The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher is a lot of people’s doorway into the world of urban fantasy. A very vast world. It’s a genre that got its start back in the late 1980s, and has had time to grow a plenty and can be time consuming to navigate unguided. But there are a lot of books to choose from, and The Dresden Files are only one section of it. But it’s where you started, or one of your favorites, or you’ve just caught up with the series but still have that itch that needs scratching. So here’s ten books like The Dresden Files that are reminiscent of Harry Dresden’s world and fit that fantastical private investigator or individual roped into magical mystery framework with plenty of dry humor to match.
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Toby Daye would just like to live a normal life as a private investigator, forget she’s a changeling, and maybe convince her ex to let her spend time with her daughter. But Faerie doesn’t let people go easily, especially when an old friend forces Toby to solve her murder. I’ve talked about Seanan McGuire in the past, she’s one of my favorite authors. You can trust her writing. This book is the first in an ongoing, well-known, best-selling series (new books in the series reliably come out every September, with no sign of stopping) and there are 14 books in the series thus far. Which is good, as these books are the type that make you sit and marathon until there’s no more, and they’re full of that dry humor and “why have I been put in this position I never signed up for this” vibe we all know and love. Perfect for someone just finishing a Dresden Files book.
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Humans pushed the world too far into technology, causing an apocalypse that left everything swinging madly between technology and magic. There is no warning when things will switch, one option leaving your car useless and the other leaving the defensive spells you have set up unusable. Oh, there’s also shifters and vampires and necromancers (oh my). Kate Daniels, our sword-wielding, mouth-running protagonist, must navigate this world as she tries to figure out who killed her guardian. Or decide to leave his killer free and continue to live under the radar, keeping herself and her secret safe. Magic Bites is the first in a finished series of ten books, and it is definitely one you want to pick up again and again to reread. The spine of my paperback is near unreadable it’s been opened so much.
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Mercy, a shifter mechanic, is just trying to mind her own business and not get wrapped up in everyone else’s mess and local politics, but it’s hard when her boss is a gremlin, her neighbor is an Alpha werewolf, and a newly turned werewolf is dumped on her doorstep. Mercy Thompson isn’t a PI, but she is the “would just like to be left alone” type. She also has a job that has nothing to do with her degree, which is something I’m sure several of us can relate to. Mercy is a highly relatable protagonist and incredibly realistic, being kickass and not taking shit, but still making mistakes and being absolutely terrified of the situations she’s placed in. Which she then covers up with the Spider-Man gambit: making jokes. Plus, there’s several books to read after Moon Called, so that’s a couple days planned at least.
Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
Yet another freelance magic user—necromancer to be exact—who has secrets he would rather forget. But that’s the formula we’re here for, isn’t it? Eric, the protagonist, gets pulled back to Los Angeles, a city he would rather leave behind, but after the murder of his sister he doesn’t really have a choice. So now he has to find the killer and make them pay, all the while trying not to die in the process. All in a day’s work, right? Between gangsters and ghosts and Santa Muerte herself, he’s got his work cut out for him. This one is perfect if you’ve just finished The Dresden Files and want another male protagonist to follow.
Half Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
This is another one where the dead walk, a statement that includes our protagonist. He’s an inbetweener, someone half alive and half dead. He also has no recollection of who he was before and thought he was the only inbetweener out there. But he discovers there’s more to heaven and earth than he thought, especially more to his job as an agent working for New York’s Council of the Dead. This book is an excellent urban fantasy mixed with noir mystery with a healthy mix of Puerto Rican culture. It’s got a wonderfully diverse cast in it at well, none of which fit squarely into any one template.
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Who doesn’t want to read about a book magician working for a secret organization started by Johannes Gutenberg. Especially when it involves fighting vampires that have escaped from the pages of books, solving a kidnapping, and (the classic) discovering that things aren’t the way you thought they were. Think Inkheart but aimed at adults. If that all sounds interesting, this is definitely the book for you. Jim C. Hines is another of my favorite urban fantasy authors, and one I definitely think you would enjoy reading. This book is light and fun without being frivolous, and although familiar in framing, is still surprising and makes you want to keep reading.
Blood Price by Tanya Huff
Like The Dresden Files, this book (and subsequent series) was made into a TV show. There’s only one season, but fortunately plenty of books. It’s also one of the early entrants to the genre, published back in 1991. This book stars a former homicide detective turned PI with retinitis pigmentosa, along with her old partner and a 400 year old vampire. The three of them have to stop a supernatural killer. Oh yeah, and before the first murder, Vicki (our PI) and Mike (her old partner) had no idea the paranormal was real, and still have doubts about it. The world-building is full and while includes some tropes that are old now, they were new in the genre at the time and this is something safe and familiar to read.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Set across the pond in London (obviously), Constable Peter wants to be a detective like nothing else. Unfortunately, he gets side shunted into a desk job as a paper pusher. At least until he gets information about a weird murder from an eyewitness. Who happens to be a ghost. From there it’s down the rabbit hole as he enters a world where magic exists and gods and goddesses mingle with mortals. All while he has to try to solve a string of murders in the city and stop long-dead evil from engulfing the city. This book is full of the stereotypical British dry humor and is fun despite being centered around several murders.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark
Another investigator working for a magical ministry in this one, except it’s set in Cairo. In 1912. This world within this book is a nice mix of loose steampunk aesthetic with urban fantasy themes, with magic and semi-anachronistic technology existing in the same world. While our protagonist Fatma is investigating a suicide-turned-murder, she is taken through the underbelly of the city, coming across a host of creatures from Arabian mythology like djinns, ghuls, and ifrit, and uncovers a plot that may unravel time itself. This one is a short read at less than 100 pages, but is fast paced and filled to the brim with world building and action.
Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass
I personally enjoy this one for its anthropology/archaeology touch. This one is full of Egyptian history and mythology mixed in with excellent world-building in the city of Atlanta. Add in an antiquities expert with a night job as a Chaser who finds a 4,000 year old dagger owned by a near immortal Nubian warrior, leading to a team-up to stop a secret Shadow organization from getting their hands on said dagger to use for nefarious deeds. This story is well built and has an interesting cast of characters, and is a good set-up for the rest of the series (yes, there’s more after this one!)
Don’t forget, if you need more book recommendations based on books you’ve read in the past or specific themes/genres you like, check out our TBR service here! Ask our bibliologists for more books like The Dresden Files or whatever read-alikes you want to explore! If you want more urban fantasy, check out our general urban fantasy book list here, 2020 releases in the genre here, and urban fantasy YA books here!