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Fabled Cities

Stories live where we do.  When people lived in cottages and castles, travelling from village to farm to walled town through remote mountain passes and deep, dark woods, that's where our stories went, also.  They hid in the margins: dwarves and goblins and dragons dwelt deep in the mountains.  Elves and other fey folk populated the far green spaces.  Witches kept remote cottages deep in the ancient forest, and enchanted princesses slept in abandoned castles walled in by briars.

Now we live in cities and suburbs, in high ranches and apartments and skyscrapers, and our stories have moved in right along with us.  The Wild Hunt rides Harleys through the city streets at midnight, while wizards sell two-bit charms in back alleys.  Vampires hunt in night clubs, and forgotten, eldritch gods lurk in the sewers.  The magic of old has gotten a little glitzier, a little grungier, but it's still there, existing side-by-side with our digital toys. 

This is urban fantasy-- think of it as a faerie tale coming soon to a city near you. 

The subgenre first became popular in the 1980s; the shared world Bordertown (which has had a recent reboot) and Charles De Lint's Newford Collection were some of the earliest examples.  Urban fantasy has seen a significant resurgence lately thanks to authors like Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and Carrie Vaughn.  (It owes a big nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer too; she's probably the reason so much contemporary urban fantasy features kick-butt monster-slaying heroines.)

Most people think of urban fantasy as strictly modern- or near-future-set, but there are a handful of historicals that could arguably be considered urban fantasy too, such as Marie Brennan's Onyx Court series, which is set in Elizabethan London.  (Granted, we start treading on "gaslight fantasy" territory, here, which is fantasy's answer to steampunk.)  While some authors will choose to create an imaginary metropolis that could exist in a magic-infused real world (as with Charles De Lint's Newford or Michelle Sagara's Elantra), part of the fun of urban fantasy is that most authors use real, modern cities as their settings (where I could, I've even named them, below).  Be warned, though-- the rediscovery of magic sometimes does strange things to the history and landmarks we think we know.

Besides the difference in setting, the tone of urban fantasy also tends to differ from traditional fantasy.  It's often darker and sexier, blended with touches of horror, mystery, and romance, meaning you might find some urban fantasy with those genre labels instead of a "Fantasy" tag.  Supernatural beings like vampires, werebeasts, and demons are just as likely to roam the city streets as the more traditional fantasy races.  In urban fantasy, though, these beings are treated as people rather than as monstrous creatures of terror-- they hold down jobs, fall in love, and play poker on Friday nights (as long as it's not a full moon).  Urban fantasy is a popular subgenre with teens, too, and you'll find plenty of titles with adult crossover appeal in our YA section.

If you prefer your fantasy "just around the corner" rather than "long ago and far away," why not do a bit of armchair metro-hopping this month?  With travelogues like these, you may find yourself searching for more than the traditional sights the next time you visit....

The Northeast
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black (YA Black) - Jersey Shore
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (YA Clare) - New York, NY
Right Hand Magic by Nancy A. Collins (PbkFantasy Collins) - Golgotham, New York, NY
Shadows in the Starlight by Elaine Cunningham (Fiction Cunningham) - Providence, RI
Skin Deep by Mark Del Franco (PbkFantasy DelFranco) - Washington, DC
Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman (NEW Fantasy Gilman) - New York, NY
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (PbkRomance Harrison) - New York, NY
Brooklyn Knight by C. J. Henderson (Fantasy Henderson) - Brooklyn, NY
Deadtown by Nancy Holzner (PbkFantasy Holzner) - Deadtown, Boston, MA
Already Dead by Charlie Huston (Horror Huston) - New York, NY
Red Hot Fury by Kasey Mackenzie (PbkFantasy Mackenzie) - Boston, MA
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (YA Marr) - Huntsdale, PA (Fictional)
The Good Fairies of New York by Matin Millar (Fantasy Millar) - New York, NY
Heart of Stone by C. E. Murphy (Fantasy Murphy) - New York, NY
Unsympathetic Magic by Laura Resnick (PbkFantasy Resnick) - New York, NY
Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (Horror Smith-Ready) - Sherwood, MD
Steel City Magic by Wen Spencer (PbkFantasy Spencer) - Pittsburgh, PA
Nightlife by Rob Thurman (PbkFantasy Thurman) - New York, NY
Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon (Fantasy Turgeon) - New York, NY
Magic Time by Marc Scott Zicree & Barbara Hambly (Fantasy Zicree) - New York, NY

The Southeast
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (PbkFantasy Andrews) - Atlanta, GA
Minion by L. A. Banks (Horror Banks) - New Orleans, LA
Sins & Shadows by Lyn Benedict (PbkFantasy Benedict) - Miami, FL
Dark Descendant by Jenna Black (PbkFantasy Black) - Arlington, VA
Touch the Dark by Karen Chance (PbkHorror Chance) - Atlanta, GA
Dark Days by Jocelynn Drake (Horror Drake) - Savannah, GA
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep (PbkFantasy Estep) - Ashland, VA
At Grave's End by Jeaniene Frost (PbkRomance Frost) - Richmond, VA
The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay (PbkFantasy Gay) - Atlanta, GA
Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris (PbkHorror Harris) - Bon Temps, LA (Fictional)
Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin (Horror Rardin) - Miami, FL
Wraith by Phaedra Weldon (Fantasy Weldon) - Atlanta, GA

The Midwest
Dying Bites by D. D. Barant (PbkFantasy Barant) - St. Louis, MO
Embers by Laura Bickle (PbkFantasy Bickle) - Detroit, MI
King Maker by Maurice Broaddus (PbkFantasy Broaddus) - Indianapolis, IN
Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks (Fantasy Brooks) - Hopewell, IL (Fictional)
The Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm (SF Brust) - Lakota, OH (Fictional)
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (Fantasy Bull) - Minneapolis, MN
Wizard for Hire by Jim Butcher (Fantasy Butcher) - Chicago, IL
The Vampire Files by P. N. Elrod (Mystery Elrod) - Chicago, IL
The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton (PbkHorror Hamilton) - St. Louis, MO
This Witch for Hire by Kim Harrison (Horror Harrison) - The Hollows, Cincinnati, OH
Black Wings by Christina Henry (PbkFantasy Henry) - Chicago, IL
Enchantment Place by Denise Little (PbkFantasy Encha) - Chicago, IL
The Demon in Me by Michelle Rowen (PbkRomance Rowen) - Toronto, ON, Canada
Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder (PbkFantasy Snyder) - Columbus, OH
Galveston by Sean Stewart (SF Stewart) - Galveston, TX

The Southwest
Eve of Darkness by S. J. Day (PbkFantasy Day)  - San Diego, CA; Hell
Dancing with Werewolves by Carole Nelson Douglas (PbkFantasy Douglas) - Las Vegas, NV
Mob Rules by Cameron Haley (Fantasy Haley) - Los Angeles, CA
Hounded by Kevin Hearne (PbkFantasy Hearne) - Tempe, Arizona
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (Horror Kadrey) - Los Angeles, CA
The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson (PbkHorror Pettersson) - Las Vegas, NV
Dante's Girl by Natasha Rhodes (PbkHorror Rhodes) - Los Angeles, CA
The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein (PbkFantasy Stein) - San Diego, CA
Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells (PbkFantasy Wells)  - Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Crescent City, CA

The Northwest
Ravenous: The Dark Forgotten by Sharon Ashwood (PbkRomance Ashwood) - Fairview (Fictional)
Preying for Mercy by Patricia Briggs (Fantasy Briggs) - Tri-Cities, WA
Child of Fire by Harry Connolly (PbkFantasy Connolly) - Hammer Bay, WA (Fictional)
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff (Fantasy Huff) - Calgary, AB, Canada
Dog Days by John Levitt (PbkFantasy Levitt) - San Francisco, CA
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (PbkFantasy McGuire) - San Francisco, CA
Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead (PbkRomance Mead) - Seattle, WA
Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk (PbkFantasy Monk) - Portland, OR
Blood Engines by T. A. Pratt (PbkFantasy Pratt) - San Francisco, CA
Greywalker by Kat Richardson (Fiction Richardson) - Seattle, WA
Long-time Listener, First-time Werewolf by Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy Vaughn) - Denver, CO

London and Elsewhere
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (PbkFantasy Aaronovitch) - London, UK
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (PbkFantasy Beukes) - Johannesburg, South Africa
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan (Fantasy Brennan) - London, UK
The Devil You Know by Mike Carey (Fiction Carey) - London, UK
World's End by Mark Chadbourn (Fantasy Chadbourn) - London, UK
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Reading List Gaiman) - London, UK
Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Fantasy Golden) - London, UK
Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green (PbkFantasy Green) - Nightside, London, UK
A Madness of Angels: Or, the Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin (Fantasy Griffin) - London, UK
Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson (PbkHorror Jamieson) - Brisbane, Australia
Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge (PbkFantasy Kittredge) - London, UK
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia (Fantasy Sedia) - Moscow, Russia
Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon (PbkFantasy Shevdon) - London, UK

Imaginary Cities
Welcome to Bordertown by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner, eds. (NEW Fantasy Welcome) - Bordertown (Fictional)
Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands by Emma Bull (Fiction Bull) - Bordertown (Fictional)
The Ivory and the Horn by Charles De Lint (Fantasy De Lint) - Newford (Fictional)
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane (PbkFantasy Kane) - Downside (Fictional)
Bone Song by John Meaney (Horror Meaney) - Tristopolis (Fictional)
Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding (PbkFantasy Meding) - Dreg City (Fictional)
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (SF Mieville) - New Crobuzon (Fictional)
Grave Witch by Kalayna Price (PbkFantasy Price) - Nekros City (Fictional)
Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara (PbkFantasy Sagara) - Elantra (Fictional)
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (Fiction VanderMeer) - Ambergris (Fictional)
Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner (PbkHorror Waggoner) - Nekropolis (Fictional)

Various
Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre (PbkFantasy Aguirre) - Mexico City, Mexico; Texas
Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy by Ellen Datlow, ed. (NEW Fantasy Naked) - (Various)
The Urban Fantasy Anthology by Peter S. Beagle &  Joe R. Lansdale, eds. (Fantasy Urban) - (Various) (COMING SOON!)
Mean Streets by Jim Butcher, et al. (Fantasy Mean) - (Various)
No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong (Horror Armstrong) - Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest (NEW Fantasy Priest) - Seattle, WA; Atlanta, GA; Washington, DC
Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy by Ekaterina Sedia, ed. (Fantasy Paper) - (Various)
A Shot in the Dark by K. A. Stewart (PbkFantasy Stewart) - Kansas City, MO and Colorado
Dark Oracle by Alayna Williams (PbkFantasy Williams) - (Various)

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