Blogging Circle: The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Cover of "Mercy Thompson: Homecoming"

Cover of Mercy Thompson: Homecoming

It’s seems like urban fantasy and paranormal romance is the it thing in writing nowadays.

There’s nothing wrong with either of these genres, but because this duo is saturating the market right now, books and authors are getting lost in the fray. Instead of being recognized as two different genres, more often than not books in these genres are lumped together in one category: paranormal fiction.

While you easily say that paranormal fiction is the umbrella that urban fantasy and paranormal romance hang under, you can’t say that these two genres are the same thing.

Make no mistake; these are two very separate, very different genres.


Dark, gritty and usually featuring a kickass chick as the main character, urban fantasy is first and foremost, to me, fantasy.

Fantasy is a big umbrella, but urban fantasy is a little niche underneath this umbrella that signifies that the story is not long, long ago. It’s right now. Shifters and magical humans are not travelling by foot or horse, they’re buying bus tickets and driving cars.

It’s contemporary fantasy. Why not call it that? Cause urban fantasy just sounds cooler.

While urban fantasy may include some romance, the main story arc is not romance, it’s the stopping the bad guy and saving the world. If the girl gets the guy at the end, well, that’s an added bonus.  If you take away the romantic arc, there’s still a great story.

Urban fantasy series often have the plot arc through each book, bringing our heroes closer to the epic battle that will save the world, while the romance blossoms subtly in the background. These characters are the central characters in each book.


Monica Burns' Assassin's Heart: Order of the Sicari #2

As urban fantasy falls under fantasy, paranormal romance falls under, you guessed it, romance.

These books do not have to be contemporary. They do not have to have the dark, gritty feel of an urban setting.  Paranormal romance can be set in any time period and it can contain many of the same elements you would find in a fantasy novel.

But this is romance. The main story arc in these books is the romantic relationship between the main characters. These characters may be out to save the world too, but in they want to save it after they diddle and twazzle* one another first.

Take away the romance, and there’s no point reading. There’s little to no story left.

Often, paranormal romance series has an arc that spans all books, but each book is a different budding relationship between different characters.


So while urban fantasy and paranormal romance may often share some of the same characteristics, they’re still two very different genres of fiction.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels? Urban fantasy. Monica Burns’ Order of the Sicari novels? Paranormal romance.

Both very great, very wonderful series. Both very different genres.

Ok, Cid. It’s your turn to distinguish urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

*twazzle: My cousin tweeted the word twazzling, and I commented that it sounded dirty. He challenged me to use it in a blog. So I did.

One response

  1. Just the other day I looked up Paranormal Romance on Wikipedia so I could read what they had to say about this genre.

    Both Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy have had me wondering, so I just wanted to say thank you for writing this! It seems both of these are “in” right now and seem to have quite the market on Amazon!

    September 21, 2010 at 6:29 pm

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