I’m an Urban Fantasy nut. This wasn’t always the case, but in the last 3 – 5 years, I’ve probably read every major Urban Fantasy series I could get my hands on. I might be a little obsessed, but that’s fine with me.
What is Urban Fantasy?
Urban Fantasy is a story set in our world but with fantastical elements and rules that make it unique. This means that in an Urban Fantasy story your setting can be New York City but if magic was real, vampires existed, or Fae roamed the street. The key with Urban Fantasy is that the world has to be recognizable as our world, even if the society is dystopian or broken beyond belief—Atlanta should still be Atlanta and Los Angeles should still be Los Angeles. Basically, take your favorite setting in our world and then make up your own rules and you have Urban Fantasy.
Beyond a world that resembles ours, Urban Fantasy is also typically told from the first-person point of view (POV). This isn’t always the case, but nine times out of ten, you’ll enjoy the story from just the POV of the main character. Typically, that main character will also be a women. Now, this has a lot of caveats. Jim Butcher is one of the original authors in the Urban Fantasy genre and his main character, Harry Dresden, is most definitely male. So, while the majority of Urban Fantasy series will have a female lead, you can find strong male leads as well.
The idea of a “series” is also fairly vital to Urban Fantasy. Rarely will you find standalone Urban Fantasy books. Instead, because the world has a fantasy element, a lot of world building and setup is required. This works best in a series format, so just like with traditional fantasy, you’ll find a lot of multi-book series in Urban Fantasy.
As a part of the series concept, Urban Fantasy also mesh quite often with detective or police procedural stories. Many times the protagonist will need to solve a mystery or defeat a bad guy. Unlike traditional fantasy, while there may be one series arc that informs the entire story line, each book will be complete in and of itself and will focus on the same groups of characters facing a new enemy or solving a new puzzle.
Finally, Urban Fantasy typically has a few other elements that tie it all together. Vampires and werewolves love to populate the Urban Fantasy world. In fact, if you read about either creature, you’re reading Urban Fantasy by definition. Witches and wizards are also no stranger to Urban Fantasy along with Fae or Faery, demons, angels, and more. Rarely in Urban Fantasy are you introduced to new or unknown creatures, instead you get new looks at common folklore.
There are a lot of great Urban Fantasy series and authors, some of my favorites are listed below.
- Anything Ilona Andrews. The Kate Daniels series is by far my favorite!
- The Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. This series walks the edge of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, but it has to be included as one of the best.
- The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire is another amazing addition and one of my current favorites.
- The Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones is hysterical and awesome all at once and a must-read.
- Jeanine Frost has two great series set in the same world: Night Huntress and Night Prince. Both series are excellent additions to the genre and fun reads.
- The Fever series is one of those series with a serious cult-following. The first five books are exceptional, while the newest two have a very different feel.
There are many more series that I could mention, but if you’re new to the genre, the recommendations above are a great place to get started.