Sep 25 2014 8:30am

10 Urban Fantasy Series You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion)

Have you fallen for an urban fantasy series and want more? We’re here to help.

These ten book series epitomize things we love about urban fantasy. They may have influenced the subgenre or they’re the ones every urban fantasy fan has read. These are the books that showcase what we love—and expect—from urban fantasies.

1. Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton

We have to start here. Laurell K. Hamilton was a huge game changer for urban fantasy. She brought us a police procedural—something that is a trope in its own right—with paranormal and fronted the novel with a strong, determined heroine in Anita Blake. The series is on-going, and there’s fervent fan debate regarding the latter books (mostly after Obsidian Butterfly, the ninth novel), but there is no question that these books, starting with Guilty Pleasures, are an urban fantasy must.

2. The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

For the primo example of open world urban fantasy, look no further than Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. Witches, vampires, demons and faeries are all out in the open, and how does that change society? Engaging characters and stellar world building will hook you into this one.

3. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher brings the right tone—you can almost picture Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) wizard private investigator, giving you the side eye—and stakes to this quintessential urban fantasy series. Snark, sidekicks and a healthy dose of supernatural problems make the Dresden Files series a staple.

4. Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill

There are two elements that make Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series a must-read for urban fantasy fans. First, while the series features an open world where everyone knows about vampires, we get to experience it all as though it’s brand new for us. That’s because the main character Merit becomes a vampire in the first book (not a spoiler!), and her journey lets readers experience this world without feeling lost.

Second, Neill has mastered the group dynamic. When it comes to ensemble casts for urban fantasy, there won’t be a character in Merit’s gang you don’t love. 

5. Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Looking for strong characters? Patricia Briggs knows how to write them. Her Mercy Thompson series offers mysteries, werewolf pack dynamics and a main character you’ll never want to stop rooting for. The spinoff series are excellent, too.

6. Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

Urban fantasy has always been best as it demonstrated what it means to be “other.” Kelley Armstrong does this beautifully in her Women of the Otherworld series. These books focus on how these supernaturals want nothing more than to be normal, but that isn’t always the answer.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire7. October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

The grass isn’t always greener. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series shows us the cruelty in both the fae and human worlds. The world building is outstanding, and the plot curves will keep you flying through this series.

8. Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

In urban fantasy things should almost always get worse. Ilona Andrews makes things plenty complicated—and utterly engaging—in the Kate Daniels books. Magic is a great asset, except for when it’s down.  Which weapons do we use and when? Who has the upper hand? Add in a delightful main character and her fantastic relationship with the Beast Lord, and prepare to be sucked in.

9. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

You may have heard others call this series a romance. It often gets shelved there in bookstores, but Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is brilliant urban fantasy. It just happens to include insane sexual tension. Mac is trying find the person who murder her sister. In doing so she gets wrapped up in a mission to keep the fae world from taking over our own. Kind of a big deal. Great characters, super twisty plot.

10. Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn

Not every urban fantasy has to be heavy or gritty. We’re allowed to have fun. Carrie Vaughn gets that. Her Kitty Norville series has great supernatural mysteries with plenty of action and a healthy dose of irreverence. Fun and totally addictive.

To find out more about each book mentioned:

Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton  
Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows series #1) by Kim Harrison    
Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher  
Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) series by Chloe Neill  
Moon Called (Mercedes Thompson series #1) by Patricia Briggs  
Bitten (Women of the Otherworld series #1) by Kelley Armstrong  
Rosemary and Rue (October Daye series #1) by Seanan McGuire    
Magic Bites (Kate Daniels series #1) by Ilona Andrews  
Darkfever (Fever series #1) by Karen Marie Moning  
Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville series #1) by Carrie Vaughn  


While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. PaigeTurner
I love urban fantasy. Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost definitely number 1 for me. I love Cat and Bones. Ian is great secondary character wish he get is own book
2. scotmegh
I havent read any of the above but I do love the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. I will definitely check some of these out, I love finding new amazing series to get into :)
3. Sara Horney
Most of these are or at least were (I'm looking at you Chloe Neill and LKH!) autobuy authors for me.

I'd also like to suggest Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles to this list. The books are just amazing.
6. ChelseaMueller
Y'all should have seen my original list of "essentials" for this Top 10. It was about thirty series long. And it did include the Iron Druid books as well as Elemental Assassin.

@PaigeTurner - Night Huntress is one of my favorite series, too. Though, I think it veers more PNR after the first book, so it didn't make the final cut.
7. ChelseaMueller
@Sara - Not sure where you dropped off with Chicagoland (Hard Bitten, probably), but the series is really strong again. If you're considering returning to Merit & Co. ;)
8. Kristy J
I will add another vote for Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series. Great books and a great guy--very interactive with fans on Facebook & Twitter. His Twitter feeds for characters Oberon and Owen are hilarious.
Laura Bracken
9. Night -owl
@PaigeTurner- I hear you!! Cat &Bones forever! :-) Yes, an Ian book needs to happen( all good things come to those that wait, right?).
10. PhoebeChase
So many of these are in my TBR pile. I really need to buckle down and read ALL THE BOOKS.
Carmen Pinzon
11. bungluna
I'm 9 out of 10. I read a lot of Urban Fantasy and I could go on (and on!) about favorite series in the genre, but I think you've done a great job listing 10 pioneering/influential ones. Thanks for the great post.
12. ChelseaMueller
@bungluna - Thanks! It was so hard to narrow down to the essentials. (It's tempting to add more in the comments. LOL)
13. ChelseaMueller
@PhoebeChase - I'm pretty sure ALL THE BOOKS will be etched on my gravestone.
14. xServer
LKH's early books do not, unfortunately, stand up to a second reading. They were ground-breaking at the time but once you get past the novelty of the ideas the writing is not actually that great.

The later books are (to me) unreadable at all levels.

I second the addition of Jennifer Estep and Kevin Hearne to this list. Great series, both.

And kudos on including Ilona Andrews on this list. The Kate Daniels series is my favorite series right now (followed closely by Jim Butcher's series).
15. ChelseaMueller
@xServer - I haven't re-read the LKH, but I'm sticking with her being ground-breaking for the genre. Much of what we see today was spawned by those early books. Though, it's certainly too bad they didn't hold up for you.

I'm always disappointed when I revisist a series and it doesn't have the same magic the second time around.
rachel sternberg
16. rae70
I have to agree about the Anita series after the Obsidian Butterfly... she really went off the deep end after that... Loved the series up to that point.. Night Huntress is a great read as well as Kitty Norville.. Gonna check out #7 from the library, sounds great!
Melanie Thomas
18. missmelthomas
I think this was a great list for the most part. I am a loyal reader of 5 of the 10 urban fantasy series listed, and 3 of the others are on my TBR list. I'm an Anita Blake fan and am glad that she was given a little love here. I know that most people have a problem with the sexual content of the latter books but I love them. It seemed like the right step to me with the ardour and all. That said, I do admit that the first few books in the series were quit slow on my re-read.

I know many people are fans of Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, but I loathe Mac with a fiery passion. I stuck with it hoping it would get better but I just couldn't connect with Mac. At all.

I also felt that there were two series that should have gotten attention. One has been mentioned in the comments, Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost. Yes the series was smexy but that didn't change the fact that it was urban fantasy. Well to me anyway as I read PNR and each book changes it's hero and heroine.

I also think that Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series should be on the list. It is handsdown my favorite urban fantasy series of all time. That said, I get that not everyone will like Chess. She's more damanged and flawed than any urban fantasy heroine I've had the pleasure of reading about. And oh how I love her for it.
19. ChelseaMueller
@missmelthomas - I absolutely agree on Stacia Kane's books. They're some of my absolute favorites. I tend not to include her on posts here of late because one of the books (Sacrificial Magic) is dedicated to me, and I don't want y'all to think I'm biased!
Lege Artis
20. LegeArtis
Great post, Chelsea!
I am a huge fan of UF; it's my favorite genre and you pretty much covered every series I think it's must read . Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels, The Dresden files, Downside Ghosts and Fever- that's my top five in no particular order. ;)
Others series I love, but were not mentioned in post/comments are Alpha & Omega by Patty Briggs, Jane Yellowrock bt Faith Hunter, Colbana Files by J.C. Daniels (Shiloh Walker), Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone. :)
Jennifer Denning
21. redheadedjen
I loved the Edge series by Ilona Andrews as well as Cassie Alexander's Edie Spence series (very upset that there will be no more :( )
Lege Artis
22. LegeArtis
@redheadedjen- Edie Spence is finished? I read 3 books, have fourth on my tbr... Please, tell me it's not cliffhanger ending...
And yes, i loved Edge as well.... I hope new series will be addictive as that one was. :D
23. smarx
@LegeArtis I would absolutely second both the Alpha & Omega (Patricia Briggs) and Jane Yellowrock (Faith Hunter). I would also add Kelley Armstrong's new Cainesville series, I am really loving those books and characters. C.E. Murphy's Walker Paper series, which wrapped up earlier this year, was great. Finally I would recommend Kat Richardson's Greywalker series about ghosts and Jennifer Rardin's Jaz Parks series featuring vampires and other "monsters". And, finally, the Diana Tregarde books by Mercedes Lackey. They were some of the first urban setting fantasy books I read. Burning Water was published, I think, in 1989 or 1990.
24. Pam Blome
I've read all of these top ten and many of the one's others mentioned. I'd like to see your full list of 30! Though I also need more time to read!
25. Pam Blome
I agree with smarx, I'm a huge Jane Yellowrock fan, as well as a Walker Papers fan.
26. KieraPSI
The only series mentioned I haven't read is the Chicagoland Vampires. I'll have to get on that one. I did think LKH lost direction at Obsidian Butterfly and have only read bits and pieces of the remaining books. She kind of jumped the shark there IMHO.
27. bluish383
Oh definitely add the Jane Yellowrock books by Faith Hunter, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, so glad to see the Toby Daye series made the list!
K Giardina
28. bluedragon30
In addition to the series/authors already included, you might consider Rebecca Zanetti's Dark Protectors series. I'm on book 3 and love them all so far. A little romance steaminess, vampire soldiers and good story arc.
Gail Siuba
29. gsryley
All the series listed are top notch. I'm a huge fan of Kim Harrison. I think you need to add Faith Hunter's, Janer Yellowrock series. I also agree Kevin Hearne and Jennifer Estep. I also want to add Marcus Pelegrimas', Skinner series. All outstanding.
30. Tashady
I like most of the series mentioned (though I haven't read any of Moning's books...tried...just couldn't...) and own quite a majority of the series, but I have to also add Jenn Bennett's Arcadia Bell series!
31. Mistfox
I can't believe no one has mentioned Eileen Wilks' Lupi series (first book is Mortal Danger). A little different take on werewolves, which is why I think most people don't know about it.
32. AmyC
Downside Ghosts! And Fever, Dresden, Kate Daniels.
Evie Jayne
33. EVJayne
What about the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane. Best urban fantasy series in existence in my humble opinion.
34. Helent28
I've read and loved all of these but i need more any ideas
35. Amanda Stebbing
What about Karen Chance? I'm surprised she hasn't made an appearance here. Ditto the excellent Elizabeth Hunter.
36. Bunny Core
Cassandra Palmer series hands down my favorite.. pritken is the man!!
37. Chva
Yeah Karen Chance is a brilliant writer. A series that also should be mentioned is Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series. That is a series I can read again and again. Ilona Andrews's Innkeeper Chronicles are also a wonderfull read.
38. Chva
The Bite Back series by Mark Henwick completely blew my mind. So good! If you stopped by to get a recommendation, this is another series I really recommend! Happy reading :)
39. William Markham
Can I add my own book to the mix? MISSING: A Mason Gray Case. It's a hard-boiled detective story with a supernatural twist.

Here's the description:

When private investigator and former Chicago Police detective, Mason Gray, finds a dead man in his living room, he knows his career is on the line... again. Booted from the department several years ago, his former coworkers would pounce on the opportunity to put him in the clink. To clear his name, he needs to find the real killer before the cops can pin it on him. Then he discovers that his computer has been hacked and certain files have been deleted: ones pertaining to a missing woman. He makes a connection between the two cases and realizes they are inextricably linked. It’s the sort of puzzle he aches to solve. But in pursuing them both he learns there’s more at stake than just his job. Those responsible for the mysterious kidnapping want him dead. To survive, Gray must find them before they succeed. But the decked is stacked against him. The police are corrupt, he’s being chased by an assassin, and he learns that the monsters of legend might actually be real. To solve this case, he must choose to step through the looking glass, wrestle with demons both figurative and literal, and- of course- save the girl.
40. PhoenixFox
Love the list most of these are either in my top UF or on my to read list I love kate Daniels and Anita Blake she’s definitely groundbreaking in the genre especially on the supernatural mystery factor that most of the others in the genre haven’t quite perfected one I’d like to add 5at nobody has mentioned is
Alex Craft series by kalayna price
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