24 Urban Fantasy Books I recommend

If you are looking for urban fantasy recommendations, then you will find 24 great urban fantasy books. The list is originally from 2013, so you might find find some titles you don’t know because they have fallen out of our collective memory, but they are still really good books.

Inspired by Tansy Rayner Roberts’ post “25 Urban Fantasies! (or: The Angry Trousers Treatise)“, which also inspired me to write about what urban fantasy is. Most of the books on my list was published between 1990 and 2013. I was too young before 1990 to read myself and the post was originally posted in 2013.

This list has a lot of Angry Trousers, aka angry women in traditionally male dominated roles, but there are also a lot of books that break that trope on the list or don’t even come near it. I like angry trousers protagonists, but I also like all kinds of other protagonists.

24 urban fantasy books I recommend

In no particular order

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files series
Setting: Chicago

Great series with a complex male protagonist who is a sorcerer. The series lends lots of elements from noir detective stories. In the later books the noir feel drifts in the background and the stories becomes more action oriented. There is planed 15 books in this series, the 14 is out and the 15th comes out this December. They are all really good and very much worth reading. Read my review here

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

October Daye series
Setting: San Francisco 

Wonderful series with a determined female protagonist  As I have said before I really like stories of the fay. In the October Daye series McGuire mixes the procedural drama and fay court politics worthy of any political epic fantasy novel. There is backstabbing and intrigue but also strong friendships and loyalty. Read my review here

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods series
Setting: The United States of America

The gods of old live forgotten and hidden in the United States. I love mythology and mythology integrated in the modern world, even better. The male protagonist is not particularly competent and doesn’t have much agency in the story, and this is my only criticism of this book, the protagonist feels more like a spectator, than a protagonist – but that is typically Gaiman actually.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Checquy Files
Setting: London

An agency dedicated to hiding the supernatural from the public and dealing with the problems the supernatural courses. It is very British and it felt very fresh to me. The female protagonist is discovering what her role is and turns out to be very competent at her job. Conspiracies lures around waiting to pounce.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant
Setting: London

Police procedural with a strong sense of place. London is almost a character in the book, in much the same way as in Neverwhere. Or male protagonist is at the start of the first novel he is not particularly good at anything but he got a soft hard, but quite a few flaws as well.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising
Setting: Cornwall
Middle grade

This series is part of so many fantasy fan’s childhood that I think many of us don’t think of it as urban fantasy, but it is. The setting is distinctly rural though. Our young male protagonist is the chosen one who has to fight evil to protect all of our from the darkness.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Setting: New York

Kick ass action based story about. Our protagonist keeps the New York supernaturals in check and protects them. The series has a buffy flavour to it and plays with the tropes of urban fantasy and it is very much its own thing. There are a lot of strange monsters I had never heard about before, I think they are probably American legenges rather than European.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Harper Connelly
Setting: Rural American South

The female protagonist can sense where dead people are. She travels as a private investigator to small towns in the rural American South to help local law enforcement find dead bodies. She travels with her stead brother who is her confidant and assistant. She was hit by lighting and it makes her physically weak but has also given her powers. Unlike most urban fantasy there are not really any supernatural creatures other than ghosts.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Setting: The United States of America
Young adult

Do not judge a book by its movie. This is very much a road trip book where our young male protagonist learns that he is the son of a Greek god and travels the US on a quest. There is also a good amount of boarding school novel in this one (yeah) and of course old mythology which also makes me happy. It is an action packed book series and a lot of fun.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Jaz Parks
Setting:  Miami

This book is of the angry trousers variety, it is also funny and clever and highly entertaining. Our female protagonist is to use her own words a “Assistant Assassin” and highly skilled and trained working for the C.I.A. This is another agency book but rather than being a procedural this is more of a spy novel. This book series is very much about vampires but other supernaturals makes an appearance as well.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

Gale Women
Setting: Calgary, Canada

This is definitely a hidden gem. I have never heard anyone discuss it and I found it by accident browsing Audible. It has a great magic system and our female protagonist is very likeable. She is dumped in the middle of a magical world that her family is apparently a part of and so is she now. It is very much about family which is nice to see in the genre. The supernaturals are fay, so that of course is a bit plus for me. There are also a nice romance in the book that does not overtake the plot. Read my review here.

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Weather Warden
Setting: The United States of America

This is another road trip book. Our female protagonist is strong and capable and is part of an agency that control the weather and natural disasters. She and her genie are on the run across the US. There is a big conspiracy and a big romance which are the anchors of the plot.

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

Merry Gentry
Setting: Los Angeles, USA
Paranormal romance: high spice levels in later books

I like the Merry Gentry series better than the Anita Blake series though both are good, Merry Gentry has fays in it and I like the romance better as well. But the Anita Blake books are really good as well, especially the ten or so. The female protagonist is very capable but not very powerful in her society.  Merry has to navigate a world of court politics where everyone else is stronger than her. The first book is a procedural but there mystery elements is not in the forefront of most of the other books in the series.

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Jane Yellowrock
Setting: New Orleans

Good solid angry trousers urban fantasy, with a female protagonist that can kick your female protagonist’s ass. She is strong and capable but also have her issue and a very dark past. She is also a native american and that is a big part of her story. She is far from broken but struggles with figuring out how she fits into the world. The books are entertaining, fast paced and action oriented. Oh yeah and the men are hot!

Read the full review

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper

Jane Jameson
Setting: American South, small town
Paranormal rom-com

This is something more light hearted and fun. It is a romantic comedy with vampires and a crazy mundane family who has to come to terms with their daughter being a vampire who is dating a vampire. The protagonist is your typical rom-com protagonist but she is also a book lover so that is a huge plus. The book is sweet and funny and I giggled loud enough for my boyfriend to give me funny looks.

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

Black Swan Rising
Setting: New York

This has nothing to do with the Black Swan movie, just to clear that up. The book is quite poetic and is the kind of urban fantasy where the protagonist spend most of her time finding the hidden magical city behind the city she knows so well. The book has a very strong sense of place and the language is beautiful without being too whimsical. The protagonist is a jewelry maker and this is not a procedural novel at all, though there is a mystery. Read my review here

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Georgina Kincaid
Setting: Seattle, USA

The female protagonist is a book store clerk and a succubus and the book has a lot of book love in it. It is a fun and light read. There is a big romance plot. The series is quite entertaining quick reads. They are quite dark in places and there is surprisingly little sex for a succubus book. If you want succubus sex, watch Lost Girl (also quite recommended). There is a cool society of angels and demons in Seattle and lots of fun banter.

Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Kara Gillian
Setting: Beaulac, Louisiana

The female protagonist is a very capable police officer who summons demons in her spare time. She has to hold her own in a male dominated world but has good male friends who has her back. She also have a friendship with other woman and a strong relationship with her aunt. There is a good mystery, it is funny, entertaining and has great snark. This is very much in the angry trousers category and it is very good.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Magic Ex Libris

This book has a unique magic system and is a great bit fun adventure story, with some chewy enough bits to keep me interested. Our male protagonist works for an agency/secret organization that works to keep the magic of books under control. The book is entertaining and exciting and quite funny. My review

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Series: Fables
Setting: New York
Graphic Novel

The fairy tale creatures has escaped their book and are living in New York, where they have their own little society. It is whimsical series that is driven by mystery, character exploration and conspiracy.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl
Setting: Ireland
Young Adult / middle grade

The young male protagonist is a genius and a technical prodigy. He sees himself as an evil genius, the mastermind of a criminal empire. He is also a quite broken child, with an insane mother and a father who is missing. The books are funny, entertaining and fast paced. They are aimed at younger readers but they have some quite dark notes and are scary and sad in between all the high action exploding fun.

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

The Hollows
Setting: Cincinnati, USA

Our female protagonist is a witch and x-law enforcement. She opens up a private investigator firm with her vampire and pixie partners. This is very much in the angry trousers vaine, it even has a horrible cover. The series are page turners and i read all of them in a very short amount of time. The world building is interesting and so is the magic, which involves dealing with demons. My review

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Setting: San Francisco

A Dirty Job is a highly entertaining and funny book. Our male protagonist is not at all competent at much of anything. He has a big heart and runs a second hand store. He becomes a father to Death. Much of the humor comes from him being incompetent or from silly everyday situations.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

White Trash Zombie
Setting: Outside Louisiana, USA

Your white trash female protagonist is a bit looser when the book starts out. The book is funny and has a lot of character development throughout the book. It is a good procedural seen from the morgue side of things. I could easily see this as a tv-series. Read my full review here.

That was my 24 books and somehow it wasn’t even hard to choose them – gotta love GoodReads that keeps track of things for me. I hope something on this list strikes you as interesting.

I am wondering why all the middle grade urban fantasy books I like have male protagonists? And why there are almost no young adult urban fantasy books that I feel like recommending. There is no books set outside of the anglo-saxon world but a few of the books are set outside of USA which is nice. I would love to read some really good urban fantasy set outside the English speaking world. Luckily there should be a Swedish one forthcoming.

I have even more urban fantasy recommendations in a post from 2016

This post was originally posted: October 31, 2013. Updated and edited June 24, 2023





2 responses to “24 Urban Fantasy Books I recommend”

  1. […] After listing to Galactic Suburbia episode 30 & reading Tansy Rayner Roberts’ post “25 Urban Fantasies! (or: The Angry Trousers Treatise)“, I had to share my thoughts on the urban fantasy genre. What the genre is and some trends I see in the genre. I see four big strains of urban fantasy, I will try to define them and come with a list of books that fall into each group. I also have 24 urban fantasy books that I recommend. […]

  2. […] list 24 Urban Fantasy Books that I recommend is one of my most visited posts, so I thought I would expand on it with the books I read since […]

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