For some people, reading allows them to escape into a world entirely unlike the one they live in. Westeros, Middle-Earth, Hogwarts, Asgard, Olympus, Wonderland, and Narnia are just a few of the countless fictional locations that readers continue to revisit time and time again.
For others, reading lets them go on adventures set in the real world, whether it be in the past or during the modern day. Perhaps you can travel to places you’ve never been before or experience your favorite city or country in an entirely new way. If you’re on the hunt for some new books to read, but can’t decide whether you want to venture into a fantastical, fictional universe or explore the world beyond your backyard, I might have a solution for you: Urban Fantasy.
Simply put, an urban fantasy story is set during the modern time in the real world, but contains magical or supernatural elements. So, maybe the setting is in Chicago, London, or the Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, but the characters encounter demons, vampires, magicians, or perhaps magical beasts. Think of something like the Percy Jackson series, as an example.
Now, I give you the next list of recommendations in my series, A Thousand Lives: seven urban fantasy books! Click on the book’s title to purchase it or to learn more.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Three years after he’s released from prison, Shadow’s world is nothing like the one he left behind. His wife Laura has died in an automobile accident. On the way to her funeral, Shadow meets a strange businessman called Wednesday, who offers Shadow a job. He accepts though he’s unsure as to what the job truly entails.
Shadow soon realizes he may no longer be in Indiana anymore, nor “anywhere on Earth he recognizes.” He begins to experience strange dreams, featuring a bizarre figure who has “the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet,” as well as Laura’s ghost. Gaiman weaves in other characters and stories whose details unfold as Shadow’s adventure carries on. The main question the book seeks to examine is: “When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?”
The Hazel Wood– Melissa Albert
Most of seventeen-year-old Alice’s life has been spent on the road with her mother, attempting to evade the plaguing bad luck that seems to follow them everywhere. Then, Alice’s grandmother, the author of a collection of dark fairytales, dies at her estate called the Hazel Wood. Soon after, Alice’s mother is taken away by a creature who says they’re from a world called Hinterland, the same world in which Alice’s grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only resource is a note her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice never wanted anything to do with her grandmother’s cult-like fans, but now she has no choice. She teams up with her classmate Ellery Finch, an avid fan of the Hinterland fairytales. To save her mother, Alice will need to first visit the Hazel Wood, then venture into her grandmother’s fictional world in the hopes of discovering “how her own story went so wrong.”
Rivers of London– Ben Aaronovitch
Until recently, Peter Grant was a probationary constable for the Metropolitan Police Service (aka the Fifth). His only real concerns were avoiding a transfer to the Case Progression Unit and hooking up with WPC Leslie May. Then, while responding to a murder inquiry one night, Grant attempts to take a witness statement from a dead person with helpful information. He suddenly finds himself answering to the last wizard in England: the Nightingale.
Now Peter Grant is Detective Constable and the first trainee wizard in fifty years. His world is unsurprisingly more complex. There are vampires in Purley, a warring god and goddess of the Thames, and graves in the Convent Garden. Even more so, there is a highly disturbing phenomenon at the core of Grant’s city: a spirit who takes normal Londoners and changes them into malleable, disgusting mannequins who perform the spirit’s malicious acts. Grant must either find a way to save his city or die trying.
A Blade so Black– L.L. McKinney
Alice nearly lost her life the first time the Nightmares came. However, she’s now equipped to fight the monstrous creatures from Wonderland, “the dark dream realm.” Still, even warriors have curfews and rules to follow.
Alice’s life in present-day Atlanta is not as simple. She must balance her overprotective mother, a decreasing GPA, and her “high-maintenance” best friend. Plus, warding off the Nightmares is already a full-time job in itself. Then, when Alice’s mentor is poisoned, she’ll have to journey deep into Wonderland to find the antidote. Alice must utilize all knowledge from both Wonderland and the modern world if she wishes to avoid (literally) losing her head.
The Last Sun– K.D. Edwards
Rune Saint John is the last member of his House. He is employed to search for Addam, the missing son of Lady Judgement. He’ll have to travel to New Atlantis, “the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.”
Accompanied by his bodyguard and companion, Brand, Rune will question Addam’s relatives and professional contacts. While doing so, he’ll discover a “legendary” creature with connections to the eradication and massacre of Rune’s Court. In addition to finding Addam, will Rune also discover the truth about his House’s downfall, the pain from his past, and his parent’s deaths?
Raising Hell– Bryony Pearce
Ivy Elisabeth Mann and her friends once did something very stupid, and as a consequence, a rift now exists that allows dark matter into the world. This dark matter manifests itself as usable black magic. Now, all teenagers interested in the magic are “literally raising hell.”
Ivy is attempting to remedy this mess but is struggling amidst working a new job that barely allows her to pay her bills. After all, there is only so much that this girl with a machete can do. (Did I also mention she owns a cat “possessed by her own dead grandmother”?) Ivy must now deal with a moody goth girl, her attractive brother, “a dark cabal with a terrifying agenda and a potential zombie apocalypse.” Perhaps the best thing that can happen for the world is if Ivy loses her job …
A Song Below Water– Bethany C. Morrow
Unaccepted in her society, Tavia needs to conceal her siren powers. Her friend Effie is fighting her own battles against “literal demons from her past.” At the same time, these best friends must endure the trials of their junior year of high school.
Suddenly, their lives are uprooted after a siren murder trial, when Tavia uses her powers at the most unfavorable moment. Now, danger lurks behind every corner in Portland, Oregon. Tavia and Effie’s sisterhood must prove to be the strongest magic in existence if the girls wish to save themselves from losing everything.