Books Forest Floor

My Top 10 Urban Fantasy Books of 2022

As 2022 comes to a close, it’s time to look back on all the urban fantasy I read this year. Some were good but not great, and many others I started but didn’t finish. But these ten were my absolute favorites.

Some ground rules before we get started:

  • These are books I read in 2022, not necessarily books that were published in 2022.
  • I’m being strict on my definition of urban fantasy and excluding books that are paranormal romance, contemporary fantasy, etc.
  • If I read a box set, I’m forcing myself to choose one book from it. Ditto if I read more than one book in a series.
  • This list is purely opinion based. Not all urban fantasy books are for me, and that’s okay!

And now, onto the books!

This post contains affiliate links. Read my policy here.

Eldritch Sparks

by Whitney Hill

Eldritch Sparks Book Cover

Book Description

The deal that secured Arden Finch a measure of freedom came with strings, and now everyone wants to pull them.

Arden has carved out a place for herself in Otherside—at a price. Pressure mounts as she juggles her day job as a private investigator with her new obligations, fraying relationships, and growing elemental powers. If that wasn’t enough, a lich has appeared in the Triangle, sowing violence and raising zombies. Everyone wants Arden to get rid of it⁠, including the gods.

But the lich offers something Arden has always wanted: enough power to stand alone. All she has to do is put herself first for once…and betray everyone she cares about.

My Review

I started reading the Shadows of Otherside series in 2021, and I’m thrilled that the sequel is just as good as the first book. It’s such a perfect example of urban fantasy. The paranormal mystery plotline is tense and engaging, and the heroine, while having magic powers of her own, is up against enemies so vastly powerful that victory seems impossible at times.

And Arden is such a great heroine. She’s smart and tough, though the situation understandably gets to be too much for her at times. And almost everyone in her life tries to lie to and manipulate her, so as a reader, I’m seriously cheering for her to succeed and make them regret messing with her.

All in all, this is definitely a series I’ll be continuing.

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by Seanan McGuire

Book Description

“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.

For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.

That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.

Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

My Review

How cool is this concept? You’re going about your day as usual when bam–reality gets infected, and you’re forced to act out a part in a fairy tale. And not a Disney fairy tale either but one of the dark, disturbing earlier versions.

But a cool concept isn’t enough to make a good book. Fortunately, Indexing executes the concept amazingly. It was originally published as a serial, and this book collects all the sequential episodes of the first season. Each episode has higher stakes as we get closer to the reveal of the big villain at the end, and more is gradually revealed about the main characters as well.

Most of the main characters had a close encounter with a fairy tale in the past and have to actively struggle against their role (i.e. Snow White or the Wicked Stepsister) from taking them over again. It’s a unique and fascinating conflict.

Overall, this is a must-read for urban fantasy fans and fairy tale lovers alike.

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The Crawling Darkness

by JL Bryan

Book Description

Paranormal investigator Ellie Jordan faces a new case in an apartment building where a twisted, dangerous entity emerges from closets and doorways to terrorize the residents at night. A powerful spirit, it feeds on fear and takes the shape of its victims’ worst nightmares.

Ellie and her mentor Calvin have tried to capture the same entity before, in a different house nearby, an attempt that ended in disaster. Now, with the help of her apprentice Stacey, Ellie must try again to capture the elusive shapeshifting ghost before it can claim another soul as its own.

My Review

It was hard to pick just one book from the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper box set I read earlier this year. I eventually decided on The Crawling Darkness because the stakes are more personal than in the first two books in the series (which are also fantastic). Ellie has faced this particular entity before and failed to capture it, and the experience left her mentor with a debilitating injury. So she’s extra motivated to succeed this time even though the entity seems just as impossible to defeat as before.

This book has everything I like about the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series: an eerie Southern gothic setting, a determined and likeable heroine, and some seriously spooky paranormal encounters. If you like ghost stories and urban fantasy that’s tinged with horror, then this is the book for you.

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Diabolical Sword

by Melissa Erin Jackson

Diabolical Sword Cover

Book Description

A sentient sword. An artifact collector. A whole world of trouble.

My name is Harlow Fletcher, and I’m a charm collector.

As the daughter of bounty hunters, I know more about the criminal underbelly than the average citizen of Luma, California. But when my dad’s work got him killed, and my mom skipped town, I swore off the profession for myself. Instead, I fell into the lucrative gig of freelance charm collecting. I have a knack for finding rare artifacts, namely illegal magic-laced weapons, and I use that skill to sneak into criminals’ homes after the police have carted them off for their latest infractions. Once I’ve helped myself to the contraband, I sell it to the highest bidder.

While looting my latest victim, a gorgeous sword catches my eye. I regret my decision to steal the sword within minutes: the weapon is alive. It’s lightning-quick, has an anger management problem, and refuses to leave me alone.

When the sword takes off one day, I think it’s finally out of my life for good—yet, in less than twenty-four hours, the police are at my door, accusing me of murder. While I’m in the middle of explaining that I didn’t commit the crime, the diabolical sword floats into my apartment, covered in blood.

Now we’re on the run, with bounty hunters and government-trained feline shifters hot on our trail. Proving my innocence is going to be a lot harder with the sentient murder weapon by my side—especially when I might be next on its hit list …

My Review

I wrote a lengthy review of this book in a separate post and don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll just say that if I had to recommend one urban fantasy book this year, it would probably be Diabolical Sword. This book has everything: fascinating worldbuilding, fun characters, great action scenes, and an overarching mystery plotline. If you love urban fantasy, you won’t want to miss it.

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Black Dog

by Rachel Neumeier

Book Description

In a world where a half-hidden war has finally revealed to ordinary humans the supernatural creatures that surround them, safety is hard to find for a girl like Natividad. Born Pure, one of the rare girls able to wield protective magic against demonic forces, Natividad and her brothers are on their own and on the run, with terrible memories and terrible enemies behind them.

The only possible shelter might be found with their father’s kin, the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc… if they can win acceptance. But when their enemies track them to their new home, neither Natividad nor her brothers nor Dimilioc itself may survive…

My Review

I had such a hard time putting down this book once I started reading it and stayed up past my bedtime on multiple nights to finish it. Every scene, from supernatural fights between ferocious black dog shifters to quiet moments between two characters, was excellent.

In my post Black Dogs in Folklore and Urban Fantasy, I mentioned how the shifters in this book struggle with the black dog side of themselves, which only wants to hunt and kill. That’s a seriously shortened summary of the extensive lore in this book. The way magic works here is fascinating–but it’s not the main draw. That would be the characters of Natividad and her brothers and the tense plot of them trying to find shelter from their enemies.

If you’re tired of mediocre shifter books, then give Black Dog a try. It’s a great take on the genre.

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A Touch of Fever

by Nazri Noor

Book Description

What do you do when you can’t cast spells? You make your own magic.

Jackson Pryde was never great at wielding magic. Instead, he works as an artificer, crafting enchanted devices in the Black Market, a shadowy bazaar of wonders. But Xander Wright, the mouthy, pretentious mage next door, hates all the hammering in Jackson’s workshop.

When a chance assignment forces them to team up, they discover a terrifying predicament. Something is driving members of the magical community into murderous rages. Jackson and Xander must combine might and magic to find the source of the Fever and stop it. Can they put aside their differences long enough to end the Fever, or will they succumb to its bloodthirsty curse?

A Touch of Fever is a 73,000-word M/M urban fantasy romance with a HFN ending. Join a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer, best friends turned bitter enemies, as they navigate an adventure filled with strange flora, mythical fauna, and magical murders. If you like your urban fantasy with humor, horror, and a whole lot of heart, you’ve come to the right place. Experience A Touch of Fever today.

My Review

I love urban fantasy that has a healthy dose of humor. Jackson, the hero of this novel, has such a funny, snarky first-person POV that I made a whole post of quotes from this book. But humor alone isn’t enough to make a good novel. Fortunately, A Touch of Fever has it all: character development, a steamy romantic plotline, an interesting setting, and a good mystery/adventure plot. It’s simply a good, well-rounded urban fantasy book and a great addition to the genre.

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Becoming Crone

by Lydia M. Hawke

Becoming Crone book cover

Book Description

She wanted purpose. She got dark magic and war.

Claire Emerson is adrift. After a lifetime as a wife, mother, and grandma, she never saw divorce or loneliness coming and is desperate for some sense of purpose. But when her sixtieth birthday brings a snarky gargoyle, an annoyingly sexy wolf shifter, and an unknown magical calling, she thinks she’s losing the only thing she has left: her sanity.

Refusing to believe she’s the powerful defender of humankind her so-called protectors claim, Claire attempts a return to her safe life… only to have her powers ignite when she’s attacked by dark supernatural creatures. And without the training she was supposed to have received, she has no idea how she’ll defeat sinister mages plotting her demise.

Can Claire overcome creaky joints and major hot flashes in time to save the world – and her own life?

My Review

This book takes its time starting off, introducing us to Claire and her mundane world. As she learns about magic, the plot speeds up and introduces more action. Pretty soon, the book becomes hard to put down.

Claire is a wonderful and relatable main character, her age making her unique among urban fantasy protagonists, and she has great character development throughout the book. The supporting cast of magical protectors, family members, and neighbors do a great job of fleshing out her world.

Read it if you want a fun urban fantasy adventure with a twist.

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Fae Away

by Rose Garcia

Fae Away book cover

Book Description

Princess Celyse has two rules she must obey— never touch a portal, and never kiss a human.

Despite being born into the most powerful house in the faerie realm, Celyse dreads her life of duty and obligation. But everything changes when she finds a shimmery portal that offers a glance at the forbidden human realm. If discovered with the portal, it could mean her death. Yet she dares to peek anyway and finds herself face to face with a gorgeous human. Soon, she is visiting her would-be enemy nightly. Until a malicious suitor threatens her life and her kingdom.

Julio can see spirits— it’s in his blood as the son of a powerful curandera.

With spirits drifting in and out of his life, Julio thinks having visions of an ethereal girl with silver hair is another part of the otherworldly weirdness that happens to him. But when the very real girl shows up in the flesh, she brings a dire plea for help. Her faerie realm and his human realm are in danger, and only he can help. His head blares a warning against this deadly path while his heart urges him to do anything to save her. Including risk his own life.

My Review

The fae are probably my favorite creatures in urban fantasy, and I love Fae Away‘s take on them. The action crosses over between the faerie and human realms, with one main character belonging to each. Usually when there’s two point of views in a book like this, I end up liking one character over the other, but it’s hard to choose between Celyse and Julio. They’re both so sympathetic, and their romance is sweet.

If you like the fae, YA urban fantasy, and/or romantic fantasy, then you’ll probably enjoy this (currently free) book.

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Black Hat, White Witch

by Hailey Edwards

Black Hat White Witch book cover

Book Description

Remember that old line about how the only way out of the organization is in a pine box?

Well, Rue Hollis spent ten years thinking she had escaped the Black Hat Bureau, no coffin required.

Then her former partner had to go and shatter the illusion by showing up on her doorstep with grim tidings. As much as Rue wants to kick him to the curb, she agrees to hear him out for old times’ sake, and what he says chills her to the bone.

The Silver Stag was the most notorious paranormal serial killer in modern history, and Rue brought him down. Now a copycat has picked up where the Stag left off, and the Bureau wants her on the case. She beat the Stag once. They think she can do it again. But they don’t know she’s given up black magic, and she’s not about to tell them. White witches are prey, and Rue is the hunter, not the hunted. Always.

But can she take down the protégé of the man who almost beat her at her black witch best?

If she wants to keep her new town, her new home, her new life, then she has no choice but to find out.

My Review

Supernatural law enforcement agencies are a standard trope in urban fantasy, and you’ll find many heroes who are agents in one. What I like about the Black Hat Bureau in this book is that the narrative doesn’t paint them as the good guys. Yes, they stop dangerous supernatural killers, but they’re shady as heck and coerce most of their agents into working for them.

Rue doesn’t want anything to do with the organization, but the narrative does a great job of making the reader understand why she reluctantly goes back to work for them. She’s a fascinating protagonist, a former black witch who gave up her evil ways and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow.

Of course, without black magic, she’s not nearly as powerful as she used to be.

I read this book after going through several mediocre urban fantasy novels, and it reminded me why I love the genre. With a dark mystery and an intriguing romantic subplot, it’s an excellent read.

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Death Trace

by Zoe Cannon

Death Trace book cover

Book Description

The gods are at war. Mal is their weapon.

It’s been ten years since Mal died. Five years since the god Hades dragged her from the underworld and forged her, through blood and pain, into his living weapon. And in five minutes, the only other agent of Hades she trusts will die.

Someone is assassinating Hades’s agents all over New York City. If Mal can’t find the one responsible, she’ll be next—if she’s lucky. If not, she’ll watch everything she cares about go up in flames first.

Mal didn’t choose this life. But now it’s all she has. And she’ll be damned if she lets anyone—human or god—take what is hers.

My Review

Death Trace has a really cool take on gods and goddesses of different pantheons and how they operate in the modern world. It’s described as an “urban fantasy thriller,” and with its fast, action-packed pace, that’s definitely accurate.

The ebook was currently free, and I was wondering if it would leave me on a cliffhanger. But not only does it have an incredible climax that resolves the main plot, it then continues on to wrap up several more loose ends (while still leaving openings for future books in the series).

But the best thing about this book is the heroine, Mal, who’s a total badass while remaining a fleshed-out, flawed human being.

Read it if you like mythology-based urban fantasy and thrillers.

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Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite urban fantasy novel of 2022? Let me know in the comments!

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