Recommended urban fantasy books

A definition of contemporary/urban fantasy might be that the story must contain magical elements within the real world but these magical elements must remain unknown to the majority of the world's population.

Recommended Reading

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in... For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable caree...

The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
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Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye—and an ex-con. He’s free because he has a magical talent, being able to alter the force of gravity in himself and objects in his vicinity, and the Bureau of Investigation calls on him when they need his help in apprehending criminals with their own magical talents. But the last operation he was sent along to help with went completely wrong, and Delilah Jones, the woman the G-men were after, who just happened to be an old friend of Jake’s in happier times, had a lot of magical muscle with her, too much muscle for the cops to handle, even with Jake’s help.

"This was a fast paced and highly entertaining novel. The time period adds a lot of charm and class to the book, and it is great to see just how much historical figures can further mould the world given a bunch of unique magical abilities. This book suffers from some poor cover art, but don't let that put you off because Hard Magic has some of the most fun and entertaining scenes I have read this year."

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
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"Without this child, we shall all die." Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequnces far beyond her own world...

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the great imaginative works in the English language. It creates a universe so atmospheric and tangible that I am convinced it exists, somewhere. It is a gripping epic, set in a wonderfully intruiging world (or rather worlds). It sets out on a soaring arc of imagination that sustains and pays off in a most masterful way - and yet all the way through it touches on human truths and insight. Oh! And it contains one of the best villains in literature.

"Wonderfully engrossing and so packed full of of explosive plot lines that you'll find it difficult to put down." Fantasy Book Review

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
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Elena Michaels is a model woman for the 21st century: self-assured, keenly intelligent, fighting fit. And like every modern woman, she has her secrets. Nothing extraordinary about that. Except that Elena really is extraordinary. In fact, she may well be the most extraordinary woman alive. She is, after all, the only female werewolf in the world... Ten years ago, against her will, Elena's lover turned her into a werewolf. Some days it feels like a gift. Most days it feels like a curse. A year ago, she decided to live as a human. Now she has to go back to New York State, her old home. Her pack is under seige by a new group of violent, psychotic werewolves that shows no respect for the old ways, and no respect for territory. Forced into helping her old friends, Elena soon slips back into the reassuring camaradarie of the pack, though she struggles against her dangerous, unpredictable desires. Hunting down her enemies, Elena prowls through territories usually barred to women. From dangerous back alleys to the dark, luscious forests of New York State, she must hunt and destroy the renegade pack before they destroy her.

"Filled with romance and supernatural intrigue, this book will remind readers of Anne Rice's sophisticated refurbishings of the vampire story' Publishers Weekly 'After the first nibble it's hard to stop ... Gory, sexy fun" SFX

"My love affair with urban fantasy started a long time ago, when I was an early teenager. I thought to myself that my literary sense had to grow up a bit and start reading things that didn’t have Harry Potter or the world of Narnia inside them. We all grow through this phase I guess, and we all eventually find those special first books that propel us from ‘young adult’ to just ‘adult’ novels that thrill, excite and satisfy us when we read them." Fantasy Book Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
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Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

"I have only praise for this series and for Days as well. It is written masterfully and filled with poetic lyricism that tricks you into believing you are reading a classic. The book is melancholy and the pain of the characters is etched into the pages that after you put the book down you find yourself hovering in dark corners, muttering to yourself about the cruelty of the world. But don’t let that put you off from reading what will become a classic in literature in the decades to come, for sure. I am eagerly awaiting book three. Mrs Taylor! Bring it on!" Fantasy Book Review

'Remarkable and beautifully written. The opening volume of a truly original trilogy.' The Guardian

The Magicians series by Lev Grossman
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In a secret world of forbidden knowledge, power comes at a terrible price... Quentin Coldwater's life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead - but a strange envelope bearing Quentin's name leads him down a very different path to any he'd ever imagined. The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it's a world that seems to answer all Quentin's desires. But the idyll cannot last - and when it's finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected...

"The Magicians is a book that will likely divide opinions leaving very few sitting on the fence. The majority will love it but there will be some that will detest it (ardent Potter and Narnia fans possibly). The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done. He has injected sexual tension and questionable morals into a school for wizards and the result is a rousing, perceptive and multifaceted coming of age story that is both bright and beguiling. The Magicians is a perfect fantasy book for older teens that will find that the author understands them, and their feelings, possibly better than they do themselves." Fantasy Book Review

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
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Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate - arguing the fate of the recently deceased - keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he's more than happy to spend the rest of his time propping up the bar with his fellow immortals. Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by 'the other side'. A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him.

"Tad Williams has made his urban fantasy come alive with characters who are well-rounded with reason and direction, resplendent with a rich history and back story."

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
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Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles. Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future. Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

"Sandman is dark, funny and well written. Kadrey isn’t afraid to slap the bad guys about in inventive and descriptive ways."

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
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Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can't save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she'll have to try.

"Blackbirds is rough, it’s coarse, its full of some quite confronting scenes and is definitely not the book for people who are looking for a light hearted romp through a magical fairy land. In fact, if you have any sort of morals in your body, this book will find a way to offend at least one of them. And I really like that. Blackbirds dares you to get down and dirty, dares you to like this miscreant from the wrong side of the tracks, and by the end you will either love her or you will hate her. Blackbirds is a unique experience, you should really give it a try."

Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman
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There are monsters among us. There always have been and there always will be. I've know that since I can remember, just like I've always known that I was one... Well, half of one anyway. Cal Leandros is 19. He eats junk food, he doesn't clean up after himself and fights with his half brother Niko. It's a fairly normal life, but for the fact that Cal and Niko are constantly on the run. Cal's father has been after him for the last four years. And given that he's a monster whose dark lineage is the stuff of nightmares they really don't want him and his entire otherworldly race catching up with them. But Cal is about to learn why they want him, why they've always wanted him - he is the key to unleashing their hell on earth. Meanwhile the bright lights of the Big Apple shine on, oblivious to the fact that the fate of the human world will be decided in the fight of Cal and Niko's lives...

"This story worked for me because Cal and his brother Niko go through hell. They are spared nothing and have almost everything against them while still fighting on. There is a perfect balance between the chapters plus rapid action, fast paced sword-gun fights, humour, emotion and romance. This is a story that grasps you and compels you to read on late into the night." Fantasy Book Review

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
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A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis's steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot. Tara's job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who's having an understandable crisis of faith. When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb's courts - and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb's slim hope of survival. Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

"Three Parts Dead offers a unique experience to traditional fantasy and urban fantasy enthusiasts alike. Gladstone has mixed elements from a variety of different genres to create expansive and complex world, and then allows the reader to explore a single part of this world in detail through a tightly bounded story. I haven't even touched on the gargoyles, the supernatural police force, the extra-dimensional libraries, or the court-room battle arenas. I want to read more Craft books. I need to know more about this world."

The Clown Service by Guy Adams
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The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green. The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy. The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism. The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him Operation Black Earth, a Soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.

"Once I started to read this I just couldn’t put it down and read it straight through to the end. August and Toby are well fleshed-out and a good match for one another, and the supporting cast, which includes August’s delightful battle-axe sister called April (apparently their parents had better things to be doing than thinking up names), keep the action flowing. I always find London a great setting for books, and this is no exception with its crumbling warehouses, seething crowds and a very British way of doing things. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to the next."

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
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So welcome to Midnight where nothing is what it seems and not knowing everything about your neighbours may end up getting you killed. I enjoy this kind of story, a mystery/crime/thriller/urban fantasy novel, there is something for everyone here and enough loose ends to keep you intrigued to find out what could happen next. If you have read anything by Charlaine Harris I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t read anything by Charlaine Harris, then Midnight Crossroad might be the book to get you started.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
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Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

"Occupy Me is very funny and highly unusual, not least of which is having a main character who isn’t just an angel, but a middle aged, black lesbian. It’s highly imaginative, difficult to categorise, and frequently bizarre. But what it has done is inspired me to go and read Sullivan’s other work because like Lauren Beukes, her stories certainly stand out out from the pack."

Bone Driven by Hailey Edwards
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The bayou is burning, the battle is just beginning - and Luce Boudreau is smack in the middle of no-man's land... Life as a cop in Canton Town, Mississippi, is never dull - particularly when hiding deep within you is a demon bent on the apocalypse. Luce is doing her best to pretend her two worlds aren't crashing into each other, but what should be a routine arson investigation takes a shocking turn when Luce discovers a link between the suspects and her own dark secrets. There's no turning back, even though her search for the truth threatens to burn her old life down around her. Lines are being drawn in a war Luce barely understands, and she just might be on the wrong side of them. Now she must embrace her powerful destiny, or the ones she loves most will pay the ultimate price.

"An inventive and multifaceted world with serious heart and one hell of an emotional kick, this is a series that needs to be on your reading list."

Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin
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When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson. In fact, Dr Johnson was only half right. There is in London much more than life - there is power. It ebbs and flows with the rhythms of the city, makes runes from the alignments of ancient streets and hums with the rattle of trains and buses; it waxes and wanes with the patterns of the business day. It is a new kind of magic: urban magic. Enter a London where magicians ride the Last Train, implore favours of The Beggar King and interpret the insane wisdom of The Bag Lady. Enter a London where beings of power soar with the pigeons and scrabble with the rats, and seek insight in the half-whispered madness of the blue electric angels. Enter the London of Matthew Swift, where rival sorcerers, hidden in plain sight, do battle for the very soul of the city...

"Life is magic and magic is life, and Griffin manages to weave together the idea of modern day magic being born of the city, of life, of humanities constructs, with an obvious affection for London and a depth of understanding of the human race. There is no ignoring the old world and ways, but simply a focus on what the world has evolved into. There are times when I have no doubt Griffin is simply writing a documentary of the way things really are in London, and no doubt, the rest of the world." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest
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Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.

"When I picked up this book to review, I was an urban fantasy novice. The only vampires I had ever met were those in Terry Pratchett Discworld novels. I'm just not 'into' them. Having finished reading Bloodshot, I don't think I'm a vampire - or urban fantasy, for that matter - novice, and if not a fan of urban fantasy in general - or vampires in particular - I am a fan of Cherie Priest's writing and her characters." Laurel Kriegler, Fantasy Book Review

Grace Under Fire by Frog and Esther Jones
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It’s the 21st Century, and magic users are outlaws. The public considers summoners evil and in league with the Devil. So when someone or something wipes out the entire Spokane Grove, police are baffled and wary. After all, what is more powerful than a group of summoners? Grace Moore is a foodie – and a mid-level Seattle summoner – sent to investigate the murders. In her search, she discovers Robert, a streetwise teenager, who inherits his summoner uncle’s diary and performs a summoning to get back at a teenage rival – and accidentally attracts a giant demonic raccoon looking to devour anyone with talent. Robert is the most powerful magic user, albeit untrained, she’s ever seen. If the demon raccoon manages to devour him, Grace is sure that the cops won’t be the least of her problems – assuming she lives. But can she keep Robert safe and solve the murder of the magic users before she can become the next item on the demon’s menu?

"An excellent debut novel and a highly recommended addition to the YA, contemporary / urban genre." Fantasy Book Review

Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton
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Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris
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Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much - not because she's not pretty - she's a very cute bubbly blonde - or not interested in a social life. She really is . . . but Sookie's got a bit of a disability. She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill: he's tall, he's dark and he's handsome - and Sookie can't 'hear' a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting all her life for. But Bill has a disability of his own: he's fussy about his food, he doesn't like suntans and he's never around during the day . . . Yep, Bill's a vampire. Worse than that, he hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, with a reputation for trouble - of the murderous kind. And then one of Sookie's colleagues at the bar is killed, and it's beginning to look like Sookie might be the next victim...

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
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Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Reasonable rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Harry Dresden is the best and technically the 'only' at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they come to him for answers. For the 'everyday' world is actually full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a - well, whatever. The first six Dresden files novels will be published over three months - a great introduction to Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard who manages to get into some seriously tricky situations.

"Take your standard noir detective with a sarcastic frame of mind and a weakness for helping damsels in distress, add in wizardry, vampires, werewolves, talking skulls, pizza loving fairies and all things paranormal and this is what you get. A quirky, fast paced and thrilling ride through a Chicago you never thought possible. Trying only to pay the rent, when the police are stumped on a case Harry helps out, while also trying to find a missing husband. Things soon get complicated when it becomes obvious there's black magic afoot - and the council of wizards suspect Harry. Already under the Doom of Damocles, a form of wizardly probation for past transgressions, Harry has to risk execution to discover who the Shadowman is - and why he's killing people." Fantasy Book Review

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
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In what is one of his most celebrated works, up there along with Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one of the best books of its genre. The real dilemma presented us however is understanding just which genre Gaiman was writing. This is not a negative opinion of his writing ability, suggesting that he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he is doing. Just the contrary, American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre.

Kraken by China Mieville
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Miéville is a bit of an acquired taste, he assaults the reader with an unrelenting bombardment of ideas and thoughts which may result in some sinking under their weight. Most, however, are delighted to swim along with the author, happily submerged in words and worlds created by an often ingenious imagination. It is no secret that Miéville is keen on moving the fantasy genre away from the Tolkien and Rowling pastiche and it is to HP Lovecraft that he tips his hat and presents this warm and affectionate tribute.

The Rook by Daniel OMalley
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The body you are wearing used to be mine. So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her. She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

"The Rook is definitely recommended. As far as debuts go, this is an amazingly rich and well though-out story. Having an amnesiac as the main protagonist who has to rediscover herself from scratch was an excellent idea. Additionally, there is the weird and wonderful set of characters from both from the Chequy and the Grafters that make this story even richer. The Rook brings a new and refreshing story to urban fantasy." Fantasy Book Review

The Collector by Chris F Holm
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Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls. Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before. “No.”

"This is a fun book full of cool concepts and big action sequences. Mysteries are posed, answers that make sense are found, and characters are fundamentally changed in the process. Holm has created a fantastic world and I can’t wait to see what happens next." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

I Was a Teenage Weredeer by C T Phipps
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Jane Doe is a weredeer, the least-threatening shapechanger species in the world. Blessed with the ability to turn furry at will and psychically read objects, Jane has done her best to live a normal life working as a waitress at the Deerlightful Diner. She has big dreams of escaping life in the supernatural-filled town of Bright Falls, Michigan, and her eighteenth birthday promises the beginning of her teenage dreams coming true.

Unfortunately, her birthday is ruined by the sudden murder of her best friend's sister in an apparent occult killing. Oh, and her brother is the primary suspect. Allying with an eccentric FBI agent, the local crime lord, and a snarky werecrow, Jane has her work cut out for her in turning her big day around.

Thankfully, she's game.

Set in the same world as Straight Outta Fangton.

"This was a great urban fantasy read and would definitely appeal to those who love spotting references to TV shows, books, comics and movies. Also, for readers who appreciate tongue-in-cheek humour and witty banter and are looking for a refreshing change from the usual werewolf shapeshifter stories. "

Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs
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'I didn't realize he was a werewolf at first. My nose isn't at its best when surrounded by axle grease and burnt oil ...' Mercedes Thompson runs a garage in the Tri-Cities. She's a mechanic, and a damn good one, who spends her spare time karate training and tinkering with a VW bus that happens to belong to a vampire. Her next-door neighbour is an alpha werewolf - literally, the leader of the pack. And Mercy herself is a shapeshifter, sister to coyotes. As such, she's tolerated by the 'wolves but definitely down the pecking order. As long as she keeps her eyes down and remembers her place, the pack will leave her in peace. Hardly a normal situation, but then, Mercy Thompson is not exactly normal herself...and her connection to the world of things that go bump in the night is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

"Moon Called is such a fun and fast introduction to the life of Mercy Thompson.  A full time auto mechanic and part time coyote the reader chases Mercy throughout the book at lightening speed.  Never is there a dull moment as you learn about pack structure, why the fae came out publicly proclaiming their existence, or Mercy herself.  Patricia Briggs is brilliant in this book as she delves into a section of fantasy – the werewolf and its culture – that hasn’t been as widely explored. Kudos to Patricia Briggs for bringing werewolves into a new light, for offering up a believable and relatable female author, and for an over all quite interesting story that had me guessing till the very end. Bravo." Fantasy Book Review

Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
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Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world.

"I found a great pleasure in City of Bones, Cassandra Clare managed to hit the right snares to introduce a new series, showing a interesting world and likable characters, and a plot that can go any which way." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
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Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won't sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you're looking for, he might just be able to help. That's if he's not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.

"I picked up this book on a Thursday, started reading it on Friday and was finished it by Sunday. The books are not long, but there a great little read." Fantasy Book Review

Into the Nightside by Simon R Green
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In short, this first omnibus of the Nightside series is pretty cool, providing lively and eerie action but also a rapidly growing plot-line centring around John Taylor. Being away from the Nightside for a few years, he is now back in business finding the lost things but also his urge to find out who his mother is and what he is is a nice broadening of The Nightside series. For everyone who likes urban fantasy, this is a winning series.

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
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My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
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I was totally mystified, baffled and downright confused when I hit up Wikipedia to find that Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, a book that I had just finished and thoroughly enjoyed, was nothing more than an adaptation of a television series. That might sound like I have a measure of distaste for adaptations, and you would be right. But since I didn’t know that at the time, it doesn’t count, and thus I will attempt for this review (and, in reality, everywhere else too), attempt to ignore the fact this book did not start life out as a book.

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
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Billi SanGreal is the only girl in the Knights Templar, and the most kick-ass weapon-wielding heroine around. At fifteen, her life is a rigorous and brutal round of weapons practice, demon killing and occult lore – and a whole lot of bruises. But then, she didn’t have much choice.

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
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When 17 year old Isabella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father she expects that her new life will be as dull as the town. But in spite of her awkward manner and low expectations, she finds that her new classmates are drawn to this pale, dark-haired new girl in town. But not, it seems, the Cullen family. These five adopted brothers and sisters obviously prefer their own company and will make no exception for Bella. Bella is convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her, but she feels a strange attraction to him, although his hostility makes her feel almost physically ill. He seems determined to push her away until, that is, he saves her life from an out of control car. Bella will soon discover that there is a very good reason for Edward's coldness. He, and his family, are vampires and he knows how dangerous it is for others to get too close.

"One of the influences that Meyer lists for her writing is Romeo and Juliet. This is clearly evident throughout the book as hardly anyone believes they should be together, Bella’s friends obviously don’t agree with it, and Rosie Cullen seems to hate Bella with the hate she believed Edward once had for her. The book is full of romance, but is padded with enough action and vampirism to keep most fantasy readers from putting the book down. A kind of Harry Potter meets Shakespeare, the book is a fine read with plenty of talking points that I’d better leave out of the review for fear of ruining the twists and turns for would-be readers of the book." Fantasy Book Review

The Night Watch by Sergey Lukyanenko
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Walking the streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are the Others. Possessors of supernatural powers and capable of entering the Twilight, a shadowy parallel world existing in parallel to our own, each Other owes allegiance either to the Dark or the Light. The "Night Watch", first book in the "Night Watch" trilogy, follows Anton, a young Other owing allegiance to the Light. As a Night Watch agent he must patrol the streets and metro of the city, protecting ordinary people from the vampires and magicians of the Dark. When he comes across Svetlana, a young woman under a powerful curse, and saves an unfledged Other, Egor, from vampires, he becomes involved in events that threaten the uneasy truce, and the whole city...

"This, for me, is a book of contradictions. Light and Dark, and only a moment between the two. Good and Evil. Day and Night. I’ll save the biggest contradiction for later. This is a sprawling urban fantasy with rich world-building and a great sense of Moscow (well, I assume, I’ve never been there. I do feel that I know it better than I did though). The characters are vivid, although they become rather stretched as we go on, the pace is fast if a little disjointed, the prose, a few translation issues aside, smooth. The story takes place over a series of interlinked novellas, yet I never lost the thread of the story as a whole, and the style holds up this way of telling the story quite well. I loved the premise of the Twilight (no sparkly vampires, I promise! More like ‘bullet time’ in the Matrix, with added blue moss) and that the difference between Good and Evil could be as simple as having a bad day when you first discover you’re an Other…"

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
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Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. Magic is dangerous - but love is more dangerous still. When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

"Ultimately Clare has delivered a solid, fantasy novel and one that deserves to be read outside of the usual crowd that will be attracted to it by its clever marketing." Charlie White, Fantasy Book Review

Dave Vs. the Monsters: Emergence by John Birmingham
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When an oil rig drills too deep, it unleashes a torrent of nightmares - the creatures of legend, always thought to be figments of our imagination, are now a very real threat to the survival of humankind. But when he kills a seven-foot-tall demon with an axe to the skull, Dave Hooper - a booze-soaked, middle-aged oil-rig safety manager - is transformed into an honest-to-god monster slayer.

"Dave Vs. the Monsters: Emergence is an unflinching tale of axes and monsters who meet an entertaining yet bloody end at Dave's hands. Just think of Ash from the Evil Dead and you'll be along the right lines. I simply can’t wait for the other book to come along."

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong
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Haunted is an easy read and great fun – the only downside I can think of is that it often felt like I was reading the second part of a series and I had missed the first book focusing on Eve’s life before she died. There are secondary minor characters that have been in previous books, such as her daughter’s foster mother Paige Winterbourne, but this is the first about Eve herself. Apart from that I would say that this is good fun and highly entertaining – I look forward to reading some of the others in the series.

No Hero by Jonathan Wood
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What would Kurt Russell do? Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot. While he’s a good cop, he prefers his action on the big screen. But when he sees tentacles sprouting from the neck of a fresh corpse, the secretive government agency MI37 comes to recruit Arthur in its struggle against a threat from another dimension known as the Progeny. But Arthur is NO HERO! Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?

"No Hero is fast paced, increasingly so ever towards its final conclusion. If you like your Dresden, Nightside, Lovecraft and 80's action hero, then this is the book for you."

The Dark Arts of Blood by Freda Warrington
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In the turmoil and glamour of 1920s Europe, vampires Karl, Charlotte and Violette face threats to their very existence. Fiery, handsome dancer Emil achieves his dream to partner the legendary ballerina Violette Lenoir - until his forbidden desire for her becomes an obsession. Rejected, spiralling towards madness, he seeks solace with a mysterious beauty, a vampire with a hidden agenda...

"In the style of such as Anne Rice, Warrington has made a tale that beats convention and shows readers what is more likely to happen to vampires than in many other novels. It is great to see that what were once 90’s novels have been re published for a fresh audience who have already indulged in the Twilight novels. The cover art for this one and the other three is striking and beautiful in a gothic way and tells a lot about the kind of novels they are. This is for those who want to curl up with a good book, but they might want to first invest in the other three novels, as it is well worth it."

Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton
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Even myths have legends. And not all legends are myth. When a local hospital is attacked by strange and frightening men, Fiona Patterson and Zeke Prisco save a catatonic old man named Peter--and find themselves running for their lives with creatures beyond imagination hounding their every step. 

With nowhere else to turn, they seek out Fi's enigmatic Uncle Edgar. But the more their questions are answered, the more they discover that nothing is what it seems--not Peter, not Edgar, perhaps not even themselves. 

The gods and monsters, heroes and villains of lore--they're real. And now they've come out of hiding to hunt their own. In order to survive, Fi and Zeke must join up with powerful allies against an ancient evil that's been known by many names and feared by all. The final battle of the world's oldest war has begun.

"It's really tough to summarise but if I had to it would be something along the lines of: A mixture of the Iliad (for the myths), Dante's Inferno (for the beasts), The Dark Tower (for the alternative world switching), and The Hunger Games (for young love in crazy circumstances). That description doesn't do the depth of this tale justice but I'm happy with it. Paternus is a dark urban fantasy gem and if you can get past the first 20% then you are in for a treat. Highly recommended - it didn't achieve 5-stars due to the slow start- that's all."

The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
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Post–Katrina New Orleans is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known. Jude has been lying low since the storm, which caused so many things to be lost that it played havoc with his magic. But his retirement ends abruptly when the Fortune god of New Orleans is murdered and Jude is drawn back into the world he tried so desperately to leave. A world full of magic, monsters, and miracles. A world where he must find out who is responsible for the Fortune god’s death, uncover the plot that threatens the city’s soul, and discover what his talent has always been trying to show him: what it means to be his father’s son.

"The City of Lost Fortunes is a great start to a new series with a protagonist that you feel you should be annoyed with but at the same time, you want to see where his decisions will take him next. The story is rich with characters and has a fantasy landscape that intertwines with that of New Orleans."

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Recommended reads by sub-genre

Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.

High fantasy books
High fantasy

Fantasy set in an alternative, fictional world
Epic fantasy books
Epic fantasy

Fantasy with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery fantasy books
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery

Fantasy with heroic adventures
Contemporary / Urban fantasy books
Urban fantasy

Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fiction / Alternate history books
Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Parallel worlds.
Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science fantasy / Speculative fiction books
Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Children's fantasy books
Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12
Young adult fantasy books
Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+
Adult fantasy books
Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian fiction
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Image derived from Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns book cover
Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core
Gothic fiction books
Gothic Fiction

Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Vampire fiction
Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters
Werewolf fiction
Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters
Steampunk books
Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Dragon fiction
Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Praetorian cover image
Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire
An image of Darth Bane, taken from the cover of a Star Wars book
Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
An image taken from the front cover of The Wind in the Willows
Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals
An image taken from the front cover of Giant Thief.
The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.
Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
An image portraying manga art.
Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
An image portraying comic fantasy.
Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
An image of J. R. R. Tolkien
Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The Time Traveller's Almanac
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies