What To Read Instead of Stephenie Meyer

So, people may ask, what’s wrong with the romance in Twilight? Even if you leave out the controlling abusive behavior from Edward, it’s still a really sucky romance. Bella and Edward don’t know or care about anything except

“You’re hot!”
“You smell good!”

and allegedly they’re in love because… of that. They may rhapsodize about each other, but the fact is that these two are only together because they want to bonk like there’s no tomorrow, and poor Jacob ends up finding troo luv with a BABY. Can others do better? Hell yeah! It would be harder to do WORSE.

Me and my big mouth.

Anne Rice

Well, obviously. I mean, Rice basically came up with the wangsty vampire-with-morals-and-a-heart thing that this author shamelessly ripped off, except since she’s obviously more sexually frustrated than Rice, she makes it all about teenage hormones. So to see what inspired a thousand bad emo vampires, please note: These are the best books of the series, and after this it’s a slow decline in quality and logic that never went upward again. But still, these are awesome:

  • Interview with the Vampire: The modern origin of the emo sad vampire who hates himself for what he is, and thus makes the audience want to give him a cup of blood and a cookie. Surprisingly successful.
  • The Vampire Lestat: The modern origin of the hot sexy bad-boy vampire who wears velvet, lace and still manages to be infinitely more manly than Edward. He also becomes a rock star. This could only turn out two ways: epic fail or epic win. Fortunately, it’s the latter.
  • Queen of the Damned: One of the few epic vampire fantasies ever written – it creates and deals with FIVE THOUSAND YEARS of vampire history, gives them a semi-plausible origin story, expands the cast exponentially with a bunch of great new characters. And with all that it STILL has an awesome thrilling main plot – EVIL VAMPIRE QUEEN WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND KILL ALMOST ALL THE MEN!

Read those, definitely. Read the others if you’re a completist or really wanna see the supporting cast (mostly in flashback) and occasionally Lestat or Louis. Don’t read Servant of the Bones, Violin, Blackwood Farm or Blood Canticle, unless a supervillain is holding your family hostage and threatening to murder them unless you read some dreadful books.

Maggie Stiefvater

These books came out during the post-Twishite craze of vampire/werewolf books where girls from small towns fall in love with supernatural creatures, and drama ensues.

Stiefvater proves that the execution is often much more important than the IDEA, and that something generic can become wonderful if you have the talent. Her werewolves have an interesting gimmick – the trigger to their condition is that instead of the moon, they transform because of COLD. When the temperature drops, they turn into wolves… actual wolves, with wolf intelligence, wolf limitations, and vulnerabilities. They don’t have superpowers, they have a PROBLEM.

And while Stiefvater has some weird similes (“leaky womb”? Really?), she writes the whole thing in a very beautiful, atmospheric style, and she is actually pretty consistent with the pseudoscience (most of which is NOT explained, so thank you) and the perils to the wolves.

And in case you love faerie tales, she did something similar with

which are just as beautifully and underrated. This writer makes people like Smeyer or Atwater-Rhodes look like amateurs.

Clare B. Dunkle

Dunkle is one of those authors who does just about everything. Scifi, fantasy, horror, suspense, whatever. For instance, here we have her brilliant werewolf romance set in…. uh, not sure when it’s set, but it’s in Scotland. Basically it’s about a young girl who’s fallen in love with a boy cursed to become a werewolf, and she has to keep him from being killed by the superstitious villagers.

We also have her Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, which has at least one romance per book. It’s a new spin on goblin and elf legends, with a young human girl bargaining away her freedom to save her little sister, and ending up married to the king of the goblins. Book 2 introduces a band of unfortunate elves who are facing extinction, and the third involves a royal arranged marriage between elves and goblins that may ruin a young girl’s life. And Book 3 is the culmination of all this.

Holly Black

This is the trilogy that spawned all those “girl discovers she’s a faerie and falls for a fae hottie” knockoffs that are currently flooding the YA market, but Black’s writing really elevates this idea. Very gritty, funny and full of brilliant little touches, also a dead-sexy fae warrior love interest. Which leads me to

which is a similarly gritty urban fantasy that focuses on curse workers, who are able to basically cast spells just by touching bare skin. The main character is a really awesome one, in that we’re kept wondering through most of the book if he murdered his best friend, and why he would do so. There are a lot of great twists.

Robin McKinley

She’s pretty much a required read for anybody who likes fantasy, but unfortunately a lot of Twilight fans don’t have the faintest idea that better fantasy romances are all over the place and have been for a long time.

One example is McKinley’s recent book Chalice, which is all about a young girl with a mystical connection to the land, who has to work with a young aristocrat who has been living with the fire priests for years. And even though he’s pretty freaky-looking and literally burning, they start falling in love. Like Beauty and the Beast, but with bees and land-magic.

Then you’ve got Beauty, a smarter retelling of Beauty and the Beast that predates Disney’s movie by many years (and which seems to have nabbed a few details from McKinley’s books), and Spindle’s End, which adds a new spin to the traditional Sleeping Beauty legend.

Yeah, McKinley’s written a LOT of books over the years, including a Newbery Winner, but these strike me as being the most romantic and fairy-talesque.


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