23 April, 2012

Fantasy Overview: Urban Fantasy

Part five of my fantasy overview.

Urban fantasy is set in cities, like you'd expect. More importantly, it generally has a more modern perspective on the fantasy tropes involved.  The genre has been exploding lately and I'm afraid this list lacks many authors. Still, I think for now it will serve to outline the shape of the subgenre and it can always be improved later.

Jim Butcher
His Dresden Files set one of the modern tones for urban fantasy: a wizard in hardboiled detective novels. These are fun books you definitely need to try if any of those elements appeal to you. They tend to read easily on their own but develop a larger plot as the series continues. Some have recommended beginning with the fourth book (Summer Knight) as it is the one where the story elements come together strongly. Butcher also wrote an epic fantasy series.

Patricia Briggs
Her Mercedes Thompson series falls outside the tropes of hardboiled detectives as well as sparkly vampires. Nice variety of characters and plot types, just be aware there are a lot of werewolves. There are also hints of wilder varieties of Fey, but the focus is on the common creatures.

Nnedi Okorafor
Her Akata Witch has been described as a Nigerian Harry Potter and that is a fairly accurate summary. I'm afraid for many readers her appeal will be the "exotic" nature of her Africa-focused books, but I was pleased how it took a different context for granted instead of exploiting this. Getting beyond those surface issues, her work focuses on cultures, ethnic identity, and societal norms.

Eoin Colfer
Though marketed as children's books, the Artemis Fowl series has been enjoyed by many different readers. The protagonist is a young criminal genius encountering a variety of problems in the world of fairies and other fantastic creatures.

Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments series is in the vein of Twilight-themed books but with more worldbuilding, a broader variety of non-humans, and more plot. For anyone who wants a distinctly modern feel or more romance, it should be considered.

While I'm always open to recommendations, I won't be putting paranormal romance titles on this list since I consider that to be a subgenre of romance. Plus, there are already plenty of listings for those books.

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