The Highs and Lows of Urban Fantasy

I’ve been reading a lot lately and a lot of what I’ve been reading has been paranormal or urban fantasy. Urban fantasy is basically fantasy set in an urban setting. The setting doesn’t necessarily have to be real place but usually takes place in a city. Although I hate to divide the genre this way, usually the paranormal/urban fantasy novels I’ve read can be divided either via the male or female main character. Who is the series about?

Some urban fantasy novels with male heroines are series like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher or the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Notable series with female heroines include The Others by Anne Bishop or Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews.

Personally, urban fantasy is one of my favorite fantasy subgenres – the other being epic fantasy. But the more I read urban fantasy novels, I start to notice a pattern. This is inevitable when you read a lot of just one genre. The same can be said for young adult or epic fantasy novels. You start to notice a pattern. When characters aren’t fleshed out properly, they also start to blend in together. It’s not that the book is bad – it’s just something I’ve read before.

But in my opinion, there are only so many ideas in the world. It’s what authors do to those ideas that make a book interesting.

In my head I divide the urban fantasy novels via the male heroes and the female heroines. I do this because I feel the urban fantasy novels with female heroines focus more on romance. The female main characters also tend to all have the same personality. They usually include detailed sex scenes, along with detailed descriptions of male anatomy.

“You know,” she said, stirring her tea, “the fastest way to get him off your back is to sleep with him. And tell him you love him. Preferably while in bed.”

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

And there are stuff like that. Along with tons of bulging muscles and naked chest descriptions. Not to mention, the female heroine usually has a “bad ass” personality and can kick butt.

Urban fantasy novels with a male main character contain romance too. But at least characters don’t blend in together and they don’t over sexualize female bodies all the time. Although this could be because there are way more urban fantasy novels with a female main character, instead of the focus being on a male main character.

One reason I like The Others by Anne Bishop so much is because the two characters that you know are going to end up together, don’t actually end up together until the fifth book. They don’t actually kiss each other until the fifth book either. Do you know how amazing that is? To actually not read a sex scene in the first couple books? The female main character also has a way different personality than most female main characters that star in certain urban fantasy novels. But she’s still amazing!

Despite these patterns, I find myself drawn to urban fantasy. Which is interesting because on a fantasy spectrum, urban fantasy and epic fantasy are really on opposite sides. But even though there are a lot of downsides, I still really enjoy reading urban fantasy, haha.

As you may have noticed, I changed my layout (again). I wanted a sidebar but I wasn’t satisfied with the theme I used before my previous one. And I wanted to go more simpler. Hopefully it’ll last a full year this time!

I changed the “Photo Diary” category to “Film Roll” because I thought the later name suited the blog series more.

And lastly, if you have any book recommendations I would love to hear them! They don’t have to be fantasy. I recently updated my “100 Books for 2017” and changed the stars. Anything that I consider 4 stars and up have different colored stars (black), than anything I think is 3 stars and below (white).

Thanks for reading!

14 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Urban Fantasy

  • Ooh, I haven’t read those books but I also love reading urban fantasy! I’ve noticed that pattern too, novels with female heroines tend to focus more on romance, which is very sad because it’s the same story over and over again.
    That seems like a good series! I’ll make sure to add it on my to-read list. Have you read any of Richelle Mead’s adult urban fantasy novels such as Georgina Kincaid? I love her writing. There’s romance but the female heroine doesn’t pay much attention to it unless she has to.
    I love your new layout! It’s so minimalist. “Film roll” is a great name! I, for one, love film photography <3

  • I don’t mind urban fantasy like Percy Jackson and his universe, but in general urban fantasies and anything paranormal (especially if it deals with vampires) are really not my thing. I think with these kind of books, it has to really draw me in for me to like them. As my time become more scarce, I find myself being super picky with what I read.

    It’s natural that you begin to pick up all these patterns after reading the genre heavily. I notice these things, too, and while I don’t mind the same patterns and cliches, sometimes they do feel old. But at the same time, I also like the familiarity, if that makes any sense.

    I am loving the new look for your blog! It’s so clean and easy on the eye ^^ Great choice!

  • while i have never read any of the books you mentioned here, i agree with everything you said! now that i think about it, i tend to read more urban fantasy than epic fantasy. i think i personally prefer urban fantasy more because it’s a lot easier to relate (since it’s set in a city, sometimes one that actually exists in our world map.) another (sub?) genre that i like is scifi fantasy too since i’m all about those dystopian settings haha

    omg you’re so right about fantasy reads with female heroines! it’s so annoying because i want to read the book for its main plot and not the romance. like, for instance, in cassie clare’s the mortal instruments… the romance part should have been the side genre but nope, because the series focused on female heroine, she’s drawn as a fickle, star-struck special girl with unique power. blargh, B O R I N G ~ i hate how they do it this way when it comes to fantasy series with female heroines. it’s unfair too. meanwhile, if the protagonist is a dude, the story will focus on what it actually is about – the scifi part, the fantasy part, anything other than the overly dramatic and romanticized romance and sex scenes. ugh. plus, unnecessary sex scenes make me cringe too! it’s like “hello, we have more serious problems to deal with so why are you busy hooking up with this guy!?” it makes me wanna rip my hair out :))

    this is why it’s difficult for me to read young adults fantasy series. i think the oh-so-cheesy romance part is inevitable, especially when it’s centered around female heroines so i end up choosing the series with tolerable romance scenes, if you know what i mean. like you, in the end, i still like urban fantasy and certain YA reads.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever read any of the books you mentioned. I admit I’m not too into reading nowdays – unless it’s for school! Lol! But as for the patterns, I agree that noticing them is inevitable when you’re reading books from the same genre a lot, sometimes writers do it because it’s what defines the genre. Hmm.

    Lovely layout by the way! ;)

  • It’s interesting that so many of them are so similar. I guess you have potentially found a good market gap that could really use a big help! I find it annoying when a lot of books look at sterotypes. I am way less likely to read those books. I want something that is different and unique. So that I am learning about a character that has a lot of depth.

    I like the way that the layout is structured. :D

  • I haven’t read any urban fantasy books yet but the whole idea behind the genre intrigues me. I can find this pretty relatable if you’re a city person (with a big imagination :P). It’s always interesting to see where the author’s creativity take their readers. It’s interesting to see how the two genders are being depicted. I don’t think I would like to read anything that has a mention of some kind of sexual activities (but that’s just me).

    I like the simplicity of this theme! It’s cool how the comment box pops up on demand. I just started reading Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic. It gives some interesting insight!

  • Welp, I just cringed at that quote you put in.

    I hate when authors write Mary Sues – as I writer myself I dread creating a character like that. I’m semi-confident in saying that I haven’t because I usually draw from people I know and myself. When I was younger I wrote characters that got every guy possible and basically that was what the whole story would be around. Lol. Life. Urban fantasy sounds interesting- I’ll definitely need to look into it more.

  • I don’t think I’ve read urban fantasy novels, but I’ve probably read manga like that? I feel like a lot of Anime/manga series like to do modern school or city settings with magic and paranormal stuff on top of it, haha. I can see how things can start to blend together within a genre. It’s too bad that the ones with female heroines tend to be more sexualized and have the same personality. I don’t think that on its own is bad thing, but I don’t think it’s good if it becomes a stereotype. I’m glad you found one that breaks the mold though!

    Your new layout looks very clean!

  • Ooh I love urban fantasy! I’ve heard nothing but good things about Anne Bishop. I also read book 1 of the Dresden Files and it was pretty interesting. My favorite author of all time writes urban fantasy that is really different from most urban fantasy novels – Charles de Lint. His stuff is really whimsical and he writes about a wide variety of subjects. Most of his protagonists are women but if there’s romance it’s not the focus of his novels at all, and usually a side plot between two side characters. Anyway check him out if you’re interested, his stuff is super readable.

  • I haven’t read much urban fantasy, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Jim Butcher’s books. I actually bought a friend one for her birthday because it was released around then (and she really wanted it!) I’ll definitely have to check them out at some point, but my to-read list is so long already!

    I think a lot of books are structured similarly and follow similar plot lines, which is why I’m usually more interested in character and writing style. It’s great when you find a plot that surprises you, though I find this gets rarer and rarer the more you read!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever read any urban fantasy books, but you remind me of something I really like about the Cormoran Strike series is the relationship between Strike and his assistant. It was really refreshing to have a male and female work together without falling in love with each other. There are some tension, but they maintain a healthy working relationship and respect for each other. I just hope JK Rowling doesn’t turn them into a couple in future books. I’m putting my trust in her judgement! XD

  • I like this layout, by the way! It was nice to see a change upon visiting your blog for the first time in a while haha. It’s kinda cute, even though it is simple. Love it!

    I thought this was a really interesting post. It has honestly been a while since I last read a book, but after reading some books of the same genre I definitely noticed a pattern with some non-typically-romantic novels myself. I mean, this is kind of how “chick literature” and “teen romance” were created… but I have noticed that when there are strong female heroines in a book, there are always quite detailed sex scenes or romance drizzled throughout the pages. She’s got to have a crush on somebody, right?

    The other pattern I noticed was that it is mostly male authors who wrote these scenes for the female heroines. I rarely saw this kind of writing from female authors, but I don’t know if you noticed the same thing. Also, I know you specifically spoke about urban fantasy but this is something I have noticed of fantasy novels in general.

    I think it’s awfully typical of authors to stereotype women, regardless of the fact that they are heroines (I mean, who doesn’t love a female lead or a female who is a hero?!). Not all women are into the men with the big chests and the massive arms. Not all women or even girls want a man to sweep them off their feet.

    There is an Australian author named Bryce Courtenay who wrote a lot of bildungsroman books that explored the life of characters almost from beginning to end; kinda like a coming of age style. He wrote a lot of books in this style but he often wrote some pretty detailed sex scenes in them. After noticing the pattern I sorta groaned… but I feel like in his novels they made sense or at least gave a little more insight into the characters and their personal life and morals. I feel like it does less so in fantasy fiction.

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