Excalibur Books publish Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction – and today we’re going to look at one of our favorite subgenres, Urban Fantasy – and some of the leading authors and books in that field.
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First – what exactly is Urban Fantasy, and what makes it different to other kinds of ‘Fantasy’? We’ve found a wonderfully coherent and witty definition of the subgenre here …
The short answer is – it’s Fantasy mainly set in our recognizable world, not Middle-Earth or Narnia or Hogwarts. In Urban Fantasy, gods and demons and spirits are real, but they walk among us – in London, New York, Paris, Mexico City, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Sidney, and of course can be found in smaller towns in the countryside, any setting that can be considered ‘urban’. They walk among us unseen, their love affairs and battles hidden from us by a magical glamor. Occasionally, that glamor is dropped, and certain individuals realize the truth … and it changes them forever …
Notable works of Urban Fantasy that kickstarted and defined the genre include:
The Percy Jackson series.
This is the series that codified the genre. Percy is a troubled American teenager who discovers that he is the son of a human mother and the god Poseidon … and the entire pantheon of ancient Greek Gods have made their home in the modern USA. Heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s “Journey of a Hero” theory, which is in turn based on archetypes in global mythology, folklore and literature.
Neverwhere and American Gods
Fresh from his success with the DC comic “Sandman”, Neil Gaiman went on to craft two outstanding novels; “Neverwhere”, with its secret world beneath London, and “American Gods”, an epic tale of ancient pantheons clashing with the modern.
China Mieville has been called one of the leaders of the “New Weird” movement, and after reading this you can see why. Although it’s classed as a YA novel, its head-spinning concepts are fit for all ages.
Charlie Fletcher here takes the Joseph Campbell “Journey of a Hero” archetype and sets it in modern London … where all of the famous statues, monuments and gargoyles are alive, have minds of their own, and stories to tell.
The Kid Who Would Be King
Okay, now we’re cheating because this is a movie, but seeing as we call ourselves Excalibur Books, we couldn’t resist this. “The Kid Who Would Be King” is an Urban Fantasy retelling of Arthurian legends, starring Sir Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Ferguson and Louis Ashbourne Serkis. Lonely teenager Alex discovers the mythical, ancient sword Excalibur, and … a suitably enchanting adventure ensues.
BEST NEW URBAN FANTASY BOOKS
Now we’re going to highlight our pick of the best new Urban Fantasy book series that are igniting the Amazon charts – from new, exciting authors you might not have heard of!
We say “best”, but that is totally our opinion. These books are bestsellers on the Amazon charts, but of course, everyone has different views on what a ‘top five Urban Fantasy list’ would include.
“Protector” by Leia Stone and S. T. Bende (Book 1 of the Night War Saga series).
Allie is gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see auras – energy signatures around people’s bodies. As an Environmental Studies major, she’s researching the recent wave of natural disasters around the world and also looking for a possible explanation for her psychic powers. Her studies and occasional partying with best friend Mallory are interrupted, first by finding a mysterious crystal necklace at an equally mysterious antique shop, and then by a strikingly handsome visiting professor lecturing in Norse Mythology. Why is the professor so interested in Allie? What is the connection of Norse Mythology to the recent wave of global natural disasters? What is the mystical power of the crystal necklace, and was it really by chance that Allie found it?
“Rosemary and Rue” by Seanan McGuire (Book 1 of the “October Daye” series).
Private Investigator October Daye spent fourteen years as a fish. That would be enough to traumatize anyone, but as a half-human Fae hybrid, she also has the ignorance of humans and the scorn of her Faerie relatives to contend with. When Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, is mysteriously killed, October is recruited by the Duke of Shadowed Hills to solve the mystery. She begins to get her life back, renewing old alliances and making new friends … but enemies both new and old want to stop her getting to the truth.
A Brush with the Moon by Raquel Lyon (Book 1 in the Foxblood trilogy).
Sophie is looking forward to starting a new life at University; it means reuniting with her best friend, escaping from her overbearing mother, and pursuing her love of art. The new town, however, has a number of secrets, including a nightclub with a highly sinister owner. Weirdest of all, she’s been bitten by a fox – and the fox is now appearing in her dreams and nightmares …
“Dark Is Her Nature” by Judith Berens (Book 1 of “The School of Necessary Magic” series).
This novel starts not with a bang, but with a fireball – thrown at Izzie’s family by rival sorcerers as they are trying to flee persecution. Her parents realize that the safest place for her is in hiding – as a freshman at the School of Necessary Magic – with her memories wiped. Alone in a strange new school, she must build a new life for herself, make new friends, learn to harness her new powers. But the sorcerers who forced her to flee her home are still looking for her – and the family she doesn’t know she has …
“Wings and Destruction” by G. K. DeRosa (Book 1 of the Vampire and Angel Wars).
What could be more awesome than angels at war? How about … angels at war with vampires? When Book 1 starts, the Earth has already been destroyed. Liv, the main character, survives by scavenging in a post-apocalyptic urban wilderness. With her family gone, her only companions are her best friend Asher and her dog Duke – until Asher is captured by a Nephilim foraging party. In her attempts to follow him to the hellish fortress where he is being held, she encounters Declan, who offers her help and transportation. Declan also has a shocking secret … one that will force Liv to question everything she knows and loves … and reevaluate her place in this new volatile world …
NB: We thought about calling this blog post “Best Young Adult Urban Fantasy Books.” However, the label ‘Young Adult’ can be confusing these days, as books such as the above are being read and enjoyed by people of all ages. And with good reason – they’re all fantastic – in every sense of that word!
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