Show Me the (Urban Fantasy) Money

So. Jeff Vandermeer has called on me as ‘someone who comes from the old-school urban fantasy and an appreciation for it’ to ‘investigate and report back’ on the current state of the urban fantasy genre.

Now. Jeff knows of my abiding love for the urban fantasy genre, not just because I mentioned it in asking the question Who Reads Urban Fantasy? not so long ago on this blog, but because we’ve talked some about the genre. So I’m going to take on Jeff’s challenge. And I want your help to do it.

Let me be frank. There is a lot of urban fantasy being published. A LOT. Like any genre cresting the wave of popularity, much of it will, inevitably, be bad. If we are to believe Sturgeons Law that 90% of everything is crap, then when it comes to peak popularity genres, that can be raised to 95% or even 99%. As evidence for this I direct your attention to the Horror wave of the mid to late 80’s.

I do not have time to wade through this crap looking for the undoubted gems it contains. So, knowing that many of you will have already done that wading for me, I call on you now to show me the very best that urban fantasy and its numerous sub-genres have to offer.

A few criteria.

  • Interpret urban fantasy in the widest sense. If you think a book or author fit in the genre, tell me. I’ll make a judgement call about whether I agree once nominations are in.
  • I want books published recently. 5 years at the outer limit, 2 years is better, yet to be published better still.
  • What do I mean by ‘the very best’? I’m looking for the 1-5% of the urban fantasy genre that resist Sturgeons Law. Give me the big names by all means, but what I really want are the sparkly bits of genius that might be being lost in the torrent of urban fantasy currently hitting the shelves.

If I receive enough nominations of a high enough quality, I will review a selection of the best that urban fantasy has to offer, and try and give my answer to Jeff’s question ‘Urban Fantasy, From Whence Came You? And Where Are You Going with That Trope?!’ with particular focus on where it might be that the genre is going.

Make your nominations below, or to me on Twitter, Facebook or email.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

27 thoughts on “Show Me the (Urban Fantasy) Money

  1. I just read a quite interesting YA novel… I don’t know that I’d say it was the best thing I ever read, but it was thought provoking. NUMBERS by Rachel Ward. English, actually.

    Also, to continue the British YA theme, LADY: MY LIFE AS A BITCH by Melvin Burgess is brilliant.


  2. Gra sez: American Gods (though that doesn’t fit your time limit. But Anansi Boys might?)
    and one book by Charles de Lint. But only one. It doesn’t matter which one, as long as it’s only one.

    I rather enjoyed the first 5 or 6 of Kim Harrison’s urban fantasy series (I think it’s called “The Hollows”, the main character is named Rachel Morgan.) However, I should warn with the caveat that the *best* written of the Morgan books is “For A Few Demons More”, which is the fifth one in the series … and it may not have the same impact for the reader if you haven’t developed a relationship with the characters over the first four books. So, keep that in mind.

    I think there’s a lot of YA that falls into urban fantasy, but most of the stuff I’m thinking of is older than 5 years.


  3. Well I’m here first off to insist that most of this Paranormal Romance sparkling vampire subgenre that I hear labelled Urban Fantasy bears no resemblance to UF as a useful label. Mostly its like saying LotR is cyberpunk.

    I have my doubts about whether or not UF can be secondary world, but if it can then the obvious names are China Miéville, Catherynne Valente, Ekaterina Sedia, and Co. In our world Tim Powers is the benchmark, but Richard Kadrey’s recent books fit well. From outside genre publishing Stephen Sherrill’s The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break is remarkable.


    1. Kev McVeigh – there’s no doubt that paranormal romance is urban fantasy, and I think it’s too easy to write it off as trash written for teenage girls. There is more happening in the best PR than meets the eye.


      1. “damiengwalter
        Kev McVeigh – there’s no doubt that paranormal romance is urban fantasy, and I think it’s too easy to write it off as trash written for teenage girls. There is more happening in the best PR than meets the eye.”

        found this website looking for decent urban fantasy and saw the post above, all i can say is thats bullshit

        Urban Fantasy is a subgenre of Fantasy

        Paranormal Romance; sex, alpha werewolves, vampire elders, gossip these words describe paranormal romance they also descibe beastiality,pedophilia and teenagers


  4. Rob Thurman’s Leandros brothers series is fabulous and one of the very few new style urban fantasy series with a male protagonist/narrator. The series is focussed not on a romantic but on a brother relationship, so there’s very little in the way of sex and romance. There are five books to date, Nightlife, Moonshine, Madhouse, Deathwish and Roadkill. Thurman also has another novel set in the same universe with a female narrator, Trick of the Light.

    I’m very fond of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series. The first book is Ill Wind, the tenth and final book will appear later this year. No vampires or werewolves at all, but djinn and humans with weather controlling abilities. The series does have the tendency to go over the top at times, but it’s highly addictive. Rachel Caine also writes a spin-off series called Outcast Season as well as what is probably the best of the many teen vampire YA series around, Morganville Vampires.

    A recent discovery for me is Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series, which is a bit like a darker and grittier version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (which is fabulous in itself, but falls outside the five year range), featuring a junkie punk magician and a female police inspector with paranormal abilities. The first book is Street Magic, the second is Demon Bound, a third is forthcoming. Again, no vampires, but fae, ghosts and demons. Word of warning, Kittredge is American and occasionally screws up London geography, which could be distracting to British readers. Kittredge also writes another series, Nocturne City, about a werewolf cop, which I don’t like as much, as well as a superhero series in collaboration with Jackie Kessler.

    For the often neglected lighter side of urban fantasy try Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. series, which is a workplace comedy in a corporation developing magic spells. The CEO is Merlin. Again no werewolves or vampires, but wizards, fairies, dwarves, There are four books, Enchanted Inc., Once Upon Stilettos, Damsel under Stress and Don’t Hex With Texas. Don’t be put off by the cartoony covers and silly titles, the books are charming and lovely.

    Other recommended authors: Lilith Saintcrow, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs, Lynn Viehl


  5. Kate Griffin’s “A Madness of Angels” is very good, and Maurice Broaddus’ “King Maker” is astonishing – best debut novel I’ve read in a very long time.


  6. (looks around)

    That’s a joke, right? Who’s writing good urban fantasy (with the widest possible definition thereof)?

    So fantasy that focuses on an urban environment (even a second world one) like Perdido Street Station would (it seems to me) fall into that nice wide definition.

    So I’d say one of the best urban fantasists (in the Meiville/Valente/Sedia groove) right now is . . . Jeff VanderMeer. I mean Finch. C’mon.

    (Full disclosure one: I know Jeff and I like him. I may be biased. Full disclosure two: I write urban fantasy of in the Anita Blake/Buffy the Vampire Slayer groove as MLN Hanover.)


    1. I said nominate in the widest definition, and then I will make a call. Secondary worlds…most likely not, but there is a slippery mid ground where a secondary world might be argued as real world. So…nominate away.


  7. I suspect it doesn’t make the criteria of “argued as real world” even by a stretch, but Finch by Jeff VanderMeer
    The City & The City by China Mieville
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
    Kraken by China Mieville
    Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon
    Fables by Bill Willingham (assuming graphic novels are allowed)

    But certainly the first three I’d categorise as more fantastic noir than urban fantasy.


  8. City and the City is very much set in the real world, even if the precise location of the city itself is left as “somewhere probably between two countries ending in …stan”. Great book, surely counts as Urban Fantasy.


  9. I really enjoyed Martin Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl, though not sure if it would be able to compete with the assumed greatness of China Mieville, et al. It’s comic, has good pacing, and handles multiple narrators very well.


  10. Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. The first three are being published back-to-back this summer. Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic are already out, with City of Ghosts coming next week. This is hard-hitting, intelligent, very cool fiction. It’s the best UF I’ve ever read.


  11. Richard Kadrey – Sandman Slim
    Mike Carey – Felix Castor Series
    Larry Correia – Monster Hunter International

    3 great urban fantasy authors


  12. It might be helpful to read book reviews by bloggers such as,,,, and many many more out there.
    I think bloggers have a lot to do with book sales, ratings, etc… When I run out of books to buy, I usually look at blogs to see what books might be good before making a trip to the book store. Usually I know when a book or series is good because it’s all over the net and rated pretty high on amazon, barnes and noble, and

    My favorite urban fantasy series at the moment (excluding the ones that may have too much romance) are:
    1. Karen Moning Fever series: The series is urban fantasy, but it has a hint of supense, a light touch of romance, and mystery. The last book in the series shadowfever is out 01/18/11 and I pre-ordered months ago. There’s going to be a spinoff of the this series, but in a guy’s perspective! :) There’s also talks about it becoming a movie but idk. Try it! you might just Likey!

    2. Ilona Andrew Magic series: This is urban fantasy and the world is pretty unique. The husband and wife duo (authors) do a good job with the world building in all these books. There’s romantic tension, but you don’t see any romance until book 5. Even though the voice is a female voice she’s tough and can kick some serious butt!

    3.Stacia Kane Downside series: the female heroine is a drug addict, but you have to read the books to really get her world and understand her perspective.

    4.Vicki Pettersson zodiac series. This is a very unique add in to the urban fantasy genre. Most urban fantasy books have vampires, wolves, ghouls, magic, ghosts etc… but these books are totally different. I think most guys who read them will enjoy them very much even if the heroine is a female. I kept saying wow this is very different, but the fourth and fifth book easily put this author at the top of my list. I follow her blogs on her website and I notice that she has a lot of male fans.


  13. Hi,
    This thread has been going on quite awhile (six months?) so I’m wondering if you’re going to make a call yet?
    all the below are series, so I’ll just name off teh character and the authors
    Sandman Slim
    The Dresden files by Jim Butcher
    I second the above poster Tanya in that I love Ilona Andrew’s series, and I really was hooked on the Fever series by Karen Moning (just finished the last book).
    I doubt he’ll read this again but I really liked the first two M.L.N Hanover books (although I really don’t know if I can go with where the series is headed, the last book kinda freaked me out (: but its very well written
    Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson
    Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock
    I read a book called the Sweet Scent of Blood by Suzanne Mcleod and I loved it but I think it was published in the UK and I can’t get the sequels yet.
    Sunshine by robin Mckinley
    I like Devon Monk as well.

    Yes, there is a lot of junk out there. But there is some really great stuff too.

    L. Blanchard



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