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...

Book cover of Blood & Ash

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Spiked

Deborah Wilde Why did I love 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.

By C.P. Rider,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spiked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A telepath with a lethal twist.

My name is Neely and I'm a telepath-spiker. Not only can I read a person's thoughts, I can also spike deadly power straight into their brain.

But don't worry, I have strict rules about that sort of thing.

I'm hiding again. This time in a California desert truck stop town run by Lucas Blacke, a tiger shifter and alpha leader who's as handsome as Lucifer and twice as slippery. I've been running from alphas like him my whole life. They either want to own me or kill me—there is no middle ground.

Now a…


Book cover of Jade City

Deborah Wilde Why did I love 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.

By Fonda Lee,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Jade City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD

'An epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book' KEN LIU

'Gripping!' ANN LECKIE, author of Ancillary Justice and The Raven Tower

'Lee's astute worldbuilding raises the stakes for her vivid and tautly-described action scenes' SCOTT LYNCH, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora

*****Shortlisted for the Nebula Awards, the Locus Awards, the Aurora Awards, the Sunburst Awards and an Amazon.com Best Book of the Month*****

TWO CRIME FAMILIES, ONE SOURCE OF POWER: JADE.…


Book cover of Twisted Pretty Things

Deborah Wilde Why did I love 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.

By Ariana Nash,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twisted Pretty Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Something wicked is moving in the shadows of London...


In the underground world of glitzy illegal auctions, fast cars, and stolen magical artifacts, John "Dom" Domenici knows he's out of his depth. But he needs the job at Kempthorne & Co like he needs to breathe. The alternative-going back to the organized crime gangs of London's East End-is unthinkable.


So when Alexander Kempthorne, boss of Kempthorne & Co Artifact Retrieval Agency, wants him on a special case to track down an illegal artifact dealer, Dom can't say no.


It shouldn't matter that Kempthorne's world is full of deadly secrets. It…


Book cover of Gideon the Ninth

Deborah Wilde Why did I love 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.  

By Tamsyn Muir,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Gideon the Ninth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

15+ pages of new, original content, including a glossary of terms, in-universe writings, and more!

A USA Today Best-Selling Novel!

"Unlike anything I've ever read. " --V.E. Schwab

"Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!" --Charles Stross

"Brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through." --NPR

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as…


Book cover of These Violent Delights

Deborah Wilde Why did I love 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.

By Chloe Gong,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked These Violent Delights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A deliciously dark twist on Romeo and Juliet' Natasha Ngan, New York Times bestselling author of Girls of Paper and Fire

In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens . . .

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city in chaos.

Juliette Cai is the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang - a network of criminals far above the law.

Roma Montagov is the prodigal son of her greatest rivals, the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. He is also Juliette's…


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By Jennifer Laam,

Book cover of The Romanov Heiress

Jennifer Laam Author Of The Romanov Heiress

New book alert!

Who am I?

A proud native of Stockton, CA, Jennifer Laam resides in California with a temperamental tabby cat named Jonesy. Her other works of historical fiction are The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, The Tsarina’s Legacy, and The Lost Season of Love and Snow. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), cooing at Baby Yoda, or obsessing over House Targaryen. 

Jennifer's book list on the last Romanovs

What is my book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed. An alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter Of The Tsar.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, former Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships. But they can’t distance themselves from the world forever.

The Romanov Heiress

By Jennifer Laam,

What is this book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed...an alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Lost Season of Love and Snow.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships.

But they…


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Interested in sibling rivalry, China, and telepathy?

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