Last week I reviewed Kevin Hearne’s debut urban fantasy Hounded. The novel, featuring 2,100-year-old druid Atticus, is set in Tempe, Arizona. Mostly in downtown Tempe, which is a dense mashing of bars, indie shops and the best hamburgers ever. I say all this because I lived there for several years there. I attended Arizona State University when the journalism school still resided at its Tempe campus. So, Atticus’ world mirrored mine several years ago. I started reading and as Hearne described the location of his hero’s mystical shop, I went — wait — that’s right by the record store where I worked nearly 10 years ago.
So, I hit the super nice Hearne up on Twitter (@KevinHearne) and asked. The fictional shop is located where the real-life Ash Avenue Comics resides. So my first thought was — hey, that’s right next to one of my favorite Tempe hangouts! Another local bar is more Atticus’ style, but as I dug deeper into the story I felt connected and as though Atticus was some guy I should have run into during my college days. His cottage could have been across the street from a friend’s place. It almost made me a bit homesick. (The husband and I moved to Texas a few years back.) The novel is excellent even if you don’t feel at home while reading it, but the whole concept got me thinking.
Lots of paranormal novels are set in Arizona. The varied climates, the options to tie in with Native American mythology and the like have writers often setting tales in the Sonoran Desert. But even Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series, which makes some great jokes about how non-Arizonans think there aren’t seasons in the desert, didn’t push that sense of nostalgia with me. I’m sure if I thought long enough I could come up with a litany of reasons for the difference, but I think a big part is Hounded makes Tempe a finite character in the novel, as the best urban fantasy tales do.
So, here’s my question: Does having a connection to the city featured in an urban fantasy make you feel more connected? If you’re from Cincinnati, do you wish you could visit The Hollows from Kim Harrison’s series of the same name? And does this familiarity with the city matter any less with titles outside the urban fantasy genre?
Readers, tell me you thoughts. Is there are novel you felt so connected to because of it’s setting? Did you visit a city just because an author made it so vibrant in his or her novel?