By now. you’ve probably finished your Netflix Luke Cage binge. Undoubtedly you feel bereft, adrift, and without anything new to fill your brainspace. If so, then well, have I got a list for you, friend: this weekend, it’s time to hunker down and binge read the absolute best ongoing urban fantasy series. It’s a fascinating, sometimes misunderstood genre. It mostly involves paranormal goings on in big cities (hence the name), either real or fictional. The protagonist is usually a magic user or supernatural being. There’s a touch of old noir in many stories (magical cities still being cities, after all). Each book usually involves a big mystery, and the main characters are often, but certainly not always, private investigators, detectives, or lawless scoundrels. If Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil are your superhero jam, meet their magical counterparts.
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher (16 books)
Wizard Harry Dresden is the king of urban fantasy, and The Dresden Files are the gold standard for the gene. It’s one of the most well-known, well-loved series running, and for damn good reasons. Jim Butcher has crafted a version of Chicago that is rife with magic and verisimilitude. Harry Dresden squares off against vampires, faeries, and his own personal demons as the series progresses. There’s love, loss, and one memorable moment involving a ride on a Tyrannosaurus rex. With 16 volumes out, your binge will keep you busy for a long time.
The Iron Druid Chronicles, by Kevin Hearne (8 books)
Coming up right behind Butcher is Kevin Hearne’s spectacular Iron Druid series. Atticus O’Sullivan is the title character. He’s many centuries old. He’s spent most of those many years laying low from the Irish gods who want his head on a platter. Once they find him, all Hell breaks loose. Hearne weaves Irish and Norse mythology together to create an incredible reading experience. Sad you’ve finished binge-watching Game of Thrones? Give this awesome series a try.
Kate Daniels, by Ilona Andrews (11 books)
If magical apocalypse is more your speed, you need to meet Kate Daniels. The series takes place in a magically messed-up Atlanta. Kate Daniels is a kickass mercenary who prefers to stab you with a sword first and ask questions later. There are wereanimals, fighting gods, and crime families to contend with. Besides the full-length novels in the series, there are many novellas and short stories to keep you occupied.
Mercy Thompson, by Patricia Briggs (9 books)
The Mercy Thompson books are another staple of the genre. Mercy is a mechanic living in Washington who can shapeshift into a coyote. Her special talent lets her deal with the werewolves, vampires, and fey that live in the city. There’s a spin off series called Alpha and Omega that takes place in the same universe, upping your total binge potential to 14 books!
The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, by Annie Bellet (7 books)
You’re in luck, binge reader! The first four books of this awesome series have just been gathered into a large omnibus entitled Level Grind, with the rest to follow in a second volume next year, Boss Fight. Jade Crow is a comic book store owner and secret sorceress who uses her wits and nerdy knowledge to help her and her friends stay one step ahead of her worst enemy: her evil ex-boyfriend. Other sorcerers, eat your hearts out! (Not literally, c’mon guys.)
Miriam Black, by Chuck Wendig (4 books)
Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die, and she’s really pissed off about it. Thus begins Chuck Wendig’s profane, violent, gritty, and dark urban fantasy saga. The series is incredibly cinematic, and will knock the breath right out of your lungs. Miriam goes toe to toe with fate and death as she tries to come to terms with knowing how absolutely everyone she touches is going to die. These hardboiled thrillers aren’t for the faint of heart. Three books are out now; the fourth arrives in February 2017.
Eric Carter, by Stephen Blackmoore (3 books)
Two books may not seem like much of a binge read, but it’s impossible to read the first Eric Carter book without immediately grabbing the second. With a third out in February, this series is becoming a must for any urban fantasy fan. Eric Carter is a perpetually down on his luck necromancer with a knack for meeting the wrong people at the worst possible time. Even worse, Santa Muerita, a spirit of death, tricks him into marriage. With death literally on his heels and the odds stacked against him, Carter has to deal with ghosts, gangsters and old Mexican gods. It’s a thrilling, inventively violent head rush.
Bone Street Rumba, by Daniel José Older (3 books)
Another two-fer with a third book due in early 2017, Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba series is a remarkably fresh take on the genre, even as it celebrates some of its most reliable tropes. In a twisted version of Brooklyn haunted by things far worse than hipsters and skyrocketing rents, half-dead ghost-hunter Carlos Delacruz works cases on behalf of the Council of the Dead, tracking down the culprits behind grisly supernatural accidents and making sure the dead stay that way.
Jane Yellowrock, by Faith Hunter (10 books)
You can never go wrong with vampire hunters, and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock is one of the best out there. She’s the last skinwalker of Cherokee descent, and uses her shapeshifting ability to hunt down vampires in, where else, New Orleans. Now these are vampires: bloodthirsty and violent. No urbane, depressed Anne Rice mopers here. Tough as nails Jane handles them with aplomb, and it’s a complete joy to read.
The Vampire Files, by P.N. Elrod (12 books)
Then again, more human vampires are also pretty damn fun too! This series, now collected in handy omnibuses, is one of the best if you’re looking for smart, witty bloodsuckers. Jack Flemming is a reporter in Depression era Chicago who has the unfortunate luck to wake up one night without a memory and with a new set of fangs. Jack must use all of his journalistic talent to solve his own murder. Taking place in the 1930s makes this series really pop. The language and slang feel incredibly authentic and you get a heady mix of vampires and mobsters. This is a hidden jewel of urban fantasy.
The Nightside, by Simon R Green (12 books)
The setting for an awesome, if lesser-known series, the Nightside is a dark, mysterious version of London that entraps people. Mixing folklore, urban legends, and a big dash of old noir pulp, it’s a fantastic way to spend a weekend or two. John Taylor is a private eye tasked with solving mysteries in a city where it’s always 3am. He has a special gift that allows him to locate anything. Each volume raises the stakes, but Taylor never feels overpowered (a common urban fantasy problem). The series is complete now, so you have no excuse not to binge it.
The Others, by Anne Bishop (4 books)
This addictive series takes place in an alternate-Earth realm called Thaisia. Humans knowingly share the planet with the “Others,” shapeshifters and powerful elemental beings who are the landlords of nearly all of Thaisia’s surface, leasing it to humans for brief, fixed periods while retaining control of far larger territories and all access to water. Humans are constantly reminded that they hold little power, and exist at the grace of the Others. Meg Corbyn is a member of the seemingly human Cassandra sangue, a race of women who carry prophecy in their blood and release it by making a series of cuts across their skin, slowly killing themselves in the bargain. Her arrival in the town of Lakeside triggers the discovery of a long-buried tragedy involving her people, and as secrets come to the surface—and her life is threatened again and again—the fragile links between humans and Others are pulled to their breaking point.
By my count, there are a whopping 97 books here, and I’m sure we left a few favorites off the list. Clear your schedule, you have a lot of reading to do.
What’s your go-to urban fantasy series?