Choosing the best urban fantasy series is a lot like choosing a good wine—which you choose depends on your mood and what you’ll be pairing it with that evening. Some nights you might be dining out and trying to choose the best wine to complement your meal, while other nights you just plan to zone out on the couch and get hammered.
Similarly, there are urban fantasy novel series for every mood and season. Some are more lighthearted and funny, while others are dark and gritty. This week you might want a pick me up, so you go with something more hopeful, and on your next bookstore outing you decide you want a nail biter. Which you choose is based on your personal tastes and what your reading needs are at the moment.
So, don’t hate us if we didn’t select your fave urban fantasy collection for this article. These choices are purely subjective, and they’re not based on any real objective criteria other than popularity and preference. That said, we think they represent the best of the genre, but if you have others you prefer please let us know in the comments.
About The Urban Fantasy Subgenre
Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy fiction that combines magical and supernatural elements with modern city life. These narratives typically feature protagonists who navigate fantastical worlds hidden within bustling metropolises, engaging with a wide range of magical creatures, secret societies, and ancient mysteries.
Over the years, urban fantasy has produced many unforgettable series that have captivated the hearts and minds of readers. In this article, we’ll explore the best urban fantasy series of all time, taking you on a magical journey through the cityscapes of modern fiction.
The Top Ten Best Urban Fantasy Series of All Time
1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files series follows the adventures of Harry Dresden, a professional wizard and private investigator in modern-day Chicago. As the city’s only openly practicing wizard, Dresden often finds himself assisting the Chicago Police Department in solving supernatural crimes. Jim Butcher masterfully combines gritty noir, detective fiction, and the supernatural, resulting in a captivating series with an ever-growing fanbase. With over seventeen books and counting, readers can immerse themselves in Dresden’s world of vampires, werewolves, and faeries, all while enjoying complex character development and gripping storytelling.
2. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Set in a version of New York City inhabited by supernatural beings, The Mortal Instruments series introduces readers to the Shadowhunters, a secret society of warriors tasked with protecting humans from demonic forces. The series follows teenager Clary Fray as she discovers her own connection to the Shadowhunters and learns to navigate a world filled with magic, vampires, and werewolves. Cassandra Clare’s richly detailed urban fantasy world and her vivid, relatable characters have made The Mortal Instruments a beloved series for many readers, spawning several prequels, sequels, and a television adaptation.
3. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
The Iron Druid Chronicles series features Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the ancient Druids, who runs a magical bookstore in modern-day Tempe, Arizona. With a blend of humor, action, and mythology, Hearne weaves an engaging tale of magic, gods, and supernatural creatures. Atticus’s adventures involve encounters with figures from a variety of mythologies, including Celtic, Norse, and Greek pantheons. The series is praised for its engaging characters, diverse mythological influences, and Hearne’s ability to infuse humor and wit into an action-packed urban fantasy narrative.
4. The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison
Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, also known as the Rachel Morgan series, is set in an alternate version of Cincinnati, where supernatural creatures such as witches, vampires, and werewolves live alongside humans. The series follows Rachel Morgan, a witch and bounty hunter, as she navigates a dangerous world of magic, politics, and intrigue. Harrison’s Hollows series is known for its strong female protagonist, fast-paced storytelling, and intricate world-building. With thirteen novels and several short stories, readers can enjoy a long and satisfying journey through the magical underbelly of Cincinnati.
5. The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series is set in a post-apocalyptic Atlanta, where magic and technology vie for dominance. The series follows Kate Daniels, a mercenary with a mysterious past, as she takes on supernatural threats and uncovers hidden secrets in a world filled with shape-shifters, vampires, and powerful magic-users. With strong world-building, well-developed characters, and a compelling overarching storyline, the Kate Daniels series has become a fan favorite in the urban fantasy genre.
6. The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
The Mercy Thompson series follows Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson, a mechanic and shapeshifter living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. Mercy’s adventures involve navigating the supernatural world, which includes werewolves, vampires, and fae, as she uncovers secrets about her own heritage and becomes embroiled in various mysteries. Patricia Briggs is praised for her nuanced portrayal of supernatural creatures and her strong, independent protagonist. With multiple books and a spin-off series, the Mercy Thompson series offers a thrilling urban fantasy experience.
7. The Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey
The Sandman Slim series introduces readers to James Stark, a man who returns to Los Angeles after spending eleven years in Hell as a gladiator and assassin. Now back on Earth, Stark, also known as Sandman Slim, seeks vengeance on those who sent him to Hell while also battling various supernatural threats. Richard Kadrey’s series is known for its dark humor, gritty atmosphere, and the unique voice of its protagonist. With action-packed storytelling and memorable characters, the Sandman Slim series is a standout in the urban fantasy genre.
8. The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
The October Daye series follows October “Toby” Daye, a half-human, half-fae changeling and private investigator who navigates the world of Faerie and the mortal realm. McGuire’s series is praised for its intricate world-building, inspired by traditional faerie folklore, and the strong character development of its protagonist. Readers can enjoy Toby’s journey through the magical realms of San Francisco and the surrounding areas, encountering a diverse cast of characters and uncovering long-hidden secrets.
9. The Nightside Series by Simon R. Green
Simon R. Green’s Nightside Series is set in a hidden, magical part of London known as the Nightside, where supernatural creatures and humans coexist. The series follows John Taylor, a private investigator with a unique gift for finding lost objects and uncovering secrets. With a noir atmosphere and a touch of dark humor, Green’s Nightside Series takes readers on a thrilling journey through a mysterious and dangerous underworld. With twelve books in the series, readers can explore the Nightside’s secrets alongside John Taylor.
10. The Alex Verus Series by Benedict Jacka
The Alex Verus series is centered around Alex Verus, a mage and diviner who can foresee the future, living in modern-day London. The series delves into the world of magic and the politics of the magical community, as Alex becomes involved in dangerous situations that test his skills and force him to confront his past. Benedict Jacka’s series is noted for its well-developed magical system, engaging storytelling, and its charismatic protagonist. The Alex Verus series is an excellent choice for readers looking to immerse themselves in a modern, magical London.
Wrapping It Up
Urban fantasy has grown into a diverse and captivating genre, offering readers a multitude of magical worlds hidden within the cities we know and love. The series mentioned above represent some of the best urban fantasy series, showcasing unique world-building, memorable characters, and engaging storytelling. Whether you’re a seasoned fan of the genre or a newcomer looking to explore the magical side of modern city life, these urban fantasy series promise to transport you on unforgettable adventures.
About the Author:
Larry the Chupacabra is the world’s foremost expert on fine vegan meat snacks and plant-based charcuterie. When he’s not traipsing around the world at Colin’s side, he’s likely to be found hanging out with other cryptids, cooking up plans to give various three-letter government agencies (and CERBERUS) plenty of grief. He’s also a pretty decent ninja, despite his lack of opposable thumbs twenty-nine-ish days out of the month.