Guest Blogger: Abigail from ATUF

I would love to welcome Abigail from All Things Urban Fantasy – a wonderful review site with lots of great features – to the floor.  Abigail is here to talk about her Top Ten Urban Fantasy Pet Peeves, so I will leave you in her excellent hands.

Have you ever finished reading a book and realized you’ve been scowling for the last half? Have you ever wished you were physically capable of vomiting out of your eyes just so you wouldn’t have to read and more of a book that is the literary equivalent of a kick in the crotch? Then I feel your pain. I don’t have a litmus test that I use to gauge each book I read, but I do have a list of pet peeves that I can’t help but be aware of when I read. Some of these aren’t limited to urban fantasy/paranormal books, they bother me regardless of the genre I’m reading, but urban fantasy books are particularly guilty of them. And sometimes a book can get away with one or even two of them, but any more than that and the book begins to degrade rapidly in my opinion. I’m sure your list of pet peeves is different from mine, but that’s what comments are for, right?

My top 10 urban fantasy pet peeves:

1. Sex breaks

Defined as:
Sex breaks are when two characters inexplicably stop in the middle of the story, often during time sensitive dire situations, to have sex. Sex breaks are rarely isolated incidents, if one occurs you can typically expect two or more to follow. Sex breaks are easily distinguished from sex scenes in that they neither contribute to the development of the characters involved nor do they advance the plot of the book.

Exaggerated example from the totally-made-up-not-an-actual-book: “Fangs with Dick and Jane”

Dick gazed at Jane with naked desire on his face, “Jane, baby, I know that even as I speak the vampires are closing in on the children’s orphanage/blind puppy shelter, but a man can only take so much.” He eyed the backseat of the car significantly.

Dick’s burning stare heated Jane’s flesh and she knew she could not deny him. Did not want to deny him. Surely the orphans could fight off the vampires for a little while, she reasoned, and the puppy population was getting a bit out of hand lately. Jane met Dick’s eyes and undid the first button on her blouse.

[insert 3-6 pages of vehicular sex]

“I knew we’d make it in time,” Jane said as she staked the final vamp. “The vampires only drained half the orphans and 2/3 of the puppies. I don’t think anyone else could have done better.”

Dick nodded as he surveyed the carnage. “A few of the puppies are going to need immediate medical attention, but…”


Dick gave her his sexiest smile. “Some of these beds are now permanently vacant.” A few soft whimpers escaped from the injured orphans lying on the floor.

Jane smiled and backed towards the closest bed.
[insert 3-6 pages of dorm room sex]

2. Covers that lie

Defined as: Cover art (good or bad) that misrepresents/has nothing to do with the actual book.

Example: Minor offenses include tattoos on a cover model that the character doesn’t have, or weapons that the character never uses. More glaring examples include wrong hair colors, or wildly inaccurate clothing.

3. Blurbs that lie

Defined as: Implied/stated subject matter from the blurb that does not appear in the book, or significant subject matter from the book is not mentioned in the blurb.

Example: A romantic/sexual subplot is implied but either does not appear in the book or is not as much of a focus as implied. Conversely, when little or no romantic/sexual subplot is mentioned on the blurb when a majority of the book is romantic/sexual in nature.

4. Whiney heroines

Defined as: Heroines who consistently complain about their situation either in word or thought rather than seek out solutions, or who refuse to even try in a dire situation.

Example: A heroine with special abilities is the only one can save herself/others in a given situation and instead of acting she drones on about her inability and requires copious amounts of coaxing, rallying, and ego stroking before she will reluctantly attempt any action.

6. Wimpy heroes

Defined as: The opposite of Alpha males, wimpy heroes contribute little or nothing to a given situation. They offer little to no support either physically or emotionally to the heroine and often require saving/rescuing from a situation of their own making.

Example: The hero is often normal in the sense that he possesses no supernatural abilities whereas the heroine is supernatural. He must be given orders for his own protection and can require supervision/aid at any given time.

7. Lust not love

Defined as: when two characters see each other, evaluate each other based solely on physical appearances, and without any other information decide/vow eternal love. Copious amounts of sex typically follow.

Example: Characters meet in chapter one and after no more than a few words are exchanged (sometimes no words are exchanged at all) the characters are inexplicably head over heals in love.  Often several paragraphs of physical descriptions are given and characters will complain about uncontrollable attraction and then decide on the next line that it must be in love. We as readers are just expected to accept that this spontaneous declaration of love is real and ignore reality.

8. Info dumping

Defined as: When an author cannot think of a natural way of explaining or relaying information in a creative/interesting way, and must ‘dump’ large passages of back-story/world building etc. At readers in large, unnatural chunks.

Example: Characters speak to each other in unnatural manners reminding each other of information they would be well aware of; Typically in the beginning of a book, an author will relay a character’s back-story when it does not relate to the story; or when rules, distinctive of world building are explained in encyclopedic fashion in large, dull chunks.

9. Sex excuses

Defined as: when authors invent unnecessary obstacles for their characters that can only be overcome by having sex.

Example: A character must have sex with various people in order to unleash her power; or when characters are compelled mindless physical urges that demand sex. *cough* ardeur *cough*

10. Token fantasy/urban elements

Defined as: when a story has only minimal urban elements in what is really just a dressed up fantasy story and vice versa.

Example: Characters may use cell phones but everything else is gowns and castles; a character travels from a modern setting to a magical traditional fantasy world and stays there until almost the end of the story; a contemporary character with a minor magical ability that is never explained/justified and has little to no impact on the story as a whole.

So those are my ten.  What are some of your urban fantasy pet peeves?  How many are enough to ruin a book for you?


About Jackie 3282 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.


  1. I agree with most of your pet peeves but since I like fantasy stories I don’t really mind if a book is more fantasy than UF.

  2. I agree. I really hate when a book has a plot that looks really good described on the back, but then that ‘takes a backseat’ to neverending sex scenes for most of the book. If I wanted to read something just for the sex, I’d pick up something with a shirtless guy with long hair in a kilt on it.

  3. i too agree with most of these pet peeves, except for #6, wimpy heroes. alpha males so, so, SO often read like exactly the same character, and cinderella complex he-man thing can get really old. beta males IMO are refreshing; of course, if they are done well. if they add nothing to the story and just wait to be rescued, that’s irritating too.

  4. The thing about #6 is, it’s a bit of a double-bind on the author. Say you’re dealing with a mundane guy and a supernatural gal. Trouble happens, gal goes out to deal with it. If guy does nothing, he looks weak. If guy tries to do something and fails, he looks like a millstone- not only does gal have to take care of herself, she has to look after him as well. If guy tries to do something and succeeds, we then wonder why gal’s so great with her supernatural powers. Even if guy doesn’t succeed directly but merely contributes, you’re skirting the idea that a woman can’t succeed without a man’s help.

    It’s a thin line to walk, which is why a lot of authors just cave and give guy supernatural powers eventually. Or at least a shotgun.

  5. Ugh. Info dumping. This is a pet peeve of mine across genres. To me it is as a sign of an immature (regardless of actual physical age) writer. If it happens more than once in a story, I generally walk away and don’t finish.

    Often several paragraphs of physical descriptions are given and characters will complain about uncontrollable attraction and then decide on the next line that it must be in love. We as readers are just expected to accept that this spontaneous declaration of love is real and ignore reality.

    YES. Totally agree. Biggest crutch used in romance plots and/or subplots. This is precisely the sort of thing that makes me actively avoid (non-romance) books that are described as having romance as a dominant factor. I expect that kind of cheese in romance novels, and can brace myself for it. If I find a novel on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelf at the bookstore, I feel betrayed if this crutch pops up.

  6. I see you have a cough as well! I hope you feel better soon ;)

    Great article! I can’t think of any more peeves. You managed to hit the nail on the head!

  7. What a great list! I’ve only started reading UF books so I have yet to come across these…I can’t recall seeing them in other genre books that I’ve read. However, I will definitely be on the look out now! I must say your sex break description had me cracking. It’s hard to believe that an author would compromise their story to pull a stunt like that, but as they say “sex sells”!

  8. Totally agree! Number 7 would be top of my list. I can forgive pointless sex scenes, token urban elements, info-dumping etc as long as the characters are good. And good, believable characters do NOT fall in love in one chapter because they are both hot stuff. Where’s the fun and delicious romantic tension in that?? XD

  9. info dumping!!! Blech…I have been real lucky. I have only read the top UF writers that are gushed about on all the websites . And that list is long, thank goodness! Great post

  10. These are great. In fact, most of these items would weaken any genre of book, not just UF. Thanks for a good column.

  11. I totally agree about blurbs that lie :o They can put you off good books and make you pick up absolute rubbish :( The most annoying ones – KMM’s Fever series. The blurbs make the books sound like they’re centered on some kind of bizarre erotic love-triangle, when this couldn’t be less true, lol … there isn’t even any sex until the end of the third book, and then it isn’t exactly – uh – voluntary. I swear that must put so many people off an amazing series … I almost didn’t pick them up.

  12. I was reading number 9 and thinking of a specific book. It was so stupidly annoying.

    I’m glad some of the orphans and puppies made it.

  13. Sandy – Number ten only bothers me if the book is UF. I’m a straight fantasy lover too, but if a book is supposed to be urban fantasy, I expect it to be both urban and fantasy.

    Bethany – Fortunately, this one is rare, but it drives me nuts when the story is falsely advertised.

    pengork – I should have distinguished between wimpy males and beta males because they are different. Betas can be great, if they have a strength that comes through in other areas. Wimpy males have no strength, hence the word wimpy.

    Sjbell – It is a fine line, but it can be done (I see it more in Paranormal YA, but still). UF is all about tough, strong women, and when the guy doesn’t measure up, for whatever reason, it hurts the book.

    Jessica – Info dumping is so annoying, especially in dialog. I should have written another fake excerpt from Fangs With Dick and Jane for an example. Can’t stand it. And the whole he’s hot so I love him thing is even worse.

    Amber – I think that cough has been going around :)

    Natalie – Thanks. I think they are pretty universal.

    Lisa – The sex break example is obviously exaggerated, but if you take out the puppies and orphans and I’ve basically read that book.

    Liberty – I think that is the one I see the most and I don’t get it! Its so cliche. I don’t know a single reader who finds those relationships credible.

    Sharon – Even the best authors sometimes fall prey to these, but I know what you mean. Hopefully, these pet peeves will all go the way of the dodo soon enough.

    LSUReader – It’s true, UF isn’t the only afflicted genre. But we do lead the pack sadly.

    The really sad thing is that had I been in a nasty mod I could have provided guilty titles to go along with each pet peeve.

  14. Katie – I had a specific title in mind too. I almost threw the book across the room when her spirit guard told her that she needed to sex-up all the powerful guys she could find to unleash her powers. The blurb made it sound like a straight UF with a small romantic subplot. Ha!

  15. This is an excellent list, Abigail. Really wish I’d gotten here sooner to add my 2 cents but I will say that I think many authors and publishers have confused the idea of romance and where it belongs in a story, instead substituting mindless sex and expecting readers to ignore the lack of an actual plot. Sadly, we keep buying and reading so I’m not sure much will change.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is a series that goes on way too long. I’ve dropped many of my favorite authors because the books were starting to feel forced, and maybe the author was just ‘phoning it in’. You know…when the new book is the same as the last, and in no way furthers the plot or character development? Yes, I’m sad when a beloved series ends, like the Riley Jensen books, but I’d rather an author end a series than write garbage.

  16. Great list! Sex breaks drive me crazy, and I stopped reading a certain author because of #9. The one that drives me nuts the most is #2 because honestly, how hard is it to find out the correct hair color? *L*

  17. I totally agree with #9. That was one of the reasons I stopped reading her books (I’m assuming we are talking about the same person). I don’t mind the occasional sex scene but when every chapter has her dropping to her knees, or Nathanial dropping to his knees or Micah dropping to his knees…geez, I get it! I won’t even comment on her other series.

  18. I think you pretty much covered it, especially about the *cough*ardeur*cough*.

    My biggest beg peeve is actually a whiny or wishy washy character, the one who can’t seem to pick a decision and go through with it. Always coming back and forth.

    *scrolls up* Yeah, you pretty much cover it.

    Oh, one thing, characters are really more plot device but is force to be an ‘important person’. You can’t really see the point on why they’re there at all but the main character persists to drag this person along and deems him/her as an ‘important person’. *roll eyes*

  19. LOL. Great list! I was reading it LOLing, and a little bit cringing, worried something I’ve done would be on it. Love the sex excuses. Nothing like a pack of predators to get the ol’ engines going, huh?

  20. Anna – You are so right about series that go on to slow deaths instead of ending on a high notes. I can imagine its hard to turn down big offers for more books, but I have so much respect for the authors who know how to say enough.

    Alexia – #2 is probably the one I let slide the most because authors don’t always get a say, and sometimes it doesn’t matter (Harry Dresden’s hat, for example).

    Kay – Gee, I hope no one cracks our code and figures out what series we’re talking about:) I still get upset with that series because the early books were soooo good. I hate that I have to recommend them now with a warning to stop after a certain title. Seriously bums me out.

    SJBell – Somehow I doubt LKH cares at this point.

    Julia – Another good add. The ‘escort characters.’ I can think of a few.

    Carolyn – Not even close. I’m a huge MIND GAMES fan and can’t wait for DOUBLE CROSS. I think I can officially stamp them UF pet peeve free :)

    KayAnna – Don’t steel it though. I’m think of pitching it to a publisher….NOT :)

  21. I agree with all of these. I especially find 7 and 9.

    As for # 4 & 5, I’ve always been annoyed with a combination of the whiny, wimpy heroines in paranormals. Those that go on and on of how they can’t do this and that, then in the last 50 pages or so turn into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. *cough* Dark Prince *cough*

    Another big pet peeve of mind is when a writer keeps repeating a particular point. After a dozen mentions, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it. Enough already.

    That cough must be contagious.

  22. Well said! Great article! I agree with them all, save the one about wimpy heroes. Like pengork said, A-Males often seem like the same exact person in every UF out there. A B-Male can be refreshing to the storyline and give us a little of the “rooting for the underdog” type thing.

    But yeah, wimpy no.

Comments are closed.