Top 24 Urban Fantasy Series ft. Women Who Kick BUTT

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To be totally honest, I think one of the main reasons I am the way that I am is because I grew up on a steady media diet of Buffy, Xena, Captain Janeway, and Samantha Carter from Stargate.

These women helped provide emotional support when I felt like I wasn’t enough of a “Betty Crocker,” when I was told I was “too ambitious” or “abrasive.”

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And, while I’m reminiscing about all the things these characters taught me, *this* post is about some of my new literary heroes. Women who are allowed to be more complicated and vulnerable than their 1990’s counterparts. In a world that feels like it’s taking slivers of my soul, I find myself replenished (yes, using that word intentionally) through new mythologies.

Top Urban Fantasy Series to Read in 2020

Hey, I’m 26, and I still need sheroes.

Below, you’ll find a list, in no particular order of some of my favorite urban fantasy reads/series, featuring kickass women, AKA “strong female leads”. If I missed an author in this roundup, please do tweet corrections at: Brianne Huntsman. I’m always looking for a new series to devour.

1. “The Parasol Protectorate” Series by Gail Carriger

Set in the 1870’s, this steampunk series follows the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti. Unlike other series (side eye), Alexia doesn’t spend the first 4 out of 5 books in the series as a star-crossed lover — Carriger has Alexia going on adventures *with* her one true love, which I’m all about.

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists
Also, Carriger pays particular attention to discussing ridiculous steampunk fashion, which I LOVEEEE.

Also, I love this series, because Carriger doesn’t try to make Alexia a modern feminist. There’s elements of classism and remarks on “The Vote” that are pretty inline with what an upperclass woman *would* think during the times. Overall, this is a series that I love to reread, and my copies have crinkly pages — having been read while I’m taking bubblebaths. Gail also has an AWESOME Facebook group.

Get the first book here.

2. Various Series — Patricia Briggs

Like a lot of fantasy/sci fi authors, Briggs has written several series all taking place in the same world. Her heroines can be problematic (can we discuss writers tapping into the “Native American” trope?), BUT her sheroes are multi-layered and *different*. You won’t find the cookie cutter “bada$$” heroine here.

Urban fantasy series with werewolves featuring women protagonists                                          Cover art is KILLING IT.

My favorite series of hers it the “Alpha and Omega” series, as the main character is more introverted and shy, and doesn’t break down doors with guns blazing, sharing a different kind of strength instead. I also appreciate Patricia’s updates on Facebook.

Get the first book here.

3. Kate Daniels Series— Ilona Andrews

Okay, so this writer — or rather “writers,” as some of the books under this pen name are written by a couple — is quite prolific when it comes to writing urban fantasy series with feminist protagonists.

The Kate Daniels series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where magic comes back, and has mercenary with a past Kate Daniels kicking butt.

Check out the first book in the series here!

Ilona Andrews Urban Fantasy Series

4. Hidden Legacy Series— Ilona Andrews

The Hidden Legacy Series is probably my favorite.  Starring Nevada Baylor, this urban fantasy series is set in a world where genetic experimentation has led to the elite class having magic.

I appreciate this author because they (? not sure on pronouns?) tackle issues like class and wealth. They fall into a similar category as Briggs, writing multiple series in one world, in fact, having multiple series within different worlds. They’re prolific AF, and I can’t wait for their 3rd book in the Hidden Legacy series. (Although, fair warning, when I went to Barnes and Noble to get a hard copy, I had to go to the romance section to find it!)

Get “Burn for Me” here!

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists

Also, if you’re part of the Ilona Andrews team reading this, I love the website redesign! ❤

5. Edge Series— Ilona Andrews

This series toes the line between fantasy and urban fantasy, as the books are set in “The Edge,” a sort of border town between a mystical magical world and our world.

Some books are told from the perspective of women, and others jump POV.

Get the first book here.

6. Various Series — Seanan McGuire

Another writer who falls under the “Prolific AF” category is Seanan McGuire. I fell in love with her work when stumbling across the “Toby Daye” series (takes the slant of “Fairies living in and around San Francisco” slant, think of it as Holly Black for adults) and I also love her Incryptid series (family of human-ish folks who protect the world from supernatural creatures, and protect supernatural creatures from the world).

Her characters are selfish, flawed and beautiful, and feel like courageous friends.

Check out the Incryptid series here.

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists
10/10 cover art. McGuire also incorporates biology/science, talking about natural selection and fantastical creatures.

7. “Spider” Series — Jennifer Estep

Okay, so “Gin” the assassin main character in this series (that includes giants, vampires and witches) does more closely follow the “badass shero” set, using knives to mess with anyone who gets in her way.

BUT, what I do love about this character is that Gin flips gender roles on their head. While we’re used to seeing #MoodyAF male protagonists or love interests, Gin holds that crown for herself. Altogether, a great read — and a longggg series, which I always love. (TAKE MY MONEY, ESTEP!)

More info on the series here.

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists
                                           Nice Buffy imagery here! ^^

8. Various Series — Laurell K Hamilton

Honestly, Laurel K. Hamilton should’ve appeared further up in this list, as she’s one of the Godmothers of Urban Fantasy (I made up that title on the spot, but I’d bet $$$ I’m not the first person to use it).

Her series follows the evolution of Anita Blake, a detective and necromancer in modern day, and includes QUEER PEOPLE, kink and BDSM, etc etc, in her books and POLYANDRY (like polyamory, but most of Blake’s male partners don’t have other partners). Hamilton’s writing of Anita Blake is the best dang character growth/evolution I’ve ever seen. Taking notes here!

I ALSO really enjoy the Merry Gentry series, about a fairy princess in the modern day, who is ALSO polyandrous.

Check out the first in the Anita Blake series here.

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists
                                        I love the color story here.

9. White Trash Zombie — Diana Rowland

Okay, I know I keep mentioning that the writers discuss “Class” as a Theme™, but that’s because it’s so dang RARE. (Like, honestly, do we need another urban fantasy novel featuring a rich protagonist who can’t find love? Like, we already have Batman, y’all.)

ANYWAYS, this series follows Angel Crawford a “loser” who due to a series of events, becomes a zombie. I don’t want to spill the good stuff, but if you love sheroes that are “unlovable women” this series is for you.

Urban fantasy and steampunk series featuring women protagonists
                                         Cover art is AMAZING JFC.

Snag the first book here.

10. “The Hollows” by Kim Harrison

For the longest time, I got Kim Harrison and Laurel K Hamilton mixed up, because they’re names are so dang similar (was this intentional book marketing? Unclear.).

Anyways, “The Hollows” is a series with a witch, Rachel Morgan, as the leading HBIC, set in Cincinnati. The world includes elves as powerful businessmen, vampires as cops, etc etc. I really enjoy how seamlessly Harrison incorporates real business dealings (Business Gay™ ftw).

                                                       kinky. ❤

Check out the first book here.

11. Dana McIntyre Series by S.M. Reine

Dana McIntyre is a sort of bounty hunter/Buffy type, who is also a plus-size lesbian. I AM OBVIOUSLY INTO THIS. Also, S.M. Reine is a badass self-published author, who has published ~50 books in Dana’s universe.

I read the entire series in 2 days.

SM Reine urban fantasy queer book series
                                              Faux Hawk FTW

12.  Soulwood Series by Faith Hunter

WOW!  A good amount of urban fantasy books can be formulaic (sassy and snarky main character With a Past, etc), but Faith Hunter came in and demolished those tropes with the Soulwood series.

The series tells the story of Nell Ingram, who recently left a polygamist cult to live on her own.  Nell has magic, and I don’t want to give too much away – but this series is a must read!

Get the first book here.

13.  Jane Yellowrock Series by Faith Hunter

Set in the same world as the above books, this urban fantasy series tells the tale of Jane Yellowrock, a vampire hunter – who is employed by vampire hunters in New Orleans.  Faith Hunter does a great job of revealing parts of the character over the course of the series.

I am uncomfortable with a white (?) author writing about magical Native Americans (tropes are not great), but I’ll let you be the judge on this one.

Buy the first book here.

14. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

This was a delightful series about a radio DJ who is a werewolf, and sort of “outs” the supernatural community to regular folks.  Set in Colorado, Kitty manages to keep some of her “normal-ness” that sets apart this urban fantasy series from others.

Get the first book here.

15.  Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

OKAY, so I haven’t read this book yet (I’m including it so I don’t lose track of it).  Here’s what Amazon had to say:

“In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.”

Snag the book here.

16.  Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

Okay, I gotta be honest.  I wasn’t a huge fan of this urban fantasy series, but I know many folks who love it.

TLDR, this series tells the story of Cassie Palmer who can see the future and dead people.  This gets her noticed by a bunch of unsavory characters, including the undead – as in vampires.

Read the first book here.

17.  Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Don’t hate me, but I also wasn’t a huge fan of this popular urban fantasy series.  It just… moves slow and the main character felt a bit whiney.

I would probably be whiney if I was turned into a vampire, but, hey, it’s my blog!

From Amazon: “Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was Merit’s. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.”

Check out the first book in the series here.

18.  The Arcadia Project by Mishell Baker

WOWEE WOW WOW WOW!  This book really challenged what I, as a reader, expect from an urban fantasy series.  I hate using the word “gritty” to describe a book, because I feel it’s wayyyyyy overused.

That said, holy wow this book series is GRITTY and blends human reality with urban fantasy in a totally new way.

From Amazon: “A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.”

Check out the first book here.

19.   Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Add this book to the pile of, “I didn’t like this book, but I respect the storytelling” pile.

From Amazon: “Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…”

Check out the first book in the series here.

20.  The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, by Annie Bellet

This series tells the story of Jade Crow, a sorceress who owns a comic book and gaming shop in Idaho – who is hiding from an abusive and magically powerful ex.  Then, a hot guy shows up who thinks Jade has broken magical law.

Read the first book here.

21.  Women of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong

OKAY, so I love when an author builds a world and writes a lot of different characters within it.  And that’s exactly what Kelley Armstrong has done.  (Also, one of the books was turned into a TV show, called Bitten.)

It’s a diverse reading experience featuring the perspective of differen women, and characters make appearances in other books.

Read the first book here.

22.  The Southern Vampire Series, by Charlaine Harris 

Yep, we have to include the writer who gave us the hit HBO series,  True Blood.  

This series tells the story of Southerner, Sookie Stackhouse, and how she navigates a world where vampires have recently “come out of the coffin.”  It’s fun and decadent, and Sookie is one of my fave characters of all time.

Read the first book in the series here.

vampire urban fantasy series

23.  The Guild Codex by Annette Marie

Seeing my options dwindle for mass market books, I’ve began to explore the world of self-published urban fantasy authors.

This series follows a non-magical human, who somehow finds herself getting past magic spells to apply to be a bartender at a very dangerous and magical place.

First book here.

24.  The Graywalker series, by Kat Richardson 

Last, but definitely NOT least, is the this series with 9 books by Kat Richardson.

From Amazo: “Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until a two-bit perp’s savage assault left her dead for two minutes. When she comes to in the hospital, she sees things that can only be described as weird-shapes emerging from a foggy grey mist, snarling teeth, creatures roaring.

But Harper’s not crazy. Her “death” has made her a Greywalker- able to move between the human world and the mysterious cross-over zone where things that go bump in the night exist. And her new gift is about to drag her into that strange new realm-whether she likes it or not.”

Read a few pages of the book here.

Urban fantasy series with fairies

Bummed the list ended? Me too. Let’s hang out on Twitter and tweet at authors together, mmmkay?

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