On the broadest level urban fantasy is fantasy that’s set in an urban setting, usually the modern day, in a city. Like any genre when you actually get down to it, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Urban fantasy comes from noir, but it also has hints of thriller, mystery, and of course fantasy in there. So what can you expect from urban fantasy reads?
There’s quite often a snarky kick-ass protagonist, and they’re frequently written in the first person. There will of course be supernatural elements there, but they range from one or two creatures, say witches and lycans, through to the entire fantasy sink. The supernatural elements can be hidden or exposed. There will be some form of magic in there. Oh and you’re quite likely to have a romantic subplot, but it absolutely must be the subplot. If it’s the focus then it’s paranormal romance, not urban fantasy.
They’re usually reasonably quick-paced, lots of ass-kicking, and there’s quite often a mystery element in there somewhere. Be that in the form of Infernal Ties where Evie’s trying to find out what the hell happened to Quin, or the more classic police procedural type.
From there, there are main types of storyline. You have either your supernatural being that’s a bit of an outcast, ala October Daye. Or the police procedural type, more like The Dresden Files and The SPI Files. Or there’s the supernatural being that’s trying to hide who and what they are, like Ella Summers’ Dragon Born series. Finally, there’s the supernatural hunter types, like Infernal Hunt and Supernatural.
There’s a huge range of tone and expectation within the genre. Ella Summers’ books are quite light, almost popcorn reads. Dresden and Red Hot Steele are very noiry. Then you have the middle ground, like Final Formula, 20 sided sorceress, and October Daye where there’s reasonably high stakes, a quick pace, grit, action, but nothing too dark.
There is usually swearing, a good amount of violence, and not infrequently graphic sex – although that’s far from a given. Plenty of urban fantasy fades to black, and series like Hellequin have little to no romance in them at all.
Urban fantasy is big genre with a huge amount of scope and that’s a lot of why I love it. That and I can explore a lot of ideas and concepts within it. I have the various types of relationship in Infernal Hunt, from the sibling bond, to friendship, to love. Then I have the exploration of people’s place within society in Dark City (which really needs a better name) and Shattered God. The overall concept of the supernatural being a part of the modern world, that you just need to know where to look, it fantastic. It’s so exciting and full of wonder and possibility.
I feel at home in urban fantasy, both as a reader and an author. Which genre is your fictional home?
If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy read, check out Infernal Ties book one in my Infernal Hunt series and only 99c!