By Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
Secondary world urban fantasy is not precisely a new subgenre, but it’s one that has been growing in popularity in recent years. This delights me, because the secondary world urban fantasy (henceforth referred to as SWUF for the sake of brevity and odd acronyms) I’ve read has consistently challenged my notions of what fantasy as a genre can do while being sheer fun. SWUF, for me, is where a lot of the most interesting work and stories are emerging right now in fantasy.
But what is SWUF? Genre definitions are tricky and never fixed, and in this one we have two essential parts: the “secondary world” and the “urban fantasy.” “Secondary world” is a term coined by Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” to refer to a world that is not our world, but is internally consistent and fictional. (Most of what we call high fantasy or epic fantasy falls under this umbrella.) As for “urban fantasy,” when it comes to SWUF I mean this in the classic sense, where the city itself is such a strong presence in the story it’s practically a character in and of itself.
So without further ado, these are six SWUF books or series that keep me turning pages, that are pushing genre boundaries, and that leave me reeling with a sense of wonder and inspiration.
There are many more SWUF books out there, and it’s a subgenre that is growing rapidly. While I am happy to have many more on my inexhaustible reading list, these are my current favorites to get you started.