Categories
List Urban

25 Best Urban Fantasy Books

 

From Shadowrun, a cyberpunk fantasy RPG game.

Here, “urban fantasy” means “supernatural events in a contemporary city,” and ranges from noir wizards, infernal assassins, fairy wars, and a veritable parade of kick-ass young heroines. The tone can swing from seriously violent and dark, to more teen-friendly paranormal romance.

If you find a book you like, you’re in luck: chances are it’s a part of a lengthy series.

 

25
War for the Oaks
by Emma Bull – 1987

Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point.

By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one. It’s about real love and loyalty, about real music and musicians, about false glamour and true art.

“…appealing and unusual blend of the world of rock and roll performers with the coexistent world of Faerie.”
—Publishers Weekly

24
Spider’s Bite
by Jennifer Estep – 2010
Book 1 of 18 in the Elemental Assassin series

After Gin’s family was murdered by a Fire elemental when she was thirteen, she lived on the streets and eventually became an assassin to survive. Now Gin is assigned to rub out an Ashland businessman, but it turns out to be a trap. After Gin’s handler is brutally murdered, she teams up with the sexy detective investigating the case to figure out who double-crossed her and why. Only one thing is for sure—Gin has no qualms about killing her way to the top of the conspiracy.

“Bodies litter the pages of this first entry in Estep’s engrossing Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series… Urban fantasy fans will love it.”
—Publishers Weekly

23
The Cruel Prince
by Holly Black – 2018
Book 1 of 3 in The Folk of the Air series

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

“Black is a master at world-building, conveying integral details without that information ever seeming tedious or encyclopedic, whether you’re well versed in faerie or a newcomer to the genre….the experience of reading a novel like this is something like being surrounded by magic.”
―The New York Times Book Review

22
Wicked Lovely
by Melissa Marr – 2007
Book 1 of 5 in the Wicked Lovely series

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

But it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom, her best friend Seth, her life.

“Marr offers readers a fully imagined faery world that runs alongside an everyday world, which even non-fantasy (or faerie) lovers will want to delve into.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

21
Skinwalker
by Faith Hunter – 2009
Book 1 of 13 in the Jane Yellowrock series

Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind; a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own…

“Hunter’s very professionally executed, tasty blend of dark fantasy, mystery, and romance should please fans of all three genres.”
—Booklist

20
Half-Resurrection Blues
by Daniel José Older – 2015
Book 1 of 3 in the Bone Street Rumba series

Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents: an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.

One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks (not a spelling mistake) capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld, which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.

But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…

“Older has created Noir for the Now: equal parts bracing, poignant, compassionate, and eerie. A swinging blues indeed.”
—Nalo Hopkinson, Nebula Award-winning author of Sister Mine

19
Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews – 2007
Book 1 of 10 in the Kate Daniels series

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league. But she wouldn’t have it any other way…

“Urban fantasy absolutely does not get much better than this.”
—SF Signal

18
Hounded
by Kevin Hearne – 2011
Book 1 of 9 in the Iron Druid Chronicles

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

“Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban fantasy debut.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

17
Libriomancer
by Jim C. Hines – 2012
Book 1 of 4 in the Magic Ex Libris series

Isaac is a libriomancer, a member of a secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg to protect the world from supernatural threats. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects.

When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of his fire-spider, Smudge, and Len­­a—a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of wooden swords—Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike.

“Hines supplies everything a reader needs—werewolves, ghosts, robot insects, a fire spider that eats candy, and homages to classic SF—for a very good time.”
—Publishers Weekly

16
London Falling
by Paul Cornell – 2012
Book 1 of 3 in the Shadow Police series

Police officers Quill, Costain, Sefton, and Ross know the worst of London―or they think they do. While investigating a mobster’s mysterious death, they come into contact with a strange artifact and accidentally develop the Sight. Suddenly they can see the true evil haunting London’s streets.

Armed with police instincts and procedures, the four officers take on the otherworldly creatures secretly prowling London. Football lore and the tragic history of a Tudor queen become entwined in their pursuit of an age-old witch with a penchant for child sacrifice. But when London’s monsters become aware of their meddling, the officers must decide what they are willing to sacrifice to clean up their city.

15
Sandman Slim
by Richard Kadrey – 2009
Book 1 of 11 in the Sandman Slim series

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

“The most hard-boiled piece of supernatural fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. … all confident and energetic and fresh and angry. I loved this book and all its screwed-up people.”
—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother

14
Midnight Riot
by Ben Aaronovitch – 2011
Book 1 of 8 in the Rivers of London series

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals, and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

“The perfect blend of CSI and Harry Potter.”
—io9

13
Dead Until Dark
by Charlaine Harris – 2001
Book 1 of 14 in the Sookie Stackhouse series

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Bon Temps, Louisiana. She’s quiet, doesn’t get out much, and tends to mind her own business—except when it comes to her “disability.” Sookie can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. Then along comes Bill Compton. He’s tall, dark, handsome—and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life…

But Bill has a disability of his own: he’s a vampire with a bad reputation. And when a string of murders hits Bon Temps—along with a gang of truly nasty bloodsuckers looking for Bill—Sookie starts to wonder if having a vampire for a boyfriend is such a bright idea.

“Vivid, subtle, and funny in her portrayal of southern life.”
—Entertainment Weekly

12
Sanctum
by Sarah Fine – 2012
Book 1 of 3 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance; Hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone. She’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, which are enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t; the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

“[T]op-notch world-building, page-turning action, and slow-developing romance.”
—School Library Journal

11
Moonheart
by Charles de Lint – 1984
Book 1 of 5 in the Moonheart series

When Sara and Jamie discovered the seemingly ordinary artifacts, they sensed the pull of a dim and distant place. A world of mists and forests, of ancient magics, mythical beings, ageless bards…and restless evil.

Now, with their friends and enemies alike–Blue, the biker; Keiran, the folk musician; the Inspector from the RCMP; and the mysterious Tom Hengyr–Sara and Jamie are drawn into this enchanted land through the portals of Tamson House, that sprawling downtown edifice that straddles two worlds.

“He shows that, far from being mere escapism, contemporary fantasy can be the deep mythic literature of our time.”
―Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

10
The Atrocity Archives
by Charles Stross – 2004
Book 1 of 10 in the Laundry Files series

Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. His world was dull and safe, but then he went and got Noticed.

Now, Bob is up to his neck in spycraft, parallel universes, dimension-hopping terrorists, monstrous elder gods, and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than a full system reboot to sort this mess out…

“[T]he world [Stross] creates is wonderful fun.”
—Publishers Weekly

9
Lake Silence
by Anne Bishop – 2018
Book 1 of 2 in the World of the Others series

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shape-shifters, and even deadlier paranormal beings. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget….

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns such as Vicki’s don’t have any distance from the Others, the dominant predators who rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what is out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe—one of the shape-shifting Others—discovers a murdered man, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, ancient forces are roused by the disturbance in their domain. They have rules that must not be broken–and all the destructive powers of nature at their command.

8
Storm Front
by Jim Butcher – 2000
Book 1 of 16 in the Dresden Files series

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put it mildly—stinks.

So when the Chicago P.D. brings him in to consult on a double homicide committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name…

“Superlative.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

7
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman – 2001
Book 1 of 2 in the American Gods series

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined; it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

This is a fun book, but the plot does get a little aimless in places.

6
Guilty Pleasures
by Laurell K. Hamilton – 1993
Book 1 of 26 in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series

Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: re-animating the dead and killing the undead who take things too far. But when the city’s most powerful vampire asks her to solve a series of vicious slayings, Anita must confront her greatest fear; her undeniable attraction to master vampire Jean-Claude, one of the creatures she is sworn to destroy.

“Her descriptive prose is gritty and raw, with a mosaic of humor and horror to tell this complex, well-detailed story.”
—Library Journal

5
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman – 2009
Book 1 of 3 in The Magicians series

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined…

“This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels in order to upend them . . . an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story.”
—The New Yorker

4
Moon Called
by Patricia Briggs – 2006
Book 1 of 12 in the Mercy Thompson series

Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, and while she was raised by werewolves, she can never be one of them, especially after the pack ran her off for having a forbidden love affair. So she’s turned her talent for fixing cars into a business and now runs a one-woman mechanic shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State.

But Mercy’s two worlds are colliding. A half-starved teenage boy arrives at her shop looking for work, only to reveal that he’s a newly changed werewolf—on the run and desperately trying to control his animal instincts. Mercy asks her neighbor Adam Hauptman, the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, for assistance.

But Mercy’s act of kindness has unexpected consequences that leave her no choice but to seek help from those she once considered family—the werewolves who abandoned her…

“In the increasingly crowded field of kick-ass supernatural heroines, Mercy stands out as one of the best.”
—Locus

3
The City and the City
by China Miéville – 2009

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma—and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

“Miéville offers an outstanding take on police procedurals…[and] skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

2
City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare – 2007
Book 1 of 6 in The Mortal Instruments series

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three people covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. And she’s more than a little startled when the body disappears into thin air. Soon Clary is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own. And Clary is introduced with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque monster. How could a mere human survive such an attack and kill a demon? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

“[C]ompelling…”
—Publishers Weekly

1
Let the Right One In
by John Ajvide Lindqvist – 2004

It is autumn 1981 in Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night…

“It’s easy to compare Lindqvist to Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman.”
―Dagens Næringsliv (Norway)

Join Fantasy Book World and get the best newsletter in the known multiverse.

No spam. We hate that stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *