Author Top 5s - Sophie Masson's Top 5 Urban Fantasies

In Author Top 5s I'm inviting a number of authors to share top 5 lists somehow related to the genre they write. They'll be discussing things they love and how they've been influenced by them. Should prove to be interesting and hopefully we'll all pick up a few recommendations of good stuff to check out.

Joining me today is the author I share my Momentum Books release day with (just a few days away now!), Sophie Masson. Sophie has stopped by to tell us her top 5 urban fantasy novels, I have to say that a few of these are my favourites as well, good choices Sophie!


Ever since I can remember, and long before I had a clue as to what urban fantasy was, I've always been attracted by the kind of story that mixes magic and the real world. Fairy tales, where you are just as likely to meet everyday characters like soldiers, woodcutters and farmers as supernatural ones like fairies and goblins, were my first childhood reading, followed very soon by books such as the Narnia series, which mixes trains and fauns, lamp-posts and witches, with happy unconcern, and I always looked for books like that. Growing up, I also liked a dash of the thriller and a spice of romance added to the brew as well—and that's persisted into my adult reading, when I discovered that what I loved might well be classified as 'urban fantasy'! Even if not all the settings are, ahem, urban in fact :)

1. Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko

This amazing, gripping and unusual series of five books(so far!): Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch, Last Watch and New Watch—is my top urban fantasy series because not only has it given me huge pleasure as a reader, it has also influenced me greatly as a writer. 

The Russian author's depiction of a magical hidden Moscow, complete with vampires, wizards, shapeshifters, dastardly plots, where supernatural law and order is maintained by the twin forces of Light—the Night Watch-- and Dark—the Day Watch—bowled me over and made my already strong fascination with Russia even stronger. With fabulous plots, wonderful inventiveness, lively writing, vivid characters and lovely touches of humor, this is truly a gem of urban fantasy, one not to be missed! I might add that the books are way better than the films, which miss out on much of the books' lovely side-plots, character sketches and humor.

2. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

This is the American variety of the supernatural-law-and-order-force meme, only, unlike the collective counter-intelligence units of magical Moscow, magical Chicago makes do with Harry Dresden, private eye wizard extraordinaire, who with the help of his trusty or not so trusty sidekicks—a spirit called Bob who lives in a skull, a dog named Mouse, a grouchy cat named Mister, and a police contact, Karrin Murphy —has to solve any amount of supernatural skulduggery and keep warring forces apart. Like Lukyanenko's, this series has a lovely blend of action, adventure, mystery and humor. Fantastic escapist reading in the best sense of the term!

3. Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton

This series is one of the great classics of the genre, with the first book, Guilty Pleasures, coming out in 1993 and introducing Anita Blake, vampire hunter and consultant on all matters magical to the police. Anita cuts a swathe not only through various supernatural pests and solves magical crimes but also has a very busy and tumultuous love life. Combining romance, humor, action and mystery, this series, like the others above, creates a wonderfully-realised world that has attracted millions of fans.

4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This amazing novel by one of the great masters of modern fantasy imagines what would happen if the ancestral gods and spirits of all the many diverse peoples who inhabit America had come along with them but then found themselves homeless and forgotten as the modern age progressed. The Old Gods live out shadow lives as drifters and grifters, con-men and bag-ladies. Meanwhile, new gods have arisen, who want to drive out and destroy the old. And so the stage is set for an epic confrontation—where nothing is quite what it seems. An extraordinary blend of adventure and philosophy, myth and realism, it's won numerous awards.

5. Wolfhound Century series by Peter Higgins

This fantastic series by a new British author is a bit of a ring-in, because very strictly speaking, it's not 'urban fantasy' as it is set in an alternative world. But that alternative world is so close to the real world, though a blend of different historical periods, that I think it's okay to have in this list. Plus, it's one of my great discoveries of the last year or so, and I just have to bring it to other readers' attention! This series, set in a city called Mirgorod, in a country called Vlast, is based on Russian history and culture—the world of the books feels like a blend of the pre-Revolutionary period of the early 1900's, and the late Stalinist period of the early 1950's.

But along with secret police, bomb-throwing terrorists, industrial machines, revolutionary conspiracies and strange scientific experiments, there are enslaved giants pulling vast vehicles, cities built from the bones of fallen angels, and spirits roaming the land. Centred around the tough, enigmatic secret policeman Vissarion Lom, the dangerous schemer Joseph Kantor and the girl Lom falls in love with, Maroussia Shaumian, this, dark, violent, but incredibly inventive series creates an unforgettable and pungent world. I've read the first—Wolfhound Century—and the second—Truth and Fear—and I can't wait for the third, Radiant State, which comes out next year!

Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of more than 60 novels for readers of all ages, published in Australia and many other countries. Her adult novels include the popular historical fantasy trilogy, Forest of Dreams (Random House Australia). Sophie has always had a great interest in Russian myth and history, an interest reflected in several of her books for younger readers. Her new adult novel, Trinity: Koldun Code (Momentum), is the first in an exciting urban fantasy series set in modern Russia.

I am in a world deeply strange and strangely deep, a world as different from my old life as it’s possible to be, and it feels completely natural.

An unexpected encounter with a handsome stranger in a Russian wood changes the life of 22-year-old traveler Helen Clement forever, catapulting her into a high-stakes world of passion, danger, and mystery. Tested in ways she could never have imagined, she must keep her own integrity in a world where dark forces threaten and ruthlessness and betrayal haunt every day.

Set against a rising tide of magic and the paranormal in a modern Russia where the terrifying past continually leaks into the turbulent present, Trinity is a unique and gripping blend of conspiracy thriller, erotically charged romance and urban fantasy, laced with a murderous dose of company politics. With its roots deep in the fertile soil of Russian myth, legend, and history, it is also a fascinating glimpse into an extraordinary, distinctive country and amazingly rich culture.