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5 Frightening Magical Cities of Fantasy and Horror

Emily Martin

Contributing Editor

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals ( She can be reached at

The City We Became, By N.K. Jemisin.

Three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N.K. Jemisin crafts her most incredible novel yet, a story of culture, identity, magic, and myths in contemporary New York City. Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She's got six. "It's a glorious fantasy, set in that most imaginary of cities, New York. It's inclusive in all the best ways, and manages to contain both Borges and Lovecraft in its fabric, but the unique voice and viewpoint are Jemisin's alone." -- Neil Gaiman

With everything that’s going wrong in our world today, you might think a fantasy world would be the ideal escape right about now. Well, you would be wrong. Sure, lots of magical cities seem great and all, but there are plenty of fantasy cities out there that just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. Take a look at these five cities you would definitely NOT want to live in, and count your lucky stars that you’re where you are right now.

Some spoilers about these cities and their books to follow.

King’s Landing

From the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

King’s Landing is the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms, and it’s where you will find the infamous Iron Throne and the Red Keep. You might think that escaping to King’s Landing might be great right about now because the weather there is nice and the city as a whole is fairly wealthy, especially when compared to other areas of Westeros. There’s also plenty to do in the city as well, with jousts, weddings, trials by combat, and so on. If none of that tickles your fancy, perhaps Littlefinger’s brothel will. With about 500,000 people living in the city, there’s never a dull day.

But let’s be real. There’s a lot to not love about this famous fantasy city. Maybe you’re into watching queens walk the streets naked while a woman shouts “shame” behind her. But personally, that whole scenario doesn’t sit will with the feminist in me, even if said queen is evil. And then there are all the wars and threats of wildfire. If the wildfire doesn’t get you, the dragon attacks that decimate the city will.

King’s Landing is intriguing, sure, but it’s more interesting to watch from afar. Use this time to reread A Song of Ice and Fire or rewatch the Game of Thrones series and remind yourself why you’re better off in the safety of your own non-magical home.

peter pan by J.M. BarrieNeverland

From J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Ah yes, the magical island of Neverland where you never grow old and you can frolic around as a child forever with the fairies and the mermaids. Sure there are pirates, but the battles with the pirates are all in good fun. Ultimately, the Lost Boys will always win out.

But I have news for you: being a kid is overrated. Sure, you have no responsibilities, but you don’t get all the fun stuff that come with being an adult. Also, in some versions of the story, you forget where you came from if you spend too much time in Neverland. You might think you want to forget your boring home right now, but you’d probably miss it after a while. Plus, the novel and the play by Barrie feature some pretty unflattering characterizations of Native Americans. Not fun.

At home, you’ll definitely grow older, but you’ll also grow wiser. Okay, in this world, you might never see a real-life fairy or mermaid and you may never be able to fly. But you also won’t have to hang out with a large group of obnoxious pre-adolescent boys for the rest of your life.

CHildren of Blood And Bone by Tomi AdeyemiLagos

From Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Lagos is the rich capital city of Orïsha. Compared to other cities in this fantasy land, Lagos is more opulent. It’s where the rich flock and where the royalty lives. Lagos, Orïsha, is based in part on Lagos, Nigeria, but of course the Lagos in Children of Blood and Bone is much more magical.

The only problem with that magic? Well, it’s illegal. Yes, in the heavily patrolled city of Lagos, performing magic could cost you your life. There’s also the issue of major wealth disparities within the city. Not everyone can live in the castle. Many citizens of Lagos (including those who formerly performed magic) are forced to live in the slums. Life in the big city is not all it’s cracked up to be, in other words.

You might argue that you can’t do magic in our world either, so what would the harm be in visiting Lagos for a bit? My response: you never know! Stay here and you might find that magic exists right where you are. Go there, and you certainly won’t have that opportunity.

Cujo coverCastle Rock, Maine

From multiple Stephen King novels, including Cujo, The Dead Zone, The Dark Half, and, more recently, Elevation. 

Yes, I know Castle Rock is less of a fantasy city and more of a horror/supernatural town, but I know how people are. Some of you weirdos still think it would be cool to go there. Maybe it’s the appeal of the slow small town setting (Castle Rock’s population is around 1,500 depending on when you ask). Or maybe it’s the excitement of the supernatural. After all, who knows what each day in Castle Rock will bring? Maybe one day you’re being attacked by a rabid dog and the next your pen name becomes a real life person with evil intentions. Fun, right?

No, that’s not fun, friends. Fun to read about, sure. Fun to live? Not so much. Don’t we already have enough things to be paranoid about in our real lives without living in actual Castle Rock? You do realize Castle Rock is in very close proximity to Derry, Maine, right? Where Pennywise the evil clown lives? No thank you.

Stay home. Check out the Castle Rock series on Hulu if you need more Castle Rock adventures in your life. Stay safe.


From the Dreamblood series by N.K. Jemisin.

The ancient city-state of Gujaareh is a place where peace is the only law and Gatherers are tasked with keeping that peace. While the city sleeps, these Gatherers gather up magic to us for altruistic purposes and to protect the city from the corrupt. Seems like a pretty great deal, right? Who couldn’t use peace, healing, and magic right about now?

But here’s the thing: not everyone agrees with the beliefs of the people of Gujaareh. And while it might outwardly seem like magic is being used for good, something more sinister is going on. There’s more to this city than meets the eye. Trust me. When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The moral of the story? Let’s leave the magic, dragons, fairies, and supernatural beings to the pages of fiction. Escapism is all well and good, but better to do it with a good book in the comfort of your own home.