Today’s guest post comes to you courtesy of Nina at Death Books and Tea, who has written a thoroughly awesome post on urban fantasy, and why she loves it. I nodded and grinned a great deal reading her post, and so I hope you also enjoy it!
Cities of Words
Cities are magical places. Full of history and stories, from the big ones you find in the history books to the little ones of inhabitants’ everyday lives. It’s little wonder that there’s so many books set in them, across all genres. Today, I’d like to talk about urban fantasy. This term tends to cover supernatural things happening in cities, paranormal investigations, chic and maybe a bit sexy. I do enjoy this, but I enjoy even more a different flavour of UF. The word urban comes from urbs, Latin for city, and my favourite kind of urban fantasy is where the focus is not just the events in the city, but the city itself.
One way of doing this is by using reflections of the city to provide a similar yet different view of the city, for example, in Emma Newman’s Split World series. The first book, Between Two Thornes, is centred around Bath, or, as it known in the Nether, Aquae Sulis. In the Nether, only older streets and buildings are reflected, and people hold old fashioned views on many things. Newman’s Nether reflects the history infused within the city, which contrasts with the modern world we are familiar with, Mundanus.
Then there’s Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The main character is taken into taken into London Below, compared to our London Above. London Below makes use of familiar London concepts such as tube stations and bridges across the Thames and Harrods, and adds extra things to them: disused stations being used to get to places like The British Museum, the Darkness across Night’s Bridge and the Floating Market selling…everything.
The book that is, in my opinion, urban fantasy with the most emphasis on urban, is The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. Here, creatures don’t just inhabit the city-they are the city. From streetlamps to statues, trains to trash (sorry for the Americanism, it just had to be done for alliterative purposes), the city comes to life in a way that’s more vivid than you could think possible.
So why do I like these? Well, I am a slight history geek. When authors take the history that cities are steeped in, and shoves fantasy elements in, I’ll be there too.
Then there’s the relatability aspect to it. High fantasy worlds can be superbly written, but there’s the niceness of things being set in familiar places so you can go “hey, I know that place!”,and then you can easily visualise everything.
The biggest, most genre specific thing about this kind of urban fantasy is seeing what the author has done with the city. What they see in it, that you don’t. Seeing a city come to life, not just with its people, but by itself. Cities are magical places in the real world; with the right author writing them, you can get urban fantasy in the truest, and best, sense of the term.
Thank you for having me, Lisa!
Nina writes reviews over at Death Books and Tea, and you can find her on Twitter here.
On a final note, Nina is also running a Rainbow Reads event this month, in which I will be taking part with a pair of guest reviews when I return from my wanderings. Check it out at the link, and give it a try if it pleases you!