There is something so thrilling about fantasy books set in a city. But it can be a struggle to find urban fantasy books that aren’t childish. That’s why in this post I’ve compiled the best urban fantasy books for adults.
This post contains affiliate links. That said, I won’t ever recommend a book I haven’t read and loved myself.
Urban fantasy is one of the most thrilling book genres to read. I love seeing magic in a modern setting. But so often urban fantasy books are childish. Or they’re 90% romance and only 10% fantasy.
So I’ve searched the internet, polled Bookstagram and browsed my own bookshelves to find the best urban fantasy books for adults.
What is the difference between fantasy and urban fantasy?
Fantasy is a genre of fiction involving supernatural elements. Whereas urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. As a general rule, urban fantasy books have mythical elements but are set in an urban city setting.
What makes a book urban fantasy?
As a general rule, an urban fantasy is a book with fantastical or supernatural elements set in an urban setting in the present day. Urban Fantasy books are set in the real world but have fantasy elements and concepts
What are the best urban fantasy books for adults?
1. The Guild Hunter Series - Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh
If you enjoyed Crescent City then you'll absolute love this urban fantasy book. I originally picked this up because Sarah J Maas listed Nalini Singh as an author she enjoys. And I was not disappointed! It is more
It follows Elena. She's a vampire hunter and she knows she's the best. But the Archangel Raphael hires her for a job. And it's clear failure is not an option - even if the task is impossible.
There are so many similarities between Crescent City! It's a dark urban fantasy with angels and vampires. It features a romance between an angel and someone who is not quite human. It even references wings a lot!
This is more romance heavy that other books on this list. But it still has enough of a plot. If you're looking for urban fantasy books like Crescent City you will absolutely love this book. It has a great romance but there is still a mystery and strong plot. The heroine is also a strong female main character reminiscent of the heroines..
For context I've included a video later on where Sarah J Maas fangirls over Nalini Singh and the Guildhunter series!
If you're looking for books like Crescent City - you might want to read my article with recommendations if you're wondering what to read after Crescent City. You can check out the article on books like Crescent City here.
2. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
When researching recommendations for this blog post, DarkFever was easily one of the top recommendations.
And after reading this dark fantasy book I can see why. It's an urban fantasy featuring fae and vampires. It also has a morally grey dark haired male love interest and a sassy human protagonist.
It follows Mackayla. She lives a relatively normal life until her sister is brutally murdered. She journeys to Ireland in search of answers.
But Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed.
I really enjoyed this and I completely understand why urban fantasy fans would love this. It's set in an urban city setting with fae and morally grey characters.
However, some of the characters did annoy me. Mackayla was portrayed as a barbie and Barrons is manipulative and abusive.
The book was clearly published in the noughties and I couldn't take the descriptions of Mackayla's 'expensive Juicy Couture bag' seriously.
3. Crescent City by Sarah J Maas
I had to start this list off with another of Sarah J Maas' books. If you haven't read Crescent City then this is probably my top pick for books with characters like Rhysand. Hunt Athalar reminds me a lot of Rhysand - dark haired, morally grey and enemies to lovers. The only difference is that Crescent City is smuttier.
Crescent city is an urban fantasy that features a range of mythological creatures such as mermaids, fae and werewolves.
It follows Bryce who is half-fae, half-human. And she is tasked with investigating a series of crimes with Hunt Athalar – a fallen angel. But they discover some dark powers at work.
Let me tell you – I was on the edge of my chair reading this. Sarah J Maas poses a number of mysteries at the start. And this hooked me in. The book was also full of unexpected plot twists.
There is some info-dumping at the start. But the world-building is exquisite and the urban fantasy setting is developed very well. Sarah J Maas writes strong sassy female leads very well. And Bryce is an incredible main character. But all the side characters were very well developed.
If you're looking for books suitable for a younger audience- then this isn't for you. It's definitely more suited to an adult audience. If you're looking for books like Crescent City -then I have a whole blog post full of recommendations. You can check out my article on books like Crescent City here
4. A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
If you’re a looking for urban fantasy books with LGBTQ+ representation you should definitely check out A Dark and Hollow Star. It's an urban fantasy with fae, queer main characters and an enticing mystery. It also has a seriously adorable wlw romance.
A series of gruesome murders threatens to expose the faerie world to humans. Four queer teens – Nausicaä, Arlo, Vehan, and Aurelian – each hold a piece of the truth. And they must track down the mysterious killer.
There are not one but two romances in this book. And the characters are what make them so perfect. Arlo and Nausicaä have such amazing chemistry. Nausicaä is a grumpy, chaotic and sarcastic lesbian. Arlo and Nausicaä have a perfect grumpy/sunshine slow-burn vibe.
I listened to the audiobook version which you can find on audible. It features a full cast of narrators which made it really engrossing.
The voices of Vehan and Nausicaä are so spot on! And you can listen to it on Audible with a free trial. It's a great audiobook to put on if you're looking for some escapism while you're cleaning or relaxing before bedtime.
5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a recent read for me. I picked this up second hand after hearing positive reviews online. And I think fans of Crescent City will love this YA Fantasy book.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone follows Karou. She has 2 lives which she has always managed to keep balanced. On one hand, she's a seventeen year old art student living in Prague. On the other hand, she runs errands for a monster.
But then black hand prints start appearing on doorways. Scorched there by winged creatures. And Karou must choose between the safety of her human life or war.
If you're looking for books like Crescent City then this is a great choice. Particularly if you're looking for books with angels. This book features angels and an urban setting. It also has slightly darker tone for a fantasy novel.
6. Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Greek Mythology meets The Hunger games. Lore features Greek mythology, an urban setting and a strong female lead.
Every seven years Greek Gods are hunted by descendants of ancient bloodlines. If the hunters succeed they seize their immortality. It follows Lore Perseus who has turned her back on this world. But as the next hunt dawns, two participants seek out her help.
The plot of Lore is quite complex but it’s executed perfectly. Bracken did a great job building the world and the concept in this book. The greek mythology is woven flawlessly into the modern setting. I was intrigued and hooked from the first chapter.
It has a really great revenge storyline. So if you liked the revenge plots then this is a great book to read.
7. The Original by Brandon Sanderson
I wasn't initially going to include the Original. But I decided to include an audiobook you could read in a day. This is a short audiobook that you could easily finish on a long journey. If you're in a reading slump, audiobooksare often more immersive. And can be put on in the background while you do other things.
The Original audiobook is super short ( only 3 hours I believe) and would be easy to binge in one or two sittings.
While it’s more sci-fi, the concept is super original. It follows a clone. Her original has committed a horrific crime and she is tasked with killing her. If she succeeds – she will continue living instead of her original.
This audiobook was really immersive and engaging. It’s full of sound effects and a cast of narrators. The concept is so unique that you have to keep listening. The short length means it’s super satisfying and can be binged pretty quickly.
8. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files is an insanely popular Urban Fantasy book series. And when you research Urban Fantasy books this series is always one of the first to be recommended.
It follows Harry Dresden who is an openly practicing professional wizard. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers.
For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.
So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get interesting.
I really enjoy the mystery and crime elements of these books. The book opens with several mysteries to be solved and keeps you hooked throughout. It's fast-paced and relatively short so it's a fairly quick read
9. Alex Verus Series by Benedict Jacka
I first discovered The Alex Verus series while browsing in a charity shop. The unique cover drew me in to this book. When I started reading, this quickly became a favourite.
The Alex Verus books are perfect for fans of the Dresden Files. It's an Urban Fantasy Series with a crime to investigate and a snarky main character.
The first book in the series is Fated. In Fated we meet Alex Verus. He runs Arcana Emporium in the heart of Camden. He won't sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you're looking for, he might just be able to help.
That's if he's not too busy avoiding his would-be apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a mysterious relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.
While these are very similar to The Dresden Files, there were enough differences for me to enjoy this. I found the main character to be very likeable. The plot was fast-paced and full of great action sequences.
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I couldn't write a post on Urban Fantasy books for adults without mentioning Neil Gaiman. Specifically, American Gods. This Urban Fantasy book feature urban worldbuilding, mythology and a unique concept.
It follows Shadow. Days before his release, his wife dies in a mysterious car crash. He is released early and makes his way back home.
On the plane he encounters the strange yet enigmatic Mr Wednesday. A man who seems to know more about Shadow's life than Shadow does.
Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook version over the physical book. It's one of the best audiobooks with a full cast production and a different voice actor for each main character. It makes the audiobook such an immersive experience. You can get the Audiobook on audible via Amazon- check it out here.