You’ll never be able to put these down!
The urban fantasy genre seems to be exploding in popularity lately, both in the adult and young adult categories.
Sometimes it’s tricky to tell this genre apart from other fantasy sub-categories because books often cross over to include elements from paranormal, and low fantasy.
Generally, though, the term urban fantasy refers to books set in modern, urban locations, and in modern times; making this genre synonymous with contemporary fantasy. You’ll find secret, supernatural worlds hidden in plain sight, pop culture references, and inter-reference from human institutions, among other popular components that make up these literary worlds.
Authors are getting really creative with this category lately, often mixing genres to incorporate multiple elements to make for complex and creative stories.
This list includes books across the entire spectrum. Some are strictly contemporary, urban fantasy. Others break the invisible writing barrier and incorporate elements like paranormal romance, horror, high fantasy, and even historical fantasy.
This is the first book in the completed trilogy of The Culling Trials. This book has a really quick introduction before completely drawing readers in.
There is an almost seamless transition from one book in the series to the next, making it almost addicting to read them.
It’s been described among fans as Harry Potter meets Hunger Games, complete with a strong female lead.
It’s a fast-paced, young adult series about a girl named Wild, who discovers she comes from a magical family. The threat to her life, and the life of her siblings will take you on a magical journey and leave you wanting more.
These books are dark, funny, a little emotional, and provoke an inspiring sense of loyalty.
This series quickly rose in the ranks of Amazon, before exploding in popularity. Book #1 hit #3 in the Kindle store, book 2 hit #2 in the Kindle store, and book #3 hit #1. Luckily for fans, there’s a rumor that book #3 might not be the end!
One of the most exciting aspects of this series is the unpredictable nature of Dannika Dark’s writing.
This series also features a strong female lead. Only, instead of being on a journey of self-discovery, she very clearly knows who she is, and what she is capable of. She doesn’t trust easily, and the biggest obstacle she has to overcome is her confidence in herself.
The Crossbreed Series is a really unique twist on Urban Fantasy, with a slow-burn romance throughout all of the books.
The host of Danika Dark’s well-developed characters work together to solve problems and fight paranormal crime.
Although first published in 2009, Neverwhere has really only recently seemed to gain momentum in the online book community.
This novel is set in London, England, where the male lead suddenly finds himself in a magical world. The magical realism and world-building of this book set it apart from other books in this genre, and the lead must work to find his way out of the magical realm in order to get back to is “normal” life.
There are much fewer men written in as leads in this genre, and Neil Gaiman doesn’t disappoint with this book.
Related: Best Neil Gaiman Books
This book is classified as “upper young adult”, as it follows a teen protagonist. However, it definitely has scenes and some explicit language meant for an adult audience.
The female lead in this story is spunky and fun to follow but can come off a bit more like a damsel than a strong heroine.
This book also has a very heavy hand in sci-fi, so for readers looking for something that walks the line between genres, this could be a good choice.
Donna Augustine has a knack for writing laugh out loud scenes in her books, and the Karma series is no exception!
This series takes the genre in a new unexpected direction: the afterlife. There’s a host of unexpected characters, like Santa Clause and Cupid.
The writing style in this series won’t be for everyone, but it’s such a fun and unexpected read, that it’s worth, at the very least, downloading the sample to see if you’d like to read more.
Although this is one of the lesser known authors on this Urban Fantasy list, his debut novel is gripping from the beginning.
It has a really dark overtone from the first moment you begin the book and has glimpses of the horror genre sprinkled throughout. The heroine is shrouded in mystery, and as you read, you get a really good sense of what has made her such a strong person.
Character development in this book is thorough, and you’ll find yourself connecting almost instantly to those in the book with a high sense of morals and compassion, hoping to see them through a world of darkness.
This Urban Fantasy series walks a fine line between YA and Adult fantasy. This is an action-packed, coming of age story that will grip your emotions and take them on a ride.
There’s a heavy paranormal romance theme to this book, as the heroine finds herself engrossed in the vampire and werewolf community.
Blood Warrior is filled with suspense, some teenage angst, and romance, that will leave you wanting more.
A crossover between paranormal and the typical urban fantasy genres, this series follows a heroine that is relatable, in the sense that she starts off her journey from nothing. She progresses from a somewhat physically weak character, into someone who is ready to take on the world.
There is clever, unanticipated interaction between her characters, as they progress in this world together. While the theme can feel serious at times, there is also some light humor that breaks the sequence up and makes for a very pleasant read.
This first book in the Paranormal PI Files series dives straight into a magical London setting, unlike any other.
This is one of the only books on this list that features a Fae as the strong female lead. There’s a really unique magical system in these series, which has forced Jenna to re-structure pre-conceived ideas of the magical world.
The love interest in this series has an extremely alpha personality, clashing with the female lead’s strong will.
Will the heroine cave and trust him, or decide to avoid him and the world he represents?
You’ll have to read it and find out!
This series is one of the most binge-able UF series out there. Seanan McGuire has written 9 books in this series alone! This author has built a really creative and complex world. Her characters are smart, witty, and at times, laugh out loud funny.
The main character in this story is bold and brave. What set’s this lead apart from those in many other books, however, is that she wasn’t broken in the past. She is strong-willed, and deadly by choice, not because she was forced to be that way.
It’s a really refreshing view to see a resilient woman written a strong from the beginning.
Nate temple is a snarky, albeit dark wizard with a big ego and a really dark sense of humor. His personality has been really well developed, though sometimes he’s akin to a frat boy.
When a series opens with the magical version of cow tipping, you know you’re in for a fun read! As an added bonus, the hero in this story owns a bookstore and has a werewolf for a sidekick.
The well-developed characters, roller-coaster plot, and seat-gripping action will have you flipping pages until the very end.
Aislinn Foy, a Sighted teenager, has spent most of her life ignoring the cruel power of the stunning Faeries secretly living among the human world. Until now.
Keenan, the Faerie summer king, stumbles upon her and wonders If she might be “the one”.
There’s a bit of teenage hormone going on in this book, but overall the clash of 18th-century faeries with these modern times makes for a unique read.
Ilona Andrews has become one of the more prolific urban fantasy writers in the last few years. It would be easy to name almost any of her books for this list, but Magic Bites is where it all began.
In this magic-meets-dystopian series, Kate Daniels is a magical mercenary who must take a stance between two powerful factions.
With technology and magic not behaving as it should, comedy and outright rule-breaking ensue in this urban fantasy mystery.
This is a neat twist on the popular angels vs. demons archetype. Almost like Cassandra Claires, Mortal Instruments series, but geared toward an adult audience.
Archangel Raphael hires a vampire hunter to hunt and take down a rogue Archangel. This heroine is 27, and fully knows her own strengths, only she doesn’t know if she can stay away from the deadly Archangel who has hired her.
This narrative of these characters develops and evolves as the power dynamics shift between them.
This adult urban fantasy/paranormal series begins with a blood prophet on the run from those who have used her abilities to their advantage for most of her life. She meets an unexpected shifter companion, who needs to decide if she is worth protecting.
Although this book is classified as UF, there are mostly fantasy and paranormal elements in this series, with an interesting take on the human world.
Although the heroine in this story isn’t presented as strong, it was written so well that her flaws are actually part of her strength.
This co-written book gets really imaginative, taking the typical vampire hunter theme to a level of its own.
Dual heroines with completely different backgrounds work together to solve the murders that are piling up in New York City.
Mayer & Swank have developed such a great writing style that you barely notice the pages turning until you’ve hit the last one.
This book is intense and fast-paced, with twists you won’t see coming.
If you’ve ever been interested in the show True Blood, then you’re going to love these books!
As the inspiration for the show, these books follow a woman living a seemingly normal life, despite her telepathic abilities. She doesn’t think this ability is normal. In fact, she thinks she’s going crazy!
Vampires in this series are as commonly known as people, and Sookie’s quirky personality is a fun clash against their serious nature — especially her vampire boyfriend Bill.
Things start to heat up when vampires get the blame for a rash of murders, and Sookie and Bill set out to solve them.
This adult urban fantasy is packed to the brim with fantasy creatures.
The female lead, Rachel Morgan, is a bounty hunter. She quit her job to venture out on her own, but her former employer doesn’t take the news well and decides to put a bounty on her. Although this takes place in Cincinnati, Harrison does some wonderful world building to shape the story for her characters.
Dead Witch Walking has a great balance of mystery, humor, and action.
This is a really neat spin on the norms of the genre. Kat, the main character, is trying to adjust to this new world.
It’s a bit dystopian, in the sense that the characters are trying to figure out how to adjust now that their gods are gone. Kat is trying to find her humanity as she stumbles hilariously through the new life she’s been given.
There is some laugh-out-loud humor in this book that makes for a really enjoyable read.
This action-packed first in series book is set in New York City. Ursula, the heroine, is just trying to live a normal life.
But she’s missing her memories, and these missing pieces are quite literally about to come back and take hold of her life. There’s a really interesting element to these stories, as Ursula struggles with some moral dilemmas once she learned that she owes her soul to a demon.
This book is really well written, provides great character development and world-building, and a plot line that’s though to put down.
Although this book is toward the end of this list, it’s certainly worth picking up to read.
Made it to the bottom of this list and you’re still not sure what to read first?
This isn’t a single book. Rather, it is a collection of stories by 17 different authors. There’s a wide range of short stories in here, make it the perfect way to test the waters on this genre!
I love recommending sets like this, because it gives readers the chance to discover new authors, or move on to the next book if the one you started isn’t catching your interest as much as you’d hoped.