Top 7 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.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground

If there's one word to describe this book it's 'change'. Some things have been ticking over in the series for a long while now and at times it seemed like Jim Butcher wasn't sure which way he wanted to take the story. Or even what he wanted to do with Harry. All that is done. Every single element of the series has been levelled by the events on Battle Ground, the city razed to its foundations, the characters broken down to their most essential parts. From this destruction will come something new, a rebuilding of place and person that wouldn't have been possible without such a thorough clearing of the way.

Read our full review of Battle Ground

Spellbound by Larry Correia

Spellbound

Spellbound is a book of high stakes and high consequence. The entertainment value is second to none, so don’t go into this book expecting a gentle introduction to plot, setting and character. Correia hurls the reader from event to event, rarely allowing you to catch your breath, and somehow manages to do this while progressing a complex plot and building depth into his characters. You should definitely pick up this book, if for no other reason than to read one of the most epic finales I have ever seen in a book.

Read our full review of Spellbound

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House

I can’t remember the last time I wanted to step into a book so much, be part of a world so desperately. Even with all the danger, with the pain and darkness and death, it’s a place that feels like possibility…

Read our full review of Ninth House

The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

The Grimnoir Chronicles

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."

Read our full review of The Grimnoir Chronicles

Forged by Benedict Jacka

Forged

When you finish a book and wonder how the hell the next one will top it, then you know it’s a phenomenal read. That what follows is the finale in this 12 book series only makes the stakes even higher. But after this, I know that whatever Benedict Jacka does for the finale, it’ll be better than I could have imagined. And I cannot wait.

Read our full review of Forged

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

Blood Heir

I read the whole thing straight through and finished with a cry of disbelief. It couldn’t be the end... But it was. And so now begins the time of waiting. There is absolutely no way that Ilona Andrews can leave us here. It would be cruel torture. Since I have absolutely no doubt any fan reading this book will feel the same, I’m somewhat reassured that our collective pleas will bring us a positive result. We got Hugh, we can get more Julie/Aurelia. Right??!! So read and enjoy, then come join me in my torment.

Read our full review of Blood Heir

Rise Against by Hailey Edwards

Rise Against

This is definitely the best book of the series... with just one more to go. I can't imagine at this point how it can be bettered, but I trust in Hailey Edwards to keep surprising me.

Read our full review of Rise Against

Blight Marked by Josh Erikson

Blight Marked

A seriously epic book that ends with a spectacular finale of world shattering proportions. But wait! Don’t be sad… there’s more. I’m so excited about the direction this series is heading. Promises made. Deals to be kept. Monsters, mayhem, magic. Readers, we are in for something special.

Read our full review of Blight Marked

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Hard Magic

Hard Magic has by far one of the best cast's for a fantasy story in recent memory. Jake Sullivan is the slow speaking WWI veteran whose immense mental capacity is at odds with his external appearance. He is a character that is far more complex than I initially gave him credit for, and as he starts to interact with the other actives, Jake really comes into his own as one of the most likeable, charming, and violent heroes currently going around.

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.

 

Read our full review of Hard Magic

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

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

Read our full review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

The Dirty Streets of Heaven

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."

Read our full review of The Dirty Streets of Heaven

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Taylor’s story is an enchanting mix of contemporary gothic and old school fantasy, lovingly married together to create something that I don’t see too often – an author obviously in love with their work and the world that they have created.

Read our full review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman

Cal Leandros series

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

Read our full review of Cal Leandros series

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead

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."

Read our full review of Three Parts Dead

Bone Driven by Hailey Edwards

Bone Driven

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."

Read our full review of Bone Driven

Dead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro

Dead Men Naked

After the sudden death of his best friend Neil, involving a 6-foot giant crow and quite some Tequila, Lou’s life takes an unexpected turn towards the impossible.  As Lou discovers his unwelcome gift to see Neil’s ghost, he starts to question his sanity; but the real challenge is just coming up. Mallory, a self-proclaimed medium, offers her services to help Neil pass over. Drunk on spirit, lust, and hope, Lou agrees to perform a ritual, which, unforeseen, leaves him alone to face death. Not any death, but his personal one; a skinny, sarcastic anthropomorphic embodiment of his end-of-time which - who? - goes by D. Summoned during the ritual, D will help Lou in the search for Angelene, Mallory's twin sister, the only clue to finding the medium-at-large, and reverse the ritual. The strange duo begins a road trip from dusty interstates to lousy strip clubs, during which they’ll have time to know each other and discuss the meaning of life, love, and what does it mean to be mortal.  Will our unconventional couple find Angelene, and persuade her to help in the search for Mal? Will Lou be able to save his friend Neil, or his own soul for that matter? But more importantly: will he make peace with his own Death?

"I would recommend this to fans of Neil Gaiman, particularly those who enjoyed the Sandman and Death comic book series’. Obscure constructs such as death have been personified, and the everyday world has been bombarded with the fantastic. However, that’s not to say that Cannizzaro writes like Gaiman; he is funnier for one and the structure of this book is far less regimented. This book is humorous, tragic at heart and, most of all, strangely perceptive. I recommend it most highly."

Read our full review of Dead Men Naked

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files

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

Read our full review of The Dresden Files

Kraken by China Mieville

Kraken

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.

Read our full review of Kraken

Burning Ashes by James Bennett

Burning Ashes

Read our full review of Burning Ashes

The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire

The Brightest Fell

Things are slow, and October "Toby" Daye couldn't be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn't have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby's mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do... until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn't have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt's lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she's never met, one who's been missing for over a hundred years?

Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally. Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine's oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.

This is one missing person case Toby can't afford to get wrong.

"In general however, Brightest Fell is a real breath of fresh air. We get to journey to some strange and magical places, deal with some dangling plot threads, spend time with some fantastically grey characters, and hopefully start moving in a more definite direction, with a main character who; though she still suffers irritatingly self-important interludes, is at least caught up in a genuine crisis caused by a wonderfully hissible villain. While I am still a little concerned about the series as a whole, Brightest Fell proves that Halloween must still be a ways off, since October isn’t over yet."

Read our full review of The Brightest Fell

Recommended reads by sub-genre

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


High / Epic fantasy

Secondary world with epic characters, themes, and plot

Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements

Grimdark

Bleak subject matter and a dystopian setting

Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds

Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy

Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12

Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+

Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+

Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds

Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core

Gothic Fiction

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

Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters

Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters

Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology

Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures

Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...

Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology

Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life

Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire

Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise

Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals

The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin

Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature

Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels

Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...

Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh

Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...

Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies