What is Urban Fantasy Romance?


I had to educate myself on this. For instance, until I read Katiebabs’ WTF post on Laurell K. Hamilton (among other things) I would have cleanly classified Anita Blake as contemporary paranormal romance. If Anita Blake is urban fantasy then so to by deduction must be Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson Series and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Which begs the question, when did vampires and werewolves leave their home in Paranormal Land and cross into the Fantasy World? Isn’t fantasy populated with witches, magic, dragons, and princes? As Orson Scott Card said (and I’m paraphrasing) if you think trees the story is a fantasy; if you think metal it’s a science fiction… or in this case not-fantasy. I think of vampires and werewolves as claws and teeth, which is probably why I’m so confused. 😛 Are you? Let’s figure it out together.

Urban Fantasy Romance Is:

  • Fantasy elements (also including paranormal here don’t ask me why) in a people populated setting be it city or town.
  • Sure to deal with mystery, suspense, and/or crime.
  • Reliant heavily on world-building to make it work. How did these creature rise from obscurity and into the everyday? How do normal humans deal with them?
  • A romance, but it doesn’t overwhelm the driving plot.
  • Usually a series so world-building and romance arcs are sprinkled throughout many books.
  • Usually contemporary or modern, but can be set in historical or futuristic settings too.
  • Populated with tough kick-ass heroines.
  • Never fluffy. It’s gritty, dark, and thrilling.

Urban Fantasy vs Paranormal Romance:

What’s the difference between an urban fantasy and a paranormal written in an urban setting? Please explain! Here’s what I got so far…

  • Paranormal romance is usually hero-centric whereas urban fantasy tends to be heroine-centric.
  • Paranormal romance is about the hero and heroine’s relationship first and foremost with a HEA (happily ever after). Urban Fantasy romance is about saving the world and finding love while you do it.
  • Avon executive editor Erika Tsang explains: “In paranormal romance the relationship between the couple is the focus of the main plot. In urban fantasy, the world that the couple exists in is the focus.” Publisher’s Weekly

This is why everyone says the two get confused and are used interchangeably. It really is a difference of degrees I feel.

Do you prefer Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance? I am clearly a fan of both even though before I wrote this post I thought I never read an urban fantasy. Give me Edward Cullen and Buffy Summers!

What are some of the other Urban Fantasy Romance series that you enjoy?

11 thoughts on “What is Urban Fantasy Romance?”

  1. If you think this is twisting your brain stalk, try writing erotic urban fantasy! Then you’ve got both major plot streams (erotic romance + urban fantasy) vying for story telling time on the page.

    [Erotic Urban Fantasy author]

  2. The way I see it:

    UF is more in an urban setting and no set HEA at the end. The main storyline is not a hero and heroine based relationship. In a UF, the main characters has to come to grips with whatever issue they are involved with.

    PR anything goes, mainly the hero and heroine are driven and working towards a HEA with one another.

  3. The book I picked up during one of my last trips to the library was an urban fantasy, “Moon Called” by Patricia Briggs. I can spot some UF novels by their covers, there’s usually a woman alone; a tough don’t mess with me heroine.

  4. Anita Blake is urban fantasy! 🙂 All romances, I think, must have focus on the romance and have a HFA.

    lol and yeah lots of fantasy does have princes and dragons and magic, but there is lots that doesn’t. well, most fantasy has magic but there is lots that doesn’t have those other elements.

    I like urban fantasy better but I read both.

    urban fantasy writers I enjoy: Jim Butcher, John Levitt, PN Elrod, Charles Stross, Charlaine Harris, rachel caine, Simon R. Green, Rob Thurman, Ilona Andrews, Mark Del Franco, Thomas E Sniegosk . . . I could go one and on. Not all of them use vamps and weres, either, or not as main characters.

  5. I love UF/PNR as I call it . I want dark gritty stories, kick-ass heroines, arrogant alpha-males and angsty love stories that span many books.

  6. I love to read both. Lately I am even reading some fantasy. Terry Goodkind. Gotta catch up on all the books I have missed and the ones I cannot keep up with. Books and smile rule the world.

  7. @Sharon — I’m a big fan of the many book spread of the love story… though in the instance of say Castle (tv show) all I want is for Richard and Kate to kiss and get together and stop with all the misses! So frustrating!

    @Jane — You and me both (UF newbies)!

    @Trudy — Plain old fantasy is good too! 🙂 (Do I now rule the world??? lol)

Leave a Reply