Book Babble – Urban Fantasy

I am in love with London. 

When assessing my collection of urban fantasy books upon my shelves I suddenly realised that all of them are based around London. I do not live in London but I have always loved visiting the city and discovering the real-life settings for some of my favourite works.

Favourite series

PC Peter Grant Series – Ben Aaronovich 

This series follows newly minted Police Constable Peter Grant who starts off hoping to join the prestigious Metropolitan Police’s Murder Squad only to end up in the data entry division. Determined to change his fate Peter follows his instincts in tracking down a ghost he interviewed in order to solve a murder in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. On this mission he encounters the mysterious Detective Inspector Nightingale discovers magic is real and joins a little known division of the MET, the Folly, while training to be a wizard! There are currently six novels, four graphic novels, a short novella and a free audible short story.

SIDEBAR: The audiobooks are amazing the narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith will make you think you are listening to a full cast audio production and he just is the voice of Peter Grant.

Each novel in this collection takes place in a different area of London (apart from Foxglove Summer where Peter ventures out of the city) and are truly love letters to each. As they are told from Peter’s perspective we get his love of the city flowing on to the page and his interest in its history and architecture allow him to teach us. This itself is almost magical before you add the world of the ‘uncanny’ on top. The books also reflect the diversity you find in London, with people, Fae and local gods of all walks of life.

I have honestly loved every single episode of Peter Grant we get, and I am looking forward to the next in the series. The series starts with Rivers of London (Midnight Riot- US Title).

I would say that it does contain a lot of British pop culture reference, most of which are explained in some way, as well as British humour. Peter is also a male in his early twenties and speaks openly about his attraction to his love interests throughout the books, as well as when certain magical creatures use their compulsion on him. Personally I find these aspects more realistic, I don’t find Peter to be sexist like some readers (I have to mention I DNF’d the Dresden Files as I just thought it was so sexist in the first book) So it may not be accessible to YA readers who don’t wish to read about sexual feelings/sex/sexuality. There are no explicit sex scenes but sex is discussed.

Other London based Urban Fantasy

Neverwhere – Nail Gaiman

When anyone mentions Urban Fantasy there are not many people that don’t think of Neverwhere. It follows are main character, Richard, as a chance encounter leads to him discovering a magical underworld that thrives under the streets of London. It is Alice in Wonderland-esque with the dark and twisted wonder that is a Gaiman novel. It incorporates the history of  London along with familiar names and places into twisted and interesting aspects of this fantasy world. Again, it’s filled with a certain type of British humour I can’t get enough of.

London Falling – Shadow Police – Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell is well known for his Witches of Lynchford series, but The Shadow Police has a much darker tone than his more noted work. This series is a police procedural following an unlikely group of both officers and civilian researchers, who discover a much darker and more dangerous occult side to London’s criminal underworld, after a gruesome locked room murder that transcends space and time.

This book includes elements of the paranormal as well as horror. It should also have a trigger warning for abuse and may not be suitable for younger YA audiences.

The City’s Son – The Skyscraper Throne – Tom Pollock

This is the only book in this list that is aimed mainly at younger YA/MG readers. The first in the series was a random library find from late 2016, and my library did not stock the remainder of the series until recently.

This book brings to life a magical world that reigns over London’s infrastructure. Our MC Beth stumbles into this world when she is nearly killed by a runaway ghost train, and is saved by Fil, the prince of this nocturnal kingdom of London. This is a truly imaginative world, mainly due to the creatures that inhabit it.

All the allies and enemies of both Fil and Beth are made up of various infrastructural elements. For example, there is a group of “lamp people” whose communities are split by filament type and hue they emit, and an evil construction crane hellbent on destroying the city as we know it.

Alternate London’s only by name.

Both of these fantasy novels have groundings in London’s but are wildly different from the one we know, taking influence from the city, as well as using the name.

Darker Shades Trilogy – V.E Schwab 

This is an obvious choice for a list of books based in ‘London’, as it has 4 of them. However, I don’t know if I would truly class it as an urban fantasy. I have not fully finished this series as I really enjoyed the first two, and always struggle reading series finales as I don’t want them to end. However with the announcement of three new books in this world I am sure I will get to it soon.

It is based across four parallel Londons, denoted by their colour.

  • Grey London is a facsimile of our own in the time of George III.
  • Red London, where the river runs Red with magic and magic is a common aspect,
  • White London, starved of magic, and under the tyrannical rule of a pair of powerful twins whom use there magic to control the population while hoarding what little magic is left for themselves.
  • Black London, which is believed to have been lost to the corruption of magic, and closed off from the other worlds.

In the first novel, we follow Kell who has the ability to move between the Londons as a royal messenger. He ends up with a Black London artefact that he is trying to dispose of when he gets pick-pocketed by Lila, someone new to magic, in Grey London. She agrees to return the artefact to Kell if he helps her escape her mundane life into a more exciting London, but it doesn’t go smoothly.

The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

The first in this series is based in a parallel steampunk-esque version of London. We follow a Librarian from the Invisible Library that sits in a dimension between multiple parallel worlds, and collects precious works from each of them. Some worlds have magic, some have technology, and some worlds have Fae and other paranormal species. This makes Isabel (our librarian) and her new apprentice’s job of stealing original works for the library and replacing them with copies, much more difficult. This is such a rich read visually with aspects of both steampunk and fantasy. The second book whisks us off to a parallel Venice which is just as magical, and I have books three and four on my shelf to continue as well as the audio books on Audible. I will say, however, the narrators pronunciation of Isabel and Library take some getting used to.

Well Done! If you got this far in my bookish ramblings, you are awesome! Have you read any of these books? Do you know of any London based Urban fantasy I have missed? What are your urban fantasy favourites?

This is part of the #BooktubeSFF Awards Book Babble series, the topics can be found on their  Goodreads group

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