Core Best Fantasy Lists
Best Sellers
Best Yearly Lists
Best Decade Lists
Best Thematic Lists
Best Subgenre Lists
Award Winners
Games Guides
Film Guides

Urban Fantasy Books

Urban Fantasy is, for the most part, defined by setting. Stories belonging to the Urban Fantasy sub-genre take place in an urban environment, usually contemporary times, and on Earth (rather than some fantastical land). These stories also contain supernatural elements and creatures. Urban Fantasy is more of a hybrid of other genres than its own hard definition. Urban Fantasy tends to have a gritty atmosphere similar to crime fiction or noir, but mixes elements of mystery, romance, horror, and fantasy. As a result of its hybridity, authors have plenty of room to experiment and have fun. As a sub-genre, Urban Fantasy is highly popular, but still relatively new—having taken root in the 1990s.

Urban Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic

    Variable. Magic may or may not be a part of an Urban Fantasy story. In fact, if magic is present, because it exists in an urban setting right here on Earth it contrasts starkly with the magic of wizards more classic Fantasy stories. Magic may be a known phenomenon in the world, or a new one, or a secret desperately hidden.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

    Variable. Urban Fantasy is often pegged as an escapist sub-genre and has a tendency to lack depth. However, due to its versatility, Urban Fantasy can sometimes offer insightful commentary on our social structures.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. There are no typical characters in Urban Fantasy and the story may or may not be character driven.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. Because of the flexibility of the Urban Fantasy sub-genre, plot structure is completely open.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Urban settings often invite violent acts, but that is not necessitated by the sub-genre. Authors are free to decide how much violence to include in their stories.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

  • Young Adult Fantasy. Urban Fantasy has a strong presence in the Young Adult genre, likely because of its versatility.

  • Practically any sub-genre. Urban Fantasy is an incredibly open sub-genre and by its nature uses elements from other genres.

Popular Urban Fantasy Books Books
  • 1 A Logical Magician

    By Robert Weinberg. A math wizard meets a real wizard—Merlin--to battle an evil computer hacker and ancient demons in Chicago.

  • 2 The Atrocity Archives

    By Charles Stross. Part Spy novel, part Horror story, part supernatural thriller—this novel also manages to satirize bureaucracy in a humorous way.

  • 3 Finder

    By Emma Bull. The first novel in the Borderlands series, this is a Young Adult story about a community of humans, elves, and halflings. Where there is magic, death, drugs, and secrets.

  • 4 Sanctum

    By Sarah Fine. The first in the Guards of the Shadowlands series, this novel is dark and follows a young girl who ends up in hell to save the soul of her best friend.

  • 5 Dresden Files

    By Jim Butcher. A crime version of the Urban Fantasy sub-genre. Harry Dresden is a wizard and a private investigator

  • 6 Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter

    By Laurell K. Hamilton. The first breakout writer of Urban Fantasy, Hamilton's series are vastly popular and are more supernatural than magical.

  • 7 Sookie Stackhouse Series

    By Charlaine Harris. Vampire Fiction often falls into the Urban Fantasy sub-genre, and this series is a great example of how popular it has become.

  • 8 Moonheart

    By Charles de Lint. There are Canadian Mounties, folk musicians, bikers, and then there are mists, forests, magic, and mythical beings that come together. Ancient Wales and modern Ottawa.

  • 9 Neverwhere

    By Neil Gaiman. Beginning as a television series, these stories were later adapted into novel form. An ordinary man accidentally, through a helpful act, discovers London Below—a parallel world where medieval monks live alongside Roman legionaries.

  • 10 The Magicians

    By Lev Grossman. A prequel novel about a high school senior who is admitted to a school for gifted children, for a magical education in upstate New York. A typical quest story that turns dark. Things are not black and white in this world and the characters are psychologically rich.