In another fit of finding me exactly the book I wanted without being asked, my father procured a copy of China Miéville’s newest novel, Kraken, as a Christmas present for me. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s gotten me thinking quite a lot, both about my writing and about urban fantasy as a whole. I have written about what I see as the finer points of urban fantasy several times before, specifically what differentiates it from paranormal romance. I have also mentioned Miéville here before, praising his previous long-form effort.
In an age where the majority of urban fantasy novels either feature leather-clad, gun-toting chicks on their covers or star a certain Chicago-based wizard, Kraken is a beast of a different order entirely. It is certainly an urban fantasy, but it’s much more Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere than Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. If you’re familiar with Miéville’s oeuvre, you’ll have noticed how his prose has evolved, and that evolution has continued with this novel while still being very Miéville, but that’s not what I’m concerned with right now.
What is striking about Kraken is that, in some ways, it is a story about normal people, sort of. None of the characters are hot werewolves or lusty vampires, and none of the main female characters wear leather. Since it’s set in London, there aren’t many guns in evidence, either. Nevertheless, its is a magical world, though that doesn’t become fully apparent for several chapters, and, thanks in part to Miéville’s prose and sensibilities, it has its share of badassitude, just in a different way. It does have its share of characters whose stock should be evident, but none of that strikes you as you’re reading.
What I’m trying to say is, one, that if you want to see how to write an urban fantasy without lusty vampires etc, you should read Kraken, and, two, that you should read Kraken, whatever.