Urban Fantasy is one of my favourite genres. There are few things I enjoy more than examining how an author integrates the Fantastical and the Mundane to create fascinating new worlds. Some of the following are series’ because depth and complexity is often better expressed over multiple books. Unsurprisingly there was an overlap between my Favourite Book Series’ and my favourite Urban Fantasy so check that post out if it feels like I’ve missed something. I’ve mentioned by love for American Gods already so it will also not be on the list even though it belongs there.
- Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The Rivers of London series follows Police Constable Peter Grant as he discovers, and joins, the supernatural side of London. While investigating a case Peter meets a ghost, and thus comes in contact with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale who is the head of the Met branch that deals with supernatural crime. He is also the last officially sanction English Wizard. That is until he takes Peter on as his apprentice. Like all good urban fantasy authors, Aaronovitch excels at blending the mundane and the supernatural. Extensive knowledge of jazz, history, mythology, and of course London itself make the world of Rivers of London feel grounded in reality to the point that it is very easy to believe that the world of Peter Grant is in fact our world, there are just pieces of it we can’t see.
- Neverwhere/Good Omens/Ocean at the end of the Lane/Stardust/The Graveyard Book (basically any novel) by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is one of the masters of urban fantasy, and I don’t know if I have the skill to effectively express why. He has an incredible ability to create characters that are so relatable (both on the urban and fantasy sides of the equation), and the worlds that he creates for his stories are always so richly textured with small details as well as broad strokes that imply a much greater world than the one shown in the pages. While I love Gaiman’s short stories, it is his novels that will forever hold by heart. If you want to hear some more about my love for Neil Gaiman’s work, check out my post on American Gods (which is probably my favourite of his books).
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. While this story is delightful and lovingly detailed, my favourite thing about it is the photographs. The story is interspersed with real photographs collected by the author, that are used as a framework for the story. The story follows Jacob who discovers the photos after his grandfather’s unusual death. They allow him to track down the orphanage his grandfather lived in as a child, and in it he discovers Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children. These children all have abilities of some sort, and Miss Peregrine and the orphanage protect the children from hollowghasts and wights, terrible creatures who wish to kill peculiar children and feed on their powers. The pictures add a richness to the story, as the reader gets to see some of the details in the story rather than just having them described.
- I am not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. It’s a title that jumps out at you, and instantly makes you want to read the book to find out why the protagonist feels the need to assert that he is not a serial killer. It’s inclusion on this list is probably a bit of a spoiler for the book, so I’m going to ignore the urban fantasy element and talk about everything else instead. The thing that makes this book stand out the most is the protagonist; John Cleaver. A medically diagnosed sociopath who lives, and sometimes works, with his mortician mother, and lives by a careful set of rules in an attempt to stave off his serial killer tendencies. John is undeniably creepy (occasionally bordering on scary), but he is somehow also a relatable and sympathetic character.
- Libriomancer by Jim C Hines. I initially bought this book because it was on the bargain table at QBD, the concept was interesting, and I wanted something mindless to read as time out stressful university studies. I ended up just about devouring it. Libriomancers can reach into a book and pull any object described within out of the book (as long as it able to physically fit through the book). This is an urban fantasy for book nerds. The main character, Isaac, belongs to Die Zwelf Portenære, a secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg to protect the world from supernatural threats. After a few incidents where he let his powers get away from him, Isaac has been benched, but gets dragged back into the action when he is attacked by vampires. Someone is trying to start a war between the vampires and Die Zwelf Portenære and it is up to Isaac to find out who with the help of a badass Dryad named Lena, and a neurotic fire spider named Smudge. This book is funny, and weird, with a sprinkling of creepy, and a whole bunch of metafiction for flavour.
Books that would have been on this list (if they weren’t on other lists first) include the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and the Nightside series by Simon R. Green which are both on my Five Fave: Book Series’ at the Moment list.
Honourable mentions: Shifters series by Rachel Vincent (Werecats, psychos, and supernatural politics), Sisters Red by Jackson Pierce (an excellent adaptation/retelling of Red Riding Hood), Basically anything by Rachel Caine (Especially Morganville, Revivalist, Outcast Season).