The Joy of Writing

Be My Valentine!
Helen Harper


  • January 28, 2014
  • Blog

There are a lot of urban fantasy books around. I think my first real introduction to the contemporary notion of the genre was when I idly picked up a Laurell K Hamilton novel (one of her early ones, of course), and was immediately transfixed. I’d always loved fantasy, but this was something different. The parallel universe type idea was fascinating, and I drank in every detail. From that point on, I actively sought out all and any additions to the genre. Strong female heroines, gorgeous escapism, touches of romance…what could be better?

However, all the main urban fantasy authors seem to come out of the USA, and are setting their books as you’d expect. Now, don’t me get wrong, I love reading about the States. Even though a novel might be fantasy, if it’s set in New York or the Deep South or Las Vegas, as a reader you still get a vivid picture of the culture and people of that area. Not only that, but the very modern feel of urban fantasy somehow sits perfectly with America as a setting. And yet, the long history that the UK has with mythology and legends seems, at least to me, to be crying out for more attention. Of course, I write this while my new book – which re-tells a Greek myth of all things – is currently sitting with my editor…so much for practising what I preach, then.

However, almost every corner of the UK cries out its links with fantasy. Robin Hood? Merlin? Stonehenge? Paganism? The Loch Ness Monster? Come on! Why can’t there be more modern takes on these stories? I don’t mean re-tellings of the same legends, but instead urban fantasy interpretations. I can think of a couple – there’s Daniel O’Malley’s Rook and Ben Aarovitch’s Rivers of London, but surely more British authors should be learning from the breathtaking imaginations of our American cousins and using our own fantastical settings to continue on the genre further. I can only hope that there will be some of that to come from other authors in the future…and if anyone knows of any already doing so, then do please let me know so I can give them the attention they deserve!

  • Annie Demosthenous (@AnnieCoralD) • 17th July 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Kate Griffin has written some pretty good Urban fantasies set in London – They can be gloriously dark, and hold a mirror to English city culture.

    • Annie Demosthenous (@AnnieCoralD) • 17th July 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Also there is Phil Rickman, whose Merrily Watkins novels feature a diminutive female vicar who also solves crimes. They’re set on the border between England and Wales, and have a tremendously atmospheric sense of place. They may be more ‘paranormal’ than strictly Urban fantasy, but the way Rickman inlays real places with the fantastic using archaeology, history and traditional stories is quite similar to Ben Aaronovitch’s approach to London, and also wonderful.

      • Helen Harper
        Helen Harper • 17th July 2016 at 2:35 pm

        Brilliant! Thanks, Annie – I’ll have to look both of those up 😀

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