Friday 22 October 2010


This post was inspired by a message I received in my Facebook inbox. I was asked exactly what an urban fantasy is and what makes a book, urban fantasy.

Ahh... I gotta tell you, I read loads of fantasy books but that does not mean I am an expert in all things urban fantasy. And please keep in mind that classification of books now-a-days into "genres" is no longer as straight forward as it used to be. Melissa Marr talks about genre classification or the difficulty of it in an aptly titled post, Genres in the Supernatural Underground (or “get into your box, woman!”). I think wiki's definition of urban fantasy at clarifies it a little bit more for us. Here is a little snippet of what it says:
...The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting...
However, wiki is not the "end-all-and-be-all" definition of urban fantasy. There is still a lot of argument pro and against issues in urban fantasy by authors, publishers and other experts. I even came across people in the publishing industry refusing to acknowledge the existence of such a genre! So I would not even attempt it. I am not suicidal so will not get into the fray :) I'll just watch the match from the sidelines...

I was also asked for... must read titles? Again, that denotes expertise which I do not have. What I can do, is share with you my favourites. My favs include the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I could go on and on and on and that does not even include the future releases I'm dying to get my hands on... So, how would you define urban fantasy? And which titles would you recommend to fellow readers?


  1. If I were to recommend Urban Fantasy the first series I would start off with would be Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series. It's set in Cincinnati, and the heroine is a witch. It's action packed and funny.

    I consider Rachel Vincent's Shifter series as Urban Fantasy, because it's less about the romance (although it's definitely there to mess things up ha!) and more about the battles and the struggles of a family.

    I think people get confused with Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance because there is this line where a book steps into the romance genre. I consider these to be the LKH, Gena Showalter, and J.R. Ward (even though this is set in cities, the main focus is the relationships between mates (for me at least)) type of books. The line is pretty blurry.

    When looking for Urban Fantasy, find the heroines who aren't afraid to fight, use weapons, have bad attitudes, are hesitant to fall in love, and who are quick with the witty banter (like our girl Buffy).

    Sorry, I went off here. Guess I just felt like typing :)

  2. No, you did not go off there Brooke. I think you are quite right. The borderline between UF and PNR is very flexible indeed... so when do readers go to a UF or PNR shelf in a bookstore to get what they want? What criteria does bookstores or people use to define a book as UF or PNR?.... would be good to see what people have to say....

  3. It took me ages to see the difference between UF and PNR, in the end I saw it like this:
    Pnr, lots and lots of romance
    UF lots and lots of asskicking time

  4. I think a lot of people will agree with you Blodeuedd, including me :)

  5. UF is a lot more action/adventure with romance as a side plot, and yes is generally set on the streets of a modern city instead of a traditional fantasy setting.

    PNR is a romance that just happens to have paranormal elements but still follows the standard romance arc. Most of the time.

    I started reading UF a long time ago with the (now largely out of print) Bordertown series by Terri Windling, et al. I think the most recent UF I've read is the Tithe, Valiant, Ironside trilogy by Holly Black. Both series are highly recommended.

    I think UF was at its peak in the 80s and 90s, but PNR is far more popular nowadays. You are certainly more likely to find the good PNR novels in print right now, with UF not so much.

  6. What a great post! I think allot of these new genres are still unknown to the average reader.

  7. I agree with Juju! Awesome post idea. I'm still not quite sure if I understand it all but I'm definately going to be checking out more of the Urban Fantasy genre in the future.


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