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So, first things first: what exactly are urban fantasy books? What falls under this genre? Books that are considered urban fantasy are usually set in a world that’s similar to the real world, but a fantastical reality exists, either secretly or openly (such as in alternative history), or some combination. There is magic, paranormal beings, and so on.
Alright, now that this is clear, let’s dive into the ultimate list with urban fantasy books! I divided it into sections, such as adult urban fantasy books, YA urban fantasy books, and LGBTQ urban fantasy books. I will edit this list on occasion to add more books. If there’s any book on this list that’s not in there but you feel should be there, please let me know in the comments!
Ready to pick a book from these best urban fantasy books? Then read on!
Jump straight to:
Adult Urban Fantasy Books
Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
Opinions seem to be divided on this book (as is the case with most great books). I absolutely loved Ninth House, but I can understand why some people don’t. There are quite some flashbacks, and the story is not always chronological, making it more confusing. It also has triggering content, such as sexual abuse. So steer away if that’s not for you.
Anyway, Ninth House is about Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern, who dropped out of school and got involved with the wrong drug-dealing people. By the time she’s twenty, she’s the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. At the hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance. She can attend Yale, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. But nothing is for free. Alex is tasked with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies, with members who are part of the rich and powerful. Their occult activities soon become more sinister and extraordinary, though, and it might become too much for Alex to handle…
The Sand Sea – Michael McClellan
The Sand Sea is an alternative history, so the world we’re on is still earth, but it looks very different. An ancient prophecy draws Peter Harmon to join an expedition that will stake his nation’s claim to a global empire. But the journey is long and difficult, with a trip all over a vast desert, which is dominated by the Grand Vizer Jemojeen Jongdar. He also knows of the prophecy and is determined to get all the parts of the Staff of the Ram, the Lion, and the Serpent together. It will grant him the power to rule the world. But first, he needs to destroy the person who can stop him: a woman called Selena Savanar. Can Selena succeed in rallying her people and stand up to Jemojeen?
The Sand Sea really is a tale of epic proportions, with many interesting details and vast world-building. Not the most conventional book when you think about Urban Fantasy, but it is one nonetheless.
Every River Runs to Salt – Rachael K. Jones
A fun and quirky novel about an enigmatic girl who steals the Pacific Ocean and turns to salt. Quietly is left with the mess her roommate left behind, with angry Gods trying to make her the new Ocean. And she wants Imani back, badly. And so Quietly travels to the Under-Ath, the underworld of the University, to rescue her friend and try to get the ocean back.
The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files is a series about Harry Dresden, a wizard helping the police with the everyday paranormal cases. The series is quite long (number 17 came out this year), so there are quite some books left to read if you haven’t started. While I think you can start pretty much where-ever, I always like to start with the first book. For the Dresden Files, this is Storm Front.
Harry is asked to consult the police on a double murder committed with black magic. The black mage is now on the loose and knows Harry’s name. How is he going to deal with that without getting himself killed?
Bewitched – Darynda Jones
Defiance Dayne is somewhere in her forties, yet only just discovered she’s from a long line of witches. In fact, she’s one of the three charmlings on the entire planet, with other witches who will do whatever it takes to steal her power. Defiance never knew she would have to learn new skills at forty, like how to dodge supernatural assassins while blasting spells from a moving vehicle. Nor did she know that the sexiest man ever would be living in her basement.
Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews
It happened: we pushed our technological progress too far, and now magic has returned. The magic comes in waves, without any warning, and when it happens, planes drop from the sky, cars stall, and electricity dies. But when magic is down, the guns work again, and it’s the spells that fail.
Kate Daniels lives in this world—in Atlanta, to be precise. Her sword is her best friend, and she has a big mouth. She’s also a target due to the magic in her blood and spent most of her life hiding. But now her guardian is killed, and she needs to choose whether she stays hidden, or whether she pursues the killer.
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
When making a list with urban fantasy, we can’t forget Neil Gaiman, can we?
Under the streets of London, there’s a secret city. A city filled with monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights, and pale girls. A city for the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew is about to experience this world first-hand. An act of kindness shoots him out of his workday and into a world that’s both eerily familiar and completely bizarre. A strange destiny is waiting for him here, in the city called Neverwhere.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Sure, let’s add one more Neil Gaiman book. Honestly, you can never go wrong with them anyway.
Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash just days before he is released from prison. When he does get out, he returns home, feeling numb. While on the plane, he meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, claiming to be a refugee from a distant war. He’s a former god and the king of America. Together, they go on a strange journey across the USA, while a storm of epic proportions threatens to break around them.
YA Urban Fantasy Books
Planet Adyn – M. L. Wang
Planet Adyn is a great introduction to the world of Theonite, but keep in mind that it’s just that: an introduction. You will get quite a bit of information, but many questions remain unanswered by the end of the book. Still, I really enjoyed reading it, and I’m sure the sequels are great as well and will give you a satisfying conclusion. And, while the story starts on Earth, the sequels will take place on another planet (or one of them, at least). So keep in mind that it becomes more sci-fi than fantasy at some point.
Joan Messi has spent thirteen years of her life, hiding her supernatural powers from everyone around her—from her parents and peers. She doesn’t attract attention to herself, never really making friends, afraid of what would happen if they come too close. But things change when a pair of strangers arrive from a parallel dimension, on the hunt for a nameless criminal. After years of wondering, she might finally get the answers she needs.
The Threshing – Tim Grahl
I thought this was a great book and very Hunger Games-like. Just in virtual reality. But the stakes are real, and Jessie needs to win the Threshing if she wants to survive. The Threshing is a competition between the four factions of the world, and whoever wins will get the majority of the food resources. With food being as scarce as it is, winning is essential; but can Jessie win?
Legendborn – Tracy Deonn
Bree Matthews is offered a residential program for bright high-schoolers at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s there where she sees her first magical attack—a flying demon feeding on human energies. She discovers a secret society of ‘Legendborn’ students that hunt these creatures. When one of the mages tries to wipe Bree’s memory, she unlocks her own unique magic and a buried memory. The night her mother died in an accident, a man named Merlin was at the hospital. She wants to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth, even infiltrating the Legendborn.
All Shadowhunter books – Cassandra Clare
I can’t have a list of urban fantasy, especially ya urban fantasy, and not include the Shadowhunter series. I have to admit that I still haven’t read them, even though I’ve been meaning to for quite some time now. I did thoroughly enjoy the Shadowhunter show on Netflix, so I do know what it’s about.
Let’s start with the very first book, shall we? This is City of Bones. Clary Fray witnesses a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and bizarre weapons. And then the body disappears into thin air. What’s even stranger: no one else sees the murderers, and there is nothing to show that someone died. She doesn’t know that this was her first meeting with the Shadowhunters: warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. One of them is Jace, a Shadowhunter with an angel’s looks but the attitude of a jerk. Clary is pulled into his world when her mother disappears, and a demon attacks Clary. But why would demons be interested in her and her mother at all? And how is she able to see them?
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix
Picture a slightly different London in 1983. Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, who she never met. A crime boss called Frank Thringley can help her, but he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of Merlin. He is a young left-handed bookseller, who are the fighting ones. They work together with the right-handed booksellers, who are the intellectual ones. They police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world while also managing some bookshops. Somehow, Susan’s search for her father overlaps with Merlin’s quest: finding the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother.
The Divergent Series – Veronica Roth
Another pretty iconic series. I will say I really loved the first book, but my love decreased with each book, and by the end of the third, I wanted to throw it across the room. However, I’ve also read reactions from people who really loved how the series ended, so tastes differ, as they say.
If you’ve watched the movies, you’re in for a surprise: the books are very different. Except for the first book, that one is pretty similar to its movie. So if you weren’t satisfied with the movies, perhaps you will be with the books!
Anyway, what’s it about: we start with Beatrice Prior in a dystopian Chicago world. There are five factions dedicated to a particular virtue. These are Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peaceful), and Erudite (intelligence). On one day every year, all 16-year-olds are selected to the faction they will devote their life to. For Beatrice, the decision is between her family in Abnegation or try and be who she really is. But the latter is not an easy path, with a highly competitive initiation and extreme tests. Amidst it all, there’s unrest and growing conflict threatening to unravel the society she grew up in.
A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
El, a student at Scholomance, is unlocking the many secrets of her school. It’s a very unusual school, to say the least: it’s a school for the magically gifted, where failure means death. There are no teachers, holidays, or friendships. It’s a school that teaches survival. You either graduate or die. But El is prepared for the dangers, with a dark power strong enough to wipe out millions. The only issue is that this powerful magic might actually do that and kill all the other students in the process.
Rosemary and Rue – Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye is a changeling who is half human and half fae. An outsider from birth. She’s sick of the Faerie world and retreats to the human world to live a normal life. But the Faeries won’t let her go so easily. When Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered, Toby is forced to come back. She needs to resume her position as knight errant to find out who murdered Evening. But this might endanger her life in the process.
LGBTQ Urban Fantasy Books
Chaos Surging – Brian Sherlock
This is quite an entertaining book that has a very cinematic feel to it. It wouldn’t do badly on the screen, I reckon. It has a high ‘X-men’ vibe, with people who have remarkable powers, humans who hate them because they fear them, and an extreme faction who wants to wipe out humans. Sounds familiar?
We have Cassey, who is trying to ensure peace for her fellow Novi, working to prevent another extremists’ deadly attack. Her most powerful asset is a water elemental called Dylan Strammole. He’s sent to get close to Asher Paravis; a man thought to be the terrorist they’re looking for. But as Dylan gets closer to Asher, complications arise when he starts to get feelings for the terrorist. Will he be able to stop Asher? Or will he switch sides after all?
Cemetery boys – Aiden Thomas
Yadriel is a trans boy from a Latinx family who have issues accepting his true gender. And so, he wants to prove himself with the help of his cousin Maritza. He performs a ritual to find the ghost of his murdered cousin to set it free. However, he summons the wrong ghost and ends up with Julian Diaz—the school’s bad boy. Julian doesn’t want just to be dead but wants to find out what happened and tie off loose ends. Yadriel agrees to help Julian since he doesn’t really have a choice. But the more time they spend together, the less Yadriel wants Julian to leave.
Sage, Smoke & Fire – Ryan Kurr
The energetic balance of the world is out of whack. The remedy? Witches.
Nina lives in New York City when suddenly a gene is activated, and she and some others become capable of performing magic. She’s called to Louisiana to lead a coven of witches so that they can restore the balance. But, by autumn, witches are emerging dead, and Nina is forced to defend the coven. Nina sets out on a quest through swamps, voodoo shops, churches, and alternate planes of consciousness to uncover the source of the dangerous gifts while trying to create peace within the coven and within the people she left behind.
Fahrenheit’s Ghost – T. L. Heinrich
Colleen vows to protect her family when a savage crime boss attacks them. Even if she has to steal a superpowered person from a sadistic millionaire. Karen has lied and killed in the name of justice as a top government agent. So she’s not above kidnapping. Karen and Colleen come together when they discover the person they are sent to capture is a child and have to run from ruthless men who will do everything to control the innocent girl’s powers.
Drawing Dead – S. M. Reine
Dana McIntyre, a vampire slayer, has been bitten by a master vampire. That’s some bad luck. But after killing hundreds of the creatures, she’s not going to turn into one of them. She’d rather die. But she might not have to: there’s a possible cure. But the only way to get it is through Nissa Royal, a vampire with close ties to the vampires Dana killed. And Nissa is dangerous—too dangerous to let live. Dana faces a tough decision: die and let vampires rule over Vegas, or life and become one of them herself. She needs the cure.
It’s a wrap
This is my ultimate list with urban fantasy novels for adults, ya urban fantasy, and some LGBTQ urban fantasy. Any of these you’ve read? Or want to read? Any book you feel should be added? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!