is worth a read too. Lots out there!

  • goatfairy

    ML Brennan’s Generation V series.

    • Melanie Meadors

      Yeah, I’d have to second this as well….

  • Linda Karau

    Why not Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series? Otherwise I could see Kat Richardson’s “Geywalker” series as a Hbo or Starz or Syfy (especially!) series or feature movie event!

  • Ellen Johnson

    You missed Anne Bishop’s new series about the Other’s. The first is Written in Red, next will come be out next year titled A Murder of Crows.

  • Melanie Meadors

    I’ve always been a sucker for gargoyles, since I was in high school and that cartoon was on. I was so excited last year when Anton Strout’s Spellmason Chronicles came out from Ace books. They are the perfect blend of urban fantasy adventure and snarky humor. I love the nods to geek culture here and there and there’s even a bit of romance. A very well balanced series thus far, something for everyone. I can’t wait for the third one to come out, even though it’s a year away!

    • Mary Saltz White

      I have not hear of Strout. But me and the kids are heading to the book store today. I know what I’m getting now. Thanks! This sounds good.

  • jayewells

    You ain’t seen nothing yet, Paul Goat Allen!

  • Janet Armentani

    Don’t forget C.E. Murphy’s shaman series and Laura Ann Gillman.

  • Janet Armentani

    And Gini Koch!

  • Cat E.

    I think Seanan McGuire’s October Daye’s series is phenomenal!

    • Mary Saltz White

      Yes, I agree.. McGuir’s got what it takes to go all the way.

  • QueenTitania

    What about Ann Aguire’s Corine Solomon series (which is ended supposedly); Ilona Andrew’s Magic Breaks series; Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series; Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series; Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files; Jennifer Estep’s Spider series; Robin Hobbs’ Assassin’s series; Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series; Daryna Jones’ Reaper series; Seanan McGuire’s October Daye’s series; Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series; Lilith Saintcrow’s several series; Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty series; and Phaedra Weldon’s Zoe Martinique series. I do totally agree with you about Richardson’s and Kadrey’s series but could never get into the Maker’s series and am looking forward to checking out the Kane series.

    • Joshua Alkema

      One problem with Armstrong’s Otherworld series, she just ended it and the spinoff Darkest Powers series along with it. Plus you forgot Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.

      • QueenTitania

        Good point – I love Hearne’s Atticus and his wolfhound!

        • Joshua Alkema

          Oh yes, it’s quite amazing. If you check out my profile pic there, it’s me with Kevin Hearne.

    • Chris Jones

      A lot of the series you listed are already huge. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, in particular, is an every book best seller now (and the best books on the market, IMHO).

  • Joshua Alkema

    I think Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles should be on this list. It started with Hounded and the seventh, Shattered, is due out next year. I should also note that Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series is phenomenal. Plus, if you’ve never read Jim C. Hines Magic Ex Libris series, you haven’t lived. He just got started last year with Libriomancer and his new one, Codex Born, just came out, but they are not to be missed!

  • paula bubbee

    I really like Kat Richardson’s books have not read Adrian Phoenix’s Makers song, but loved her hoodo books

  • Alison Hucker

    Afterlife Saga by Stephanie Hudson,it’s an amazing series of books that has the lot brilliant characters great story line that keeps you hooked wanting to know more

  • Jacqui ‘Malyon’ Smith

    Afterlife Saga by Stephanie Hudson is a great series of books. Full of fantastic characters, lots of action & an addictive storyline. Definitely worth a read!!!

  • Charlene Simmons

    Afterlife saga by Stephanie Hudson is amazing has an excellent story line and has brilliant characters that keep you hooked.

  • Carol M.

    The Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter could be added to this stellar
    group, with its mix of elements and interesting characters.

  • Gene11

    The Alex Craft series by Kalayna Price will help fill the hole left by the impending conclusion of Kim Harrison’s Hollows novels.

    • QueenTitania

      absolutely – love her books so far!

  • Chris Jones

    Mark Del Franco’s Connor Grey and Laura Blackstone series (set in the same world) are outstanding. Around the early 1900s, the world of Faerie and man “converged” and these modern day stories are set in the aftermath of that mixture.

  • The_Postindustrialist

    Kate Griffon’s Matthew Swift series is up there for me, along side Sandman Slim. Both are urban fantasy a la the Dresden Files, with the potential for mass appeal…. for those that actually seek them out.

    What counts against hem, unfortunately, is that they possess too grand a scale of imagination. What goes mainstream, more often than not, is soap operas in a supernatural dressing.

  • Ken Iltz

    Haruki Murakami. I am reading and enjoying 1Q84.

  • Amber Webster

    Maybe I’m weird, but I HATED Sandman Slim. I couldn’t finish it.

  • GalleryNinja

    What about Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series???? The heroine is a Cherokee Skinwalker who hunts vampires in New Orleans. She’s got an “it’s complicated” love life and a TON of stellar action sequences chock full of guns blazing, butt kicking, and metaphysical mind-blowing. Each book gets better and better. I’m just glad they haven’t started publishing in hardcover, because that would definitely cut into my allowance. =D ……….. And what about Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian series (started with Markof the Demon). The most recent (5th) book was BEYOND AWESOME.

  • Chris Moody

    I think that Ari Berk’s Undertaken Trilogy has been severely underrated. Those books could make one of the best movie trilogies of all time, provided a great director picks it up, and the right actors/actresses are cast.

  • Lulu S

    Loved the Greywalker series. I am always ready for the next on from Kat Richardson. I will put a vote in for Moning’s Fever series.

  • BadMamaJama

    I’m so hooked on ‘Afterlife Saga’, but the other series mentioned above sound enticing.