Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fantasy Elements | The Cities (and if you insist, pop in a citadel too)

We've all got our favourite fantasy cities - or, in the case of urban fantasy, real cities with a fantasy twist. Well, this is a new feature I'll be trying: I'll list my picks, and I'd like you to tell me yours, as well! (I'm always looking for reading recommendations as well) So, here are my top fantasy cities - in two different categories:

The Real One: Chicago in the Dresden Files
 (Yes, the Dresden Files really are this awesome. Well, better)
In the Dresden Files, Chicago changes shape: far, far from reality. The White Court - feeding on emotions - live in uptown mansions, the local church caters to one of the Knights of the Cross, and the tunnels play host to the Winter Fae. And that's not even mentioning the people... By the third book of the Dresden Files, you'll be wondering how normal people even live in this city: it's just that insane. There isn't a dull page in these books, and that Butcher manages to make a real city play host to them is only more impressive. If you haven't read the Dresden Files, you really should: you can find my reviews by clicking on the 'Dresden Files' tag at the bottom of this post.
Storm Front, the first book in the series, can be found on Amazon here: Storm Front

The Imaginary One: Darujhistan in the Malazan Book of the Fallen
 Darujhistan is the City of Blue Fire: lit on every street by the blue flares of gas from the caverns under the city (which also play host to some rather sizable worms...). Its House of the Azath is inhabited by a Jaghut Tyrant (who would quite like a pet, apparently), its politics are scheming - and apparently manipulated by a sorcerous cabal -, it's home to its very own Guild of Assassins, and it is absolutely fantastic. First seen in Erikson's debut novel, Gardens of the Moon, Darujhistan has been home to some of the Malazan series' best characters at the Phoenix Inn, including Kruppe, a rather oily fence and reputed genius (if only he wouldn't speak of himself in the third person). The Malazan books are among my favourite series, and Darujhistan only makes them better.
Gardens of the Moon is on Amazon here: Gardens of the Moon

So, I've listed mine: what are yours? Comment below and tell me - if I haven't read them, I'm always looking for recommendations for the blog!


  1. I've often wondered where all the "normal" people are in Butcher's Chicago. Aside from some cops, we don't get to meet many. The same thing applies to L K Hamilton's Saint Louis. The normal humans are few and far between. Favorite fantasy city, of course, Minas Tirith, but Lankhmar ranks right up there.

  2. Melniboné from the Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
    Lankhmar from the Fafred & Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber
    New Crobuzon from various novels by China Miéville
    Nessus from The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe.

  3. Ankh-Morpork, of course. :)

  4. @ Jon: Heh, that's very true! Although several of the characters do start the series rather mundane (Butters). I've always had a fondness for Minas Tirith as well - who hasn't? - but I've preferred some more recent secondary world cities, as the exploration of Minas Tirith seemed mainly to be confined to the upper sections.

    @ Robin: I haven't yet read the Book of the New Sun (I really should!), but China Mieville's cities are always astounding: particularly in The City and The City, my personal favourite.

    @ Madog: Well, of course! :P Any city is better with the addition of hippos

  5. Viriconium in the books by M John Harrison is an astounding creation. I also like Riverside from Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner.

  6. Gormenghast has gotta get a mention - hugely influential as well as marvellous in itself. (I guess I can call it a city?!)

  7. Oxford from The Golden Compass. Few books have ever made me want so strongly to visit the true city. There are other great cities and worlds out there, but nothing can even approach Oxford in my mind...

  8. @ Spessartine: I haven't read either of those, but I'll look out for them.

    @ Jessica: Well, definitely - it's practically a world unto itself. Great choice, and I really should reread those books...

    @ Biblibio: I did enjoy Oxford in Northern Lights, but I suppose living quite nearby dispels some of the wonder... It's still a beautiful city, though!

  9. Personally... I love love the cities in the Drizzt series. Menzoberranzan and the Icewind Dale. I just love how Salvatore describes the cities in the books!


    XOXO Angela's Anxious Life

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  11. Yours have fascinating depictions.