Urban fantasy is a brilliant genre often set in real cities and uncovering the fantastical and often dark underbelly that operates alongside human urban areas.
This genre has been well-loved for years and continues as a favorite for many across the globe. It is wide-spanning, covering other worlds that encompass ghosts, demons, witches, vampires, werewolves, and angels – pretty much any fantasy creature you can imagine.
Many people are attracted to the urban fantasy genre because it blends fantastical worlds with the urban areas many of us know so well. By doing this, the stories seem more realistic, even though they are entirely imaginary.
Fantasy can be an excellent form of escape for many readers and viewers and has been helping people to escape their mundane realities for decades. Whether you enjoy realistic books with only a hint of fantasy or would rather fully immerse yourself in other worlds, concepts, and realms, there’s something out there for you.
If you’re new to the fantasy genre, urban fantasy is a great way of dipping your toe in and seeing how you feel. With the combination of realism and fantasy running throughout, these books are easy to grasp, gripping, and brilliant stepping-stones for those just joining the fantasy literary world.
The Dresden Files are some of the most popular urban fantasy books available. They follow the protagonist Harry Dresden, who works as a private investigator in Chicago and uses his wizard powers to help him solve cases.
With fast-paced plot lines and gripping cases, The Dresden Files appears a lot like a detective story, with fantastical elements intertwined. These books have become favorites of those who were skeptical about fantasy novels, so be sure to give them a go even if you’re apprehensive.
But, if you’ve already read and enjoyed The Dresden Files and you’re looking for something similar to dive into, here are 20 similar book recommendations.
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
This is the first in McGuire’s October Daye series. It follows a faerie world that runs parallel to San Francisco. Faeries are dangerous and keep their lives secret but sometimes they have relationships with humans and produce half-breeds, who never fully fit into either world.
October Daye is a half-breed and this story follows her on her journey to find her identity and sense of belonging.
Rosemary and Rue is a brilliant first novel that introduces you to the fantasy world – how it works, who lives in it, and how these creatures are similar yet so different from us.
Hounded by Kevin Hearne
This is the first in Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles, which centers around Atticus O’Sullivan, a handsome shapeshifter that lives in modern-day Arizona. Although he looks 21, he’s over 2,000 years old and he is the last of his kind – Druids. He uses the Earth to summon his power and owns a magical sword.
Hounded tells the story that develops between Atticus and a Celtic god who is determined to obtain the sword. He has made Atticus’s life difficult for hundreds of years and now he’s finally tracked him down. Atticus will need the help of vampires, werewolves, and witches if he stands a chance.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
This story follows Kelsier, who discovers he has the powers of a Mistborn; he is determined to defeat the Lord Ruler, who has implemented a government reliant on terror and oppression. Kelsier summons the powers of the underworld to help but will it be enough?
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
This innovative novel blends detective fiction with fantasy, following Peter Grant who aims to work in the London Metropolitan Police Force as a detective.
He struggles to get noticed but when he interviews an eyewitness who turns out to be a ghost, he catches the eye of the Detective Chief Inspector.
As the city becomes entangled with supernatural species such as gods, goddesses, mortals, and ghosts, Peter’s ability to talk with the dead is going to come in handy.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèli Clark
It’s 1912 in Cairo. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities is looking into the inconsistencies identified between the mortal and the divine spheres.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo follows Special Investigator, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, who is challenged with what appears to be a regular suicide case. But as she uncovers more secrets, the case takes her down a twisted path as she exposes the underbelly of the city that contains ghosts, assassins, and angels.
Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass
Kira has been trained since childhood to become a fierce Shadowchaser but at the moment, she works as an antiquities expert. When a 2000-year-old ancient Egyptian dagger falls into Kira’s hands, she becomes the target of some of the most powerful people who will do anything to find it.
She finds the immortal Nubian warrior, the true owner of the dagger, and pairs up with him in order to prevent the dagger from falling into the wrong hands.
Shadow Blade is set in Atlanta but merges ancient myth and legend with fantastical characters and settings.
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
This is the first of a 4-book series that hones in on Isaac Vainio, a libriomancer. A libriomancer is someone with the magical ability to reach into books and extract objects and Isaac is part of an organization of libriomancers that has existed for 5 centuries.
When he is attacked by vampires who leaked the pages from his book into the human world, all hell breaks loose. It turns out that Isaac is not the only magician who has been a victim of this theft, so he and a group of other magic users seek out their perpetrators but the secrets that they uncover about their own powers along the way may take them down a whole new path.
Libriomancer is an excellent urban fantasy choice if you’re a fan of wizardry and magic.
Dead Things by Stephen Blackmore
Eric talks with the dead and sees ghosts, often fulfilling unfinished business for a fee. He left LA years ago, with the intention of never turning back. Too many enemies, too much danger. But when his sister is murdered with no explanation he must face his past and find out the truth.
Dead Things is a story of revenge, one that merges the contemporary murder thriller genre with supernatural fantasy.
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Kate uses her powers for good – she helps people with their magical problems. So when her guardian is murdered unexpectedly, she has her own problem to deal with and must avenge the death in any way possible.
Magic Bites is the first of 10 urban fantasy novels in this series that uses a powerful female lead to explore new realms, magical depths, and quests.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
This is the first of a brilliant series that follows Clary, a human with a power unbeknownst to her. She is a shadow hunter and can see into the supernatural dimension, unlike the rest of the human population.
Clary is led on a journey by fellow shadow hunter Jace, who guides her through her family’s past and introduces her to the world of vampires, werewolves, and demons.
City of Bones is fast-paced, and gripping, and uses a brilliantly-constructed fantastical world that exists in the heart of New York City.
Fated by Benedict Jacka
Alex owns a magic shop in London and while many humans consider this shop to be filled with whacky, childish “magical” items, Alex knows his shop is far more than that.
He is not the typical mage – his powers are not as obvious as many others, which is why it is so easy for him to live in London, unnoticed. But Alex has a special ability to see into the future.
Fated follows Alex on a journey to solve an age-old mystery involving a relic and must use his powers to save the future from the horrors of the past.
Dark is Her Nature by Judith Berens
This is the first in an 8-book series based on a magical school in Virginia. This reads more like a YA option but may still be enjoyable for the adult fantasy lover.
Dark is Her Nature follows Alison, a Drow princess who must learn to control the strong powers that grow within her. Her time at this school will help her to harness her powers in the best way and allow her to integrate with werewolves, elves, and wizards, sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
Half Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
Carlos Delacruz is called an ‘inbetweener’, half dead, half living, thanks to a partial resurrection he can’t remember.
This allows him to speak with the dead but still live in the mortal world. But when he discovers another just like him but with additional powers of sorcery, he is taken on a journey that merges our world with the underworld and must maintain the balance between the living and the dead.
Half Resurrection Blues is engaging, action-packed, and follows a brilliant premise. Well worth the read.
Blood Price by Tanya Huff
Set in the Canadian city of Toronto, Blood Price follows Vicki Nelson who has been sent on a mission to solve the mystery behind vicious attacks. As a former homicide detective, she’s equipped for the task but is not prepared for an ancient force to disrupt her investigation.
She and her partner Mike, who has many secrets of his own, must navigate dark magic and a whole new world of supernatural force.
Blood Price is a story of identity, exposure, investigation, and violence.
Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis
Set on the outskirts of Cleveland, this novel follows Janzen Robinson, who used to work as an apprentice to an organization made up of heroes who have spent their lives saving the world from unknown supernatural enemies.
Out of practice, Janzen is now faced with the task of killing a witch he knows little about. Funny and brilliantly written, Blunt Force Magic is a great choice to add to your reading list.
The Sapphire Eruption by I.M. Redwright
Noakhail was once the heir to the throne of the Fire Kingdom but since being driven out with his father, has been distant from his land and his powers.
Now he’s grown, he is determined to get back what is rightfully his and will need to face perilous journeys across numerous kingdoms to do it.
The Sapphire Eruption is a fantastic blend of adventure, fantasy, and romance – a good read for any fantasy fan.
Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
Skinwalkers share their bodies with the souls of other creatures. Jane Yellowrock is a skinwalker, encompassing the soul of a mountain lion. She is summoned to New Orleans as part of a vampire hunt and there she must find out more about the vampire world and about her own past and culture, which will teach her much more about herself than she thought.
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Mercy is a shapeshifter currently working as a mechanic in a garage. When a strange customer comes in with their van, she realizes he is a vampire and must navigate this new relationship knowing she is surrounded by werewolves.
Moon Called is a great novel, ideal as an introductory book to the urban fantasy genre.
The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
The Book of Jhereg follows the assassin, Vlad Taltos, and his dragon as they journey through danger and triumph.
Not only is it fast-paced and enthralling, covering the adventure attached to each job, but it also explores their unexpected relationship.
The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards
Rune Saint John is hired to find the missing son of Lady Judgment on New Atlantis, the new home of the Atlanteans.
He must investigate everyone including noblemen but ends up unearthing more about his own past than he does about the missing boy’s.
The Last Sun blends detective fiction, mystery, and fantasy, creating a fantastic book that has gripped its readers since its release.
This list has provided a wide range of urban fantasy novels, ranging in fantastical extremity and style. Hopefully, you’ve found some appealing titles to add to your reading list!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is urban fantasy?
Urban fantasy is a literary and film genre that incorporates a fantastical story, perhaps including witches, vampires, ghosts, etc, into a real urban setting.
What’s the difference between urban and modern fantasy?
Although there are many similarities between the two subgenres; the predominant of which is that they are both fantasy stories set in the modern day and incorporating modern lifestyles; urban fantasy is only set in densely populated areas, typically large, famous cities.
How many books are in The Dresden Files series?
There are currently 18, the last of which was published in 2022 but fans are expecting at least 20 books to make up the entire series.
What is the age rating for The Dresden Files?
It is recommended that readers under the age of 16 give this series a miss. The books contain graphic descriptions of violence and sex which many parents would deem inappropriate.
Does The Dresden Files incorporate romance?
Without giving too much away, the series does include segments of romance but this is certainly not the predominant theme, so if you’re looking for a fantasy romance novel, this one won’t fit the bill.