Urban Fantasy is a genre massively growing in popularity. These books blend fantasy and reality with supernatural elements that consistently captivate a wide range of readers. As the name suggests the best urban fantasy books are set in cities. What a shocker! This makes them extra gritty, dark, and full of seething human emotion. Here are the six best urban fantasy books that will have you looking down dark alleys of your own town and wondering, what if…
Nightlife by Rob Thurman – urban fantasy at its best
Nightlife is the first book in the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. It is a tale about two estranged half-brothers who are forced to unite to protect themselves from assassination attempts by supernatural foes. The book offers a fascinating cast of characters and an addictive storyline that explores the bond between siblings in troubled times. Rob Thurman also artfully employs subtle metaphors that explore themes of racial and social inequality using supernatural beings as a metaphor. Likely the best urban fantasy series you’ll ever read. Click here to start reading.
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Sandman Slim is an urban fantasy novel set in Los Angeles. It follows a magician who has escaped from hell and is seeking revenge. The book is a fast-paced thriller that is both funny and thought-provoking. It features gritty and gruesome supernatural fights and can be stomach-cringing in certain parts, especially when Kadrey dives deep into the violence and corrupt venality that exists in L.A. One for lovers of the Dresden Files who are searching for something similar. Find the first book in the Sandman Slim series here.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade City by Fonda Lee features magical jade and the unique bonds of family within the intricate world of No Peak Clan. The city is based on Hong Kong, so is amazing for those wanting to explore different cultures while having a blast. Lee’s stunning storytelling takes readers on an exhilarating journey right from the first few pages of this urban fantasy. The diverse characters, snappy dialogue, and enthralling plot make it almost impossible to put the book down. This one is amazing on Audible, so get listening.
Dead Witch Walking – Book 1 of The Hollows by Kim Harrison
This urban fantasy series explores a world where humans and supernatural creatures exist side-by-side. The story features Rachel Morgan, a witch and also a detective, who leaves the I.S. (the police force) to set up her private detective agency in the Hollows. The story explores unique and intriguing elements within the world, including the political conflict between the magical and non-magical among Rachel and the various supernatural creatures she interacts with. Start reading The Hollows here.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Fun fact: Ben Aaronovitch wrote for Dr Who on TV. That experience has paid dividends as he’s crossed into writing incredible urban fantasy too. In Rivers of London, we join Detective Peter Grant on his adventures as he navigates the spellbinding city to solve paranormal crimes and protect the unsuspecting populace. Like Harry Potter for adults, this one even has some steamy scenes throughout the books. Ooh la la. Start the Rivers of London Series here.
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – Urban Fantasy meets Crime Noir
The Dresden Files is like your favorite noir crime fiction with magic thrown in. Yes! Harry Dresden lives in Chicago, and his job is to solve supernatural problems with unpredictably explosive magic. The narrative style is witty and contemporary. Butcher quickly builds a diverse, likable cast of characters that readers will enjoy. The first couple of books are a bit ‘male gazey’, especially with the description of female characters. If you can get past that, you’ll see the incredible humanity Butcher has built into his hero.
I recommend starting the Dresden Files with the Stormfront Audiobook. The narrator capture’s Dresden’s voice perfectly.
The urban fantasy genre has something to offer any reader that is looking for more than just everyday fiction. It offers a world that blends the real and the supernatural in some of the grittiest, most mysterious, and magical cities on our planet. I hope this blog has highlighted the six best urban fantasy books that you’ll fall. Happy reading.