Urban Fantasy in Urban Ideal

I have recently read and reviewed several urban fantasy books, by virtue of having tripped into a bit of an urban fantasy phase. It was originally accidental and then became very intentional. In reviewing ‘Cursed’ by Benedict Jacka, I, an Australian, made this assertion;

It’s pretty clear, I’m a whore for well-written urban-fantasy, specifically if it’s set in London. I love it. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with a book to read about a fantastical version of a city I’ve never visited, but love nonetheless.

In response, my editor at Fantasy Book Review – an Englander – said the following;

I agree with what you say about London, I have a similar feel about New York, which has an almost mystical aura in my mind, mainly because I have never actually been there. If I should visit it one day the spell may well get broken!

This naturally got me to thinking, given I could not fathom why my editor – who has access to London by means of a single train journey – would long for somewhere else!

The single-greatest exponent of the London-urban fantasy setting is Kate Griffin (aka, Catherine Webb). Her Matthew Swift books are phenomenal, and in them the city of London takes on the intricacies of a three-dimensional character, replete with its own quirks, flaws, and charms, that introduce the reader to a place you end up feeling you’ve lived and loved all your life, while simultaneously convincing you nowhere will ever be as good.

Especially not where you live.

I live in Melbourne, Victoria, a location which is arguably – and, to some, factually – the greatest city on the planet. It has won ‘Most Liveable City’ more times than I can remember, and variants thereof. I spent a good portion of my latter-high school days wandering around the central business district (the CBD), and have since held on to a fond feeling for the few streets surrounding Flinders Street Station.

But it isn’t London.

And I wonder if maybe that’s because I live here.

It is a difficult position to try to wrap my head around, given that I have never been there and I have always been here. But it definitely makes sense. Not only is there magic happening, but it’s happening in a place I haven’t been. It has all the trappings of a fantasy city, but just happens to exist here on Earth as well. It’s new, different, and fantastical, and sells kebabs at 3am just like home.

What is fantasy, if not something ‘new, different, and fantastical’? The kebab just makes it

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1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed your post! I, too, have this passionate feeling about London. I have been there several times over the last few years, attending MCM Expo, which I’ve done posts on here twice about it. I also meticulously take notes of sights, smells, sounds, people, places, details of every day London to add into my novels. I’ve had reviewers actually say something similar to what you say in your piece here, that they felt as if they knew London and were there with my characters even though they had never set foot in the Big Smoke. Cheers!

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