The best urban fantasy books that bend time and reality

Why am I passionate about this?

My first mentor was Arthur C Clarke, the science fiction megastar. I’ve always been drawn to epic fantasy, science fiction, and techno-thrillers. Stories that push the boundaries of reality. While I’ve been a professional author for over thirty years in multiple genres, I keep returning to speculative fiction, much of which is published under my pen name “Thomas Locke”. I serve as Writer In Residence at the University of Oxford. In writing Island of Time, my aim was to apply a classical heroic structure to neartime fantasy. Use the naturally occurring elements of light and dark, good and evil, and magnify them by adding magic to this world.


I wrote...

Island of Time

By Davis Bunn,

Book cover of Island of Time

What is my book about?

The Geneva branch of Interpol - the international agency tasked with policing magic and the arcane arts - is where careers go to die. Action is rare as Switzerland banned magic seven hundred years ago. That’s how Agent Jackson Burnett likes it. But then reports of an explosion lead Jackson to the home of businessman Bernard Bouchon. What’s there is unfathomable: The family and their possessions have vanished into ash.

Jackson’s enigmatic new partner suspects powerful supernatural forces are at play. The family weren’t killed... they've been erased from time. With all traces of the family disappearing, the case is hours away from being forgotten. How can Jackson solve a crime no one remembers happening? He must find a way to remember. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

Davis Bunn Why did I love this book?

A Darker Shade of Magic introduces us to Kell, a mage with the rare ability to travel between parallel Londons.

I love this concept of multiple versions of the same city, and was put in mind of an 18th-century The Matrix. I found myself drawn to Kell’s struggle, his loneliness in being one of the last of his kind, and his longing for something more. Something more arrives in the form of a frenemy, which I always find entertaining when well done.

While very different in setting and tone to my book, both books play with the manipulation of time and reality; unwitting but intrepid characters who must thwart an unusual existential threat; and the danger of power, magical or mundane.

By V. E. Schwab,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Darker Shade of Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning collector's edition of the acclaimed novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab.

With an exclusive metallic ink cover, this edition will feature:

* End papers of London
* Fan art
* A glossary of Arnesian and Antari terms
* An interview between author and editor
* Original (never before seen!) tales from within the Shades of Magic world

Kell is one of the last Antari-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered, Grey London, without magic and ruled by mad King…


Book cover of Rivers of London

Davis Bunn Why did I love this book?

Another magical alternate-London book, Rivers of London is a delightful journey into a world where the ordinary and the extraordinary coexist.

The book’s blend of detective fiction and urban fantasy was a very different take on the same premise that inspired my book. I really enjoyed Peter Grant’s journey from everyday police officer to apprentice wizard. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was its humor.

Peter’s dry wit and the book’s overall fun tone balanced the darker elements of the plot. Even in a world filled with magic and mystery, there’s always room for a good laugh.

By Ben Aaronovitch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Rivers of London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book 1 in the Rivers of London series, from Sunday Times Number One bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch.

My name is Peter Grant, and I used to be a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth.

My story really begins when I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was already dead...

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. After taking a statement from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost, Peter comes…


Book cover of Storm Front

Davis Bunn Why did I love this book?

A captivating blend of detective noir and urban fantasy, this one kept me on the edge of my seat.

Set in the bustling city of Chicago, the story follows wizard detective Harry Dresden as he navigates through a world filled with magic and mystery. I found everything I look for in crime fiction, mixed up with fun and creepy, larger-than-life supernatural elements. For example Bob, a spirit of intellect bound to a skull serves as Dresden’s advisor – great comic relief.

I appreciated Dresden’s struggles with his own magical abilities and his determination to do the right thing, even when it may mean sacrifice. 

By Jim Butcher,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Storm Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put…


Book cover of Hard Magic

Davis Bunn Why did I love this book?

While I chose to invade Interpol with magic, Larry Correia picked the mob.

A brilliant and unique approach I’ve never encountered. I was immediately drawn into the world of Jake Sullivan, a war veteran turned private eye with the magical ability to manipulate gravity. This concept alone was enough to pique my interest, but Correia takes it a step further by creating a detailed and immersive world where magic and technology coexist.

The magic system in Hard Magic is one of the most unique I’ve encountered, simple enough to grasp and following its own internal logic, but with plenty of room for mystery. I believe it took the entire genre forward, while taking me back in my own past to classic gangster tales such as The Godfather and Goodfellas – if the characters wielded magic.

By Larry Correia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hard Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye - and an ex-con. He's free because he has a magical talent - being able to alter the force of gravity in himself and objects in his vicinity - and the Bureau of Investigation call


Book cover of Mortal Sight

Davis Bunn Why did I love this book?

Should an angsty teen girl (or her mom) be relieved when she’s taken under the wing of an eccentric art dealer?

After all, not many people make seventeen-year-old Cera Marlowe feel understood. She’s too into poetry and art and suffers from seizures… The mystery in Mortal Sight is of a much more personal nature than the other books on this list.
While this urban fantasy tale is young adult, the blend of modern-day with ancient mythology drew me in and I was reminded of my own childhood. I enjoyed the concept of a girl with a mysterious past and a dangerous destiny awakening to her true identity – all accompanied by lines of Milton in her head that help her to navigate her strange new world.

By Sandra Fernandez Rhoads,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mortal Sight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

When Worlds Collide, Shadow Wrestles Light

Seventeen-year-old Cera Marlowe wants a normal life; one where she and her mom can stop skipping town every time a disturbing vision strikes. But when a girl she knows is murdered by a monster she can't explain, Cera's world turns upside down.

Suddenly thrown into an ancient supernatural battle, Cera discovers she's not alone in her gifting and vows to use her visions to save lives. But why does John Milton's poem Paradise Lost keep interrupting her thoughts?

In a race against time and a war against unearthly creatures, will decoding messages embedded in…


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Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

Book cover of Price of Vengeance

Kurt D. Springs

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Teacher Cook Barista Guardian

Kurt's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Liam was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a soldier. After being cut off from the city, Liam finds that there is an alien intelligence behind the chitin. To defeat it, he must discover who he is and how to use his powers. Then, Liam discovers that a traitor, responsible for his birth parents' deaths, had murdered his beloved foster parents. Will the price he has to pay in his quest for vengeance prove to be an even more unbeatable foe?

Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

What is this book about?

"From the cover to the opening pages, Price of Vengeance grabs the reader and takes them on a wild ride. Fasten your seat belts for this book." -S. J. Francis, author of Shattered Lies

What is the Price of Vengeance? One could understand why Liam was angry. He was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a…


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