The best urban fantasy books with diverse characters

Who am I?

I was an avid reader growing up, but I never saw myself reflected unless it was a book about the Holocaust. Those are crucial stories to tell, but I wanted a Jewish girl going through a wardrobe to a secret land or having magical adventures. So, I decided to write those stories for women and combine them with steamy romance, because I love that, too. All my main characters are Jewish, and I draw from Judaism and Jewish folklore for my worldbuilding and magic systems. It's also important for me to showcase my diverse hometown of Vancouver. To that end, my characters are of varying ethnicities and sexual identities.

I wrote...

Blood & Ash: A Snarky Urban Fantasy Detective Series

By Deborah Wilde,

Book cover of Blood & Ash: A Snarky Urban Fantasy Detective Series

What is my book about?

When Ash is hit during a stakeout, she discovers a mysterious tattoo on the back of her skull—a now-broken ward unleashing dangerous magic that she shouldn’t possess. Her unruly powers nearly kill her long-time nemesis, Levi, the uptight leader of the magic community. One word from him revealing her forbidden abilities, and everything she’s built will be taken from her… by force. The only bright spot is that Levi requires her supernatural skills to solve a case. After years of being underestimated by him, it’s Ash’s chance at payback and she’s going to enjoy bringing him to his knees—or stuffing him in a body bag.

Crackling with suspense, this magic detective series features an enemies-to-lovers romance and a snarky heroine solving thrilling mysteries.

The books I picked & why

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By C.P. Rider,

Book cover of Spiked

Why this book?

Neely has an incredibly interesting magic power as a telepath spiker, but stays under the radar running a Mexican bakery with her uncle. I was swooning as much for her delicious pastries as for the sexy alpha werewolf. It’s great to see a proud Afro-Latina woman take the lead in an urban fantasy, and the authentic cultural touches that Rider brings to her storytelling immerses us fully in her worldbuilding. The author does a great job with Neely’s growth as she becomes more and more confident as a badass, reclaiming the hero status in her own life instead of hiding in the shadows.

Jade City

By Fonda Lee,

Book cover of Jade City

Why this book?

There is a beautiful specificity to this world where an Asian family dynasty plays out on a Shakespearean scale. The island of Kekon with its rich history, cadences of language, religious mythology, and magic infuses every aspect of the story. It is worldbuilding at its finest, place as a main character. Then, upon this strong foundation, Lee gives us the Kauls, rulers of a powerful clan, embroiled in warfare for the safety of their people and their very survival. She tackles sibling rivalry, identity, and the burden of living up to family expectations. I devoured this book.

Twisted Pretty Things

By Ariana Nash,

Book cover of Twisted Pretty Things

Why this book?

I love m/m romance and I love urban fantasy, but until now, that combination hadn’t grabbed me in a way that had me sit up in excitement. I tore through this series (currently and desperately awaiting the final book). Not only does Nash devise a fun and fascinating magic system with Dom’s playing cards, I shipped Dom and Kempthorne so hard. The obstacles they must overcome, both externally and with their inner demons, had me turning pages as fast as I could. It’s an absolute delight.

Gideon the Ninth

By Tamsin Muir,

Book cover of Gideon the Ninth

Why this book?

Honestly, I’d have read it just for that fabulous cover, but when I saw it described as “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless Emperor! Skeletons!" I was definitely here for it. While this book is more fantasy than urban fantasy, it's got a ton of beloved shared tropes like magic tests, warring houses, and two people who despise each other who must work together or lose everything. The characters are fascinatingly flawed, the stakes are life and death, and there are secrets galore to be unearthed. It’s wonderful.  

These Violent Delights

By Chloe Gong,

Book cover of These Violent Delights

Why this book?

Have you ever read about a book and thought there is no way it could possibly exist because it brings together far too many of your favourite tropes/interests and how could all that goodness exist in one story? It’s set in 1920s Shanghai, with enemies to lovers in the form of “if Romeo and Juliet had broken up and met again years later.” Add to that, rival mob families and a paranormal mystery.

What a gorgeous story. It's evocative and dreamy and sharp and insightful. Every single character is brilliantly crafted with a distinct personality and all their jagged edges rub along in such wonderful and conflicted ways. 

The book is part of a duology and trust me, the second half lives up to this magnificence.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sibling rivalry, China, and telepathy?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sibling rivalry, China, and telepathy.

Sibling Rivalry Explore 16 books about sibling rivalry
China Explore 399 books about China
Telepathy Explore 31 books about telepathy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Cruel Beauty, The Iron Dragon's Daughter, and The Beast Player if you like this list.