Urban fantasy v. epic fantasy

Today I’m happy to have fantasy author RJ Blain here with a guest post on why she strayed from epic fantasy into the realm of urban fantasy for her newest novel, Inquisitor, and the differences between the two genres.  Inquisitor goes on sale Friday – be sure to stop back for an excerpt from the book, details about the author, and more.

Urban Fantasy vs Epic Fantasy

Profile Sketch - RJ BlainMy first two novels, Storm Without End and The Eye of God, fall under epic and traditional subgenres of fantasy, making them rather different than Inquisitor, my debut urban fantasy. This is something I get comments about fairly frequently, because most fantasy writers pick one or the other, rather than both.

I’ve even had people suggest the only reason I wrote urban fantasy was because it’s a popular genre. Sure, it’s popular—but so is Game of Thrones. That’s epic fantasy, with boobs and blood, but definitely epic fantasy.

For the record, I’m not much of a fan of Game of Thrones. So yes, I am an oddity.

So why write both? The answer is pretty simple: I like both. It’s natural for me to pursue my interests. That’s why I write; I find it engaging, interesting, fun—and best of all, other people seem to like my books.

I write epic fantasy because I have a story to tell. I write traditional fantasy because I have a story to tell. I write urban fantasy because I have a story to tell.

While my reason for writing these three subgenres is the same, how I write them is totally different. My urban fantasy is in first person. My traditional and epic fantasy is multiple perspective third person. I think it lets me keep my perspectives fresh—and keep my two types of fantasy separated.

You may think this is strange, but Jim Butcher does the same thing. His Alera Codex is multiple third epic fantasy, and his The Dresden Files is first singular. Mercedes Lackey has contemporary fantasy, but she sticks to third person across all the fantasy subgenres she writes—with one exception that I’m aware of. At least one of her upcoming (maybe already released) novels is in first person.

spongebobWriting Inquisitor has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I started my venture into urban fantasy years ago, penning the first version of a book called Winter Wolf. It was in the same world, but I didn’t have the skill to pull it off. I shelved Winter Wolf for later. After I finished Storm Without End and The Eye of God, I wanted to do something different. Something thriller. Something modern.

So I grabbed and pen and went to town on Inquisitor. I don’t regret it.


Maybe I do a little, because it’s the most popular of my stories so far. I guess people do relate to urban fantasy better. My first love was epic fantasy, and while I really enjoy writing urban fantasy, I still regret that I happen to be naturally better at the urban fantasy. Go figure.

Urban fantasy has a few things going for it: People sympathize and relate to it a lot easier than they do with epic or traditional fantasy. Epic and traditional fantasy involves creating an entire new world. I can’t use the familiarity of our world to help build characters and setting. I have to do all the work myself. That makes it a lot more of a challenge. Urban fantasy isn’t exactly easy, though.

Don’t get me wrong—I loved writing Inquisitor. I’m going to love releasing Winter Wolf, too. There’s a third novel in the works, too. But deep down inside, I wanted to be the best at epic fantasy.

I guess it’s a good thing I love urban fantasy almost as much as I do epic fantasy!


Don’t forget to stop back Friday for more about Inquisitor!

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.


5 thoughts on “Urban fantasy v. epic fantasy

  1. M T McGuire says:

    I think the appeal of Urban is the idea that in among our mundane, boring reality there is… something else. The idea that reality might be that little bit less boring after all. That’s… kind of why I write my stuff, anyway, although it’s probably urban sci-fi really.




    • Kay Kauffman says:

      That’s a great way to look at it; it’s also something I’ve kind of kept in mind for my own books, although they’re not urban fantasy as such (though they do take place in a city). 🙂


  2. Luka-Michaela says:

    I have the same problem. I grew up on epic fantasy and always saw myself as the American Tolkien, yet thanks to my love for anime I keep bending towards Urban Fantasy. In the end my current manuscript is urban fantasy, but I still look back and wonder if I’ll end up being zoned into this one category.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I have a different issue – I fell into fantasy writing rather as a happy accident. When I started writing stories, they were fluffy chick lit pieces. I plan to go back to them someday, but I want to get my fantasy series finished first.


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