Are you new to the urban fantasy genre? Unlike epic fantasy, where the worlds are completely unlike our own, urban fantasy books take place in settings that feel more familiar. Perhaps everything in the book is mundane – expect vampires, dragons, or gods walk the earth alongside humanity. Or maybe the book is set in a real city, like London or New York, but the main character discovers a magical world just lurking beneath the surface.
Urban fantasy can include everything from detective mysteries to paranormal romances, from tumbling down the rabbit hole into a hidden world to endless battles between lifelong foes. Urban fantasy novels are often intricately plotted, fast-paced, and give the reader a strong of place. Thanks to the variety of books in this genre, there’s an urban fantasy book for just about every reader. Here are a few to get you started!
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
In this cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alice in Wonderland, 17-year-old Alice Kingston struggles to balance her normal teenage life in Atlanta and her calling to battle the Nightmares slipping into the mundane world from Wonderland. This read is action-packed with a touch of romance.
Book of Night by Holly Black
Low-level con artist and bartender Charlie Hall has never been good at keeping out of trouble. Despite her best efforts to stay away from the world of sentient shadows and costly magic, Charlie finds herself stuck fighting against billionaires, doppelgängers, and shadow thieves in a desperate attempt just to stay alive.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
In the world of this book, every city has a soul—but New York City has six. When the primary avatar of New York City disappears, five new avatars awaken in each of the boroughs and are tasked with defending the city from an otherworldly being known as The Enemy.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia
Set in Mexico during the Jazz Age, Casiopea Tun’s world is turned upside down when she opens a curious wooden box and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death. Pulled by the allure of the death god, Casiopea travels between the Yucatán jungles and Mexico City on an odyssey into the Mayan underworld.
Highfire by Eoin Colfer
Unexpected misadventures ensue when Vern, a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon hiding out in the Louisianan bayou, crosses paths with 15-year-old Everett “Squib” Moreau. Against all odds, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. In exchange for fetching vodka and keeping him company, Vern agrees to protect Squib from Regence Hooke, a dirty cop obsessed with Squib’s mother.
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. 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. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she is way out of her league– but she wouldn’t want it any other way. Features shapeshifters, vampires, and gods.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
After rescuing a young girl named Door, Richard Mayhew is introduced to the kingdom beneath London. This strange London underworld is filled with monsters, saints, angels, and murderers, as well as everyone who has ever fallen through the cracks of the mundane world. The longer Richard stays and helps Door, the more he wonders if he will ever be able to go back home.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
After surviving a horrific, multiple homicide, Galaxy “Alex” Stern is offered a second chance: a full ride to Yale University. In exchange, her mysterious benefactor tasks her with keeping an eye on Yale’s secret societies. The occult activities performed by these societies, however, turn out to be more extraordinary and sinister than Alex could have ever imagined.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Probationary Constable Peter Grant has always dreamed of being a detective with the London Metropolitan Police. When he starts working with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, lead investigator for uncanny crimes, Peter is thrown into a world of magic, gods, and long-dead evils wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting London.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is a private investigator. He is also the Chicago Police Department’s go-to consultant for paranormal crimes. In the first book of the Dresden Files series, someone is using magic to commit murder, and it’s up to Harry to stop it.
Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen
Louise Chao is lonely. She is also a vampire. Having sworn off family ages ago, Louise is taken by surprise when a long-lost teenage relative, Ian, shows up at her door and she feels a connection for the first time in years. While bonding over music and failing to hide her true identity from Ian, things take a dangerous turn—especially after Ian asks Louise for a favor that could change just about everything vampires know about life and death.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Ten years after a college thesis experiment went horribly wrong, super-powered Victor Vale breaks out of prison in order to track down his former roommate–and current foe–Eli Cardale, in an attempt to stop Eli from killing all the super-powered people in the world.
If you like…
If you like mysteries and detective stories: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch or Storm Front by Jim Butcher
If you like a little romance: A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia, or Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
If you like dark academia: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo or Vicious by V.E. Schwab
If you like secret worlds found in mundane places: A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, or Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
If you like books with strong women protagonists: A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney, Book of Night by Holly Black, or Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
If you like lyrical writing and well-crafted dialog: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin or Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia
If you like humorous writing and banter between characters: Highfire by Eoin Colfer or Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
If you like compelling reads with intricate plots: Book of Night by Holly Black, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, Highfire by Eoin Colfer, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen, or Vicious by V.E. Schwab