Urban Fantasy Starter Kit: What books would you include?


VBC wants to know...We know y’all love the discussion posts. And, honestly, so do we. So, today we’re soliciting your advice.

We often get emails saying “I just found this genre through Book A. Tell me where to go now!” And with us reading so many good novels it’s easy to just suggest the latest and greatest. (My go-to recommendation this week is A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang. Really excellent dark fantasy.) But, really, sometimes you need a starter kit. The tried-and-true must haves of the genre.

So today we’re going to try to assemble the must-haves for an urban fantasy starter kit. (If you guys like this feature, we’ll try again next week with paranormal romance. Promise.) We’ll get things going with our first five suggestions for must-include books.


1. Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. Love her or hate her, there’s no question that the first Anita Blake novel needs to be in the starter kit.

2. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. Life-or-death action. Complete character transformations (over the course of the series) as a result of the city around them. The Fever series is dark and visceral, and like Mac once you’ve headed to Ireland, you’re staying put.

3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (or as they’re better known these days, the Sookie Stackhouse books) have such a vivid backdrop. Bon Temps, La., is a strong character and that’s essential to good urban fantasy.

4. Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. Harrison always injects the right amount of humor to balance The Hollows’ darkness.

5. Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Take to the dark streets alongside Harry Dresden, a P.I. with a paranormal twist.

We know we’ve left off great must-reads. Hell, we left off some of our favorite books. Fix it in the comments, folks. Tell us what YOU think should be in the Urban Fantasy Starter Kit. Convince us and we just might put one together and give it away. (hint hint)

60 Responses to “Urban Fantasy Starter Kit: What books would you include?”

  1. Lynn says:

    Adrian Phoenix’s Maker Song series. The tight writing, well-thought out rules of nature and amazing action will win over anyone to the genre.

  2. Amy S says:

    My very first urban fantasy was The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M Liu. I then discovered the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Those are part of my top 5 for a starter kit! 🙂

  3. Erica H says:

    Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn
    Night Myst by Yasmine Galenorn
    Marked by P.C. Cast
    Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

  4. Sarah F says:

    I second adding Moon Called by Patricia Briggs; excellent series! This is one of the best written series in the genre and I would include it in a top 5 list over some of the ones listed above. The characters are “realistic” and true to themselves, and the complex plots are always well done.
    Also, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. Although the first book isn’t the best in the series (the authors have even noted this) the rest of the series is amazing! The world building is fantastic and readers learn something new about the characters with each book.

  5. I’d also add

    Something from the Nightside by Simon R Green
    Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
    Dead to Me by Anton Strout
    Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

  6. One more – Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

  7. danielle says:

    You can’t have an UF starter pack without Charles de Lint; Emma Bull is another one who should be on this list

    • Excellent calls. Any particular title you’d want to start newbies with?

      • danielle says:

        I got started on UF with deLint’s “The Little Country”; I do think that and some of his earlier novels may be a little more accessible for a beginner than some of his later ones.

        Emma Bull’s “The War for the Oaks” is her quintessential UF novel.

  8. Jannelle says:

    I would also add Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (or is this for whatever reason not considered Urban fantasy?) and the Chicagoland Vampire Series by Chloe Neill.
    Harris, Harrison, and Moning are personal faves and I definitely agree!

  9. Kristin says:

    The only one of the books on this that I haven’t read is Moning’s, although it’s been on my list for a while. 🙂 I think that any list of urban fantasy should give a good breadth of what’s out there. So, my choices…

    Storm Front by Jim Butcher… male protagonist, lots of magic, lots of action, lots of humor and a great plot arc.

    Moon Called by Patricia Briggs… female protagonist who’s an “outsider”, great werewolf pack dynamics, light romance.

    Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint… can’t forget the father of the genre! Beautiful and haunting story, male protagonist, deals in mythology.

    Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead… female protagonist, deals with the “angels and demons” aspect of myth, a bit heavier on romance.

    Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow… female protagonist, much more action oriented, stronger violence.

  10. @Kristin – Love your choices. Despite my sincere love of Richelle Mead, I might go with something like HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost for female protag and heavier romance.

    All good calls coming through the comments today.

  11. Sam says:

    Urban Fantasy in General?

    Storm Front, Urban Shaman, Rosemary and Rue, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, And… I’m not sure.

    Those four are the ones I always recommend to friends. They all have very strong narrative voices, and very powerful characters. As much as I love most of the other books on this list, if I’m trying to get a friend into Urban Fantasy, these four seem to be the ones that work every time.

    I feel like they all do a very good job of setting the stage, too. Unlike some books which just jump in head first, these are very good at pulling the reader into the Fantasy setting along with the main character. As much as I like writers like Patricia Briggs, when I was first getting started in the genre, I found them much harder to get into compared to these.

    • Kristin says:

      Rosemary and Rue and Kitty and the Midnight Hour are among my favorites too. You can just about swap either of these out with Moon Called, in my opinion. 🙂

  12. Sorilla says:

    How about First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World, Book 1) by Jeaniene Frost? It’s quiet fast-paced action, which is good for starter kit :). Great idea to make this Starter Kit!

    Always read,

    ~ Sorilla

  13. SQUEEEEEEEEE! Here are mine!!!! I’m trying to list some that aren’t already mentioned!

    Adrian Phoenix’s Makers Song series, someone mentioned it already but it bears repeating!
    Diana Rowland – Kara Gillian oh this series… this is so so so good. Demons! Hot demons. KICKASS heroine.
    Nicole Peeler – Jane True series – the awesome amazing snarky selkie is the BEST!
    Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom series – some of the BEST MAGIC user world building, hands down.
    Ann Aguirre – Corine Solomon series – the world building and heroine are awwwesome.
    Caitlin Kittredge – Black London series – daaarkkkkk, uber dark, and awesome. Pete and Jack make an AWESOME duo.
    Jaye Wells – Sabina Kane series – One word: Giguhl

    • Kristin says:

      You read most of the same stuff that I do! 🙂 I love the Jane True and Kara Gillian books. Allie Beckstrom is good too. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that enthralled with the Black London series and didn’t pursue it. But let me recommend Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch for another series set in London. It’s good so far (two books out), so you might like it!

  14. I didn’t follow directions. booooo on me! I would include the first book of each of these series!

    1) Adrian Phoenix – A Rush of Wings
    2) Diana Rowland – Mark of the Demon
    3) Nicole Peeler – Tempest Rising
    4) Devon Monk – Magic to the Bone
    5) Ann Aguirre – Blue Diablo
    honorable mention if we can shove 2 more books in the kit:
    6) Caitlin Kittredge – Street Magic
    7) Red-Headed Stepchild – Jaye Wells

    • LOL. Don’t stress on the rules.

      I still haven’t read the Jane True series. I keep moving it up the TBR only to be hit with review ARCs. Must make more of an effort.

      Also, you’re totally right about Caitlin Kittredge’s ability to craft a dark, awesome world.

      • YOU MUST! I think you’d LOVE the Jane True series. It’s so smart.
        The Black London series not everyone enjoys but it did it for me! I just need to start her OTHER series, too!

  15. I would include:
    Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
    Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
    Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
    Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge
    Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
    Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
    Master Of None by Sonya Bateman
    Dead Witch Walking-Kim Harrison
    Strom Front by Jim Butcher

  16. Kristin says:

    Hmmm…at the risk of rehashing some answers.

    Magic Bites (Kate Daniels 1) by Ilona Andrews

    Ill Wind (Weather Warden 1) by Rachel Caine-if you haven’t discovered this series…run out and buy this one…now…

    Night Life (Nocturne City 1) by Caitlin Kittredge-I know everyone is all over her Black London series, which is great, but this is the series that made me a Caitlin Kittredge fan for life. It’s gritty and raw and always awesome.

    Storm Front (Harry Dresden 1) by Jim Butcher-I see I’m not the only one to mention this one, and for good reason. It’s one of the best urban fantasy series out there, hands down.

    Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville Book 1) by Carrie Vaughn-The 9th book in the amazing series will be out in June, and it’s just as awesome as the first 8. The werewolf with the unlikely name is one of my all-time favorite characters in urban fantasy,and each time I begin reading one of her adventures, it’s like visiting family. You know what I mean…those characters that feel real to you, the one’s you think about when you’re not reading the books? Yeah, you know what I mean…

    • I HAVE to try the other Caitlin Kittredge series – Nocturne City – I started with the Black London first and since I really enjoyed it, I know I’ll love this one too!!
      Kate Daniels is one of my all-time faves too!!

  17. Nerissa says:

    My suggestions would be:

    Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
    Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge
    Unholy Ghost by Stacia Kane
    Magic To the Bone by Devon Monk

  18. Not going to lie: It was hard not to put UNHOLY GHOSTS in the list above. So happy to see you guys are including it in the comments. Narrowing it down is just too hard sometimes…

  19. Nerissa says:

    I LOVE Unholy Ghost and think the writing and story is brilliant. It’s unlike anything else that I’ve read. Thanks for this post, I got a lot of new books to add to my TBR pile that I didn’t know about.

  20. Kimberly F says:

    Definitely Rachel Morgan Series by Kim Harrison!

    Karen McInerney – Tales of an Urban Wolf Series — Love this series – Set in Austin, Texas!
    Lori Handeland – Phoenix Chronicles Series

    Dakota Cassidy’s Accidental Series — They are funny!!! Not your “hardcore” urban fantasy. Just to lighten things up.

  21. Lisa B. says:

    I’d start with Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. Amazing series I hated to see end.

    Also, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series is so much fun.

    A Rush of Wings (from The Maker’s Song series).

    Fantastic reads here, people!

  22. David says:

    I’m a new fan of William Meikle’s Midnight Eye Files – Jim Butcher meets H. P. Lovecraft. Deftly written, atmospheric, and well plotted. Start with The Amulet, the first book in the series. (Mr. Meikle has also written new stories about Carnacki based on the William Hope Hodgson character which are brilliant!)

  23. UrbanFantasyGuy says:

    Those 5 series are great picks. My additions would be:

    Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
    Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
    Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge
    Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge
    The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay
    Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding
    Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow
    Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
    The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu
    Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep
    Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

  24. Krymsin Nocturnes by Joseph Armstead! I published this book (I run By Light Unseen Media) because it’s one of the most creative things I’ve ever read. I’m wishing we could send Quinn to Washington right now. *He’d* clean things up around there…*grumble*

    bylightunseenmedia.com/kn.htm to check it out!

  25. Vicki says:

    The Shifters series by Rachel Vincent is a MUST READ!

  26. Alyssa says:

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this one or not, but I would include Chloe Neill’s Some Girls Bite. I love that series.

  27. Annie Quinty says:

    I would include:
    Rachel Caine – Ill Wind
    Jim Butcher – Storm Front
    C.E.Murphy – Heart of Stone
    Laurell K. Hamilton – Guilty Pleasures
    Diana Rowland – Mark Of the Demon

  28. Keisha Talley says:

    Sin Undone- Larissa Ione
    Lover Mine- J.R Ward
    Taken by Midnight- Lara Adrain
    Drink of Me- Jacqueyln Frank

  29. Pam S (pams00) says:

    Adrian Phoenix – Black Dust Mambo
    Larissa Ione – Eternal Rider
    JR Ward – Crave
    Yasmine Galenorn – Night Mist
    Diana Rowland – Mark of the Demon

    So hard to choose just 5 lol!

  30. Tina says:

    Everyone has great book suggestions to add, but those 1st five are still some of my absolute faves!!!

  31. Elle says:

    I would have to include include
    _Burning Streams_ (Books of Joy series) by Alexis Brooks de Vita (LOVE IT!)
    _Urban Shaman_ (The Walker Papers series) by C E Murphy (also LOVE and glad to see previous posters agree)

  32. I think Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld MUST be on that list! As well as:

    – Gavyn Donatti series by Sonya Bateman
    – Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
    – Shifters series by Rachel Vincent
    – Dayhunters series by Jocelynn Drake

  33. Susan says:

    October Day Series By Seanan McGuire… The Tempest Series by Nicole Peeler The Fever Series..Which I know was mentioned . “Vampire Empire” Book one.The Greyfriar Book 2 will be released in Aug 2011,,And I can’t wait..Just Beautiful..the Story..The settings a bit Steampunk/Uf and Dark,,Very dark,,By Clay and Susan Griffith

  34. Donna says:

    I love this idea! Thanks, I can hardly wait for the Paranormal Romance starter kit.

  35. Michelle Littlefield says:

    1. Jennifer Armintrout – Blood Ties Book One: The Turning
    2. Kelley Armstrong – Bitten
    3. Keri Arthur – Full Moon Rising
    4. Patricia Briggs – Moon Called
    5. Karen Chance – Touch the Darkness
    6. Jeaniene Frost – Halfway To The Grave
    7. Colleen Gleason – The Rest Falls Away
    8. Laurell K. Hamilton – Guilty Pleasures
    9. Kim Harrison – Dead Witch Walking
    10. Karen Marie Moning – Darkfever

  36. Heather Stallings says:

    Dark Lover by J. R. Ward
    Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
    Dark Prince by Christine Feehan
    Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
    Fantsay Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

    • Heather Stallings says:

      guess I didn’t read this well enough becuase not all of those are urban fantsay, but it’s still what I would include 🙂

    • Heather says:

      Since there is now a Paranormal Romance starter kit going too. I thought I might try to fix my mistake.

      Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
      Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
      Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
      Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
      Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund

      Not sure if these would be Urban Fantasy but if so I might throw some of these in there too.
      Mona Lisa Awakening by Sunny (this could go as romance or maybe erotica, lol)
      The Society of S: A Novel by Susan Hubbard (this could go as young adult)
      The Passage by Justin Cronin (this could go as post-apocalyptic)

  37. No,I think those are the perfect five. Maybe Patricia Briggs, too. I hate where LKH went but Guilty Pleasures was a terrific book. And I LOVE Jim Butcher–Dresden is one of the best characters I’ve ever read.

  38. marina says:

    I have completely messed thinkgs up I have at least 7 new additions to my TBR list (not including the Darkfever series) you guys are killing my budget!!!! Thanks!

  39. Diane says:

    Tanya Huff – Blood Price (Blood series)
    Kelly Armstrong – DimeStore Magic
    Rachel Caine – Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires series)
    Laura Bickle – Embers
    Kalayna Price – Grave Witch
    Faith Hunter – Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock series)
    Nancy Holzner – Deadtown
    Margaret Ronald – Spiral Hunt (Evie Scelan series)
    Jes Battis – Night Child (OSI series)

    Carrie Vaugn’s Kitty Norville, Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden are all in my personal top 5 too.

  40. Katie says:

    I would put:
    Southern vampire mysteries
    Fever series
    Kate Daniels Series
    Nighthuntress series
    Cassandra palmer series

  41. Sharon says:


    My top 5 would definitely include;

    Karen Marie Moning (Fever)- Darkfever
    Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels) – Magic Bites
    Patricia Briggs (Merceded Thompson) – Moon Called
    Stacia Kane (Downside Ghosts) – Unholy Ghosts
    Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires) – Some Girls Bite

  42. Aeryn says:

    What started for me was Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. But I would also add:
    Patricia Briggs-Mercy Thompson
    Ilona Andrews-Kate Daniels and The Edge series
    J.R. Rain-Vampire for Hire
    Karen Marie Moning-Fever Series
    Jennifer Estep-Elemental Assassin
    Faith Hunter-Jane Yellowrock series
    Kevin Hearne-The Iron Druid Chronicles
    Stackia Kane-Chest Putnam series
    Nalini Singh-Guild Hunter series

  43. eventerj9 says:

    I’ve heard a lot about Storm Front by Jim Butcher. That’s the one I am most curious about.

  44. Glenn Changar says:

    I agree with most of the entries…I love Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, Harrison’s Hollows series, LKH’s Anita Blake and Merry Gentry both, Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, K. Armstrong’s EVERYTHING, S.R. Green’s Nightside series, etc.

    I would like to add two more to the list. The first series is a relatively new one by Harry Connolly…the Twenty Palaces series. If you have not read these (3) books, you are in for a treat. Also, I know it is not a series, but an enormous novel, but I LOVED “A Discovery of Witches,” by Deborah Harkness.

  45. Christina Osterloh says:

    All time favorites of mine are Anne Bishop’s Black Jewell series and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. These are a must read.

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