Urban Fantasy vs Paranormal Romance: What’s the Difference?

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If you’re curious about the difference between urban fantasy vs paranormal romance, you’ve come to the right post!

Supernatural beings are increasingly in pop pop culture these days. Whether it is a TV show, a movie, or a book, the supernatural is something more and more people seem to find interesting.

Two subgenres of fiction novels featuring the supernatural that seem to be gaining more and more popularity are urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Each of these subgenres contains one or more supernatural elements. This element could be magic, a vampire, or a wizard. Regardless, while there are certainly many similarities between the two genres, there are also a few key differences to be aware of next time you head out to your favorite bookstore. 

What is Urban Fantasy? 

Urban fantasy is a growing genre that is increasingly popular. It is particularly popular with young adult readers, but it is also growing in popularity among adults and children too. For something to be urban fantasy, there are a few qualifications to be aware of. 

Urban fantasy takes place in the primary world, that is, a fictionalized version of our world. The main thing to know, however, is that urban fantasy is almost always set in modern or near-modern times in an urban setting. This usually means the 19th-21st centuries. Typically, urban fantasies are not set in the future, but there is no rule saying they can’t be set in the future.

Urban fantasies contain many similar elements that exist in other subgenres of fantasy. Magic or some kind of supernatural element always exists in urban fantasy, but it may or may not be the main focus of the story.

Some say the urban fantasy genre began with occult detective stories which were popular in the 1940s. In these stories, supernatural beings exist among normal people, and they are a danger to our world. These beings cause problems and create fear in most cases. Urban fantasies can have supernatural beings who cause problems, but typically they are not something to fear. The supernatural beings in an occult detective story, on the other hand, are almost always scary. 

Romance is also often an element of urban fantasy, but it may not be the focus. There are other plot points and story elements that are of greater importance in urban fantasy. The protagonist of urban fantasy is often a young person who does not have experience with magic or the supernatural. They are often themselves thrust into a situation for which they are unprepared. 

Examples of Urban Fantasy 

Because urban fantasy is a genre that is growing so quickly, there are hundreds of new novels published each year that fall into this genre. And it is a fairly new genre, at least compared to other subgenres of fantasy. Many of the most popular urban fantasy novels were published within the last 50 years. 

One great example of urban fantasy is the Percy Jackson series. Thousands of children and adults read this series each year, and for good reason. This series takes place in the mid-2000’s real world and is set in New York City and other urban environments, meaning it meets the qualifications for being an urban fantasy. Percy Jackson does not contain vampires or werewolves. Instead, it follows the children of Greek gods, making them demigods. Greek mythology is a very common element to many fantasy genres, not just urban fantasy.

The protagonist in the Percy Jackson series is an inexperienced young person. He doesn’t know anything about the world he is part of until he is thrust into it. This is a very common trope in many urban fantasies. Many of the friends he meets are the same; they are young and inexperienced just like him. 

What is Paranormal Romance?

Paranormal romance is another fantasy subgenre that is becoming increasingly popular. Some people don’t categorize all paranormal romance into the genre of fantasy, however. Some cases could be considered horror or science fiction, depending on the characters, setting, and nature of the plot. No matter how you categorize it, paranormal romance is an incredibly popular genre that only seems to get more popular as time goes on. 

As you may guess, paranormal romance focuses on romantic relationships between characters with a supernatural element. The main focus and the most important plot points all revolve around one or more romantic relationships. Much like urban fantasy, the setting is usually in modern times, though it doesn’t have to be. And they often take place in the real world, though there is no rule about these stories existing in fictional worlds. 

Paranormal romance can focus on any number of supernatural beings. Some of the most popular in recent years are vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches. A great paranormal romance also includes elements of other subgenres of fiction, such as time travel or mystery. 

There is a broad range of settings and time periods seen in paranormal romance novels. Some novels purely focus on romance, while others build an entire world in which romance exists. The main thing to know about paranormal romance is that the main focus of the book is a romantic relationship between one or more supernatural beings. 

Examples of Paranormal Romance

As stated above, there are countless examples of paranormal romance novels in the world. Much like urban fantasy, it is a growing genre. That said, the vast majority of the most popular paranormal romance novels have been published in the 21st century. 

Without a doubt, the most popular paranormal romance novels are the Twilight series. Published in 2005, this series set off a revolution in the paranormal romance genre. There has been an explosion within the genre since the publication of the first Twilight book. 

This series of books focuses on the love triangle between a human woman, a vampire, and a werewolf. Though there is lore and a backstory to the supernatural beings, it is not a major focus of the books. The main plot points and the thing that keeps readers coming back for more are the romantic relationships. 

These books take place in the primary world and in modern times. The majority of the humans in these novels are unaware that they live amongst supernatural beings, giving it an element of suspense. The Twilight series checks just about every box to make it a paranormal romance series. 

Urban Fantasy Vs Paranormal Romance: How to Know the Difference 

urban fantasy vs paranormal romance

Knowing the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance is fairly straightforward. If romance between one or more supernatural beings is the main focus of the novel, it is a paranormal romance. If the fantasy story takes place in a modern urban setting, it’s urban fantasy!

In case it wasn’t clear, a story can fall into both categories.

For instance, the Twilight series is an urban fantasy paranormal romance.

However, there are plenty of examples of urban fantasies that aren’t also paranormal romance (like Harry Potter).

Likewise, you could also have a paranormal romance about a relationship between a werewolf and a woman set in say, medieval times that wouldn’t fall into the urban fantasy category.

Both genres have similar elements such as the setting and the time period. An urban fantasy almost always takes place in modern times, and a paranormal romance usually takes place in modern times, but not always. Both genres typically take place in the primary world, but this is not a requirement.

Why it’s Helpful to Distinguish Genres

Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are two different genres even though they can have many similarities. And it is helpful to know the difference between them so you know what you are getting into with a book. Romance novels are not for everyone. Many people would rather read about an epic adventure than a romantic relationship. Some, however, would take a romance over a story about, say, war any day.

Whatever your interests are, it is helpful to be able to define and understand what you like. 

Being able to distinguish between genres and knowing which you like can help you save a ton of time when looking for your next book to read!

Urban Fantasy Vs Paranormal Romance: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand the difference between these genres.

And if you want to learn more about different genres and how to distinguish between them, check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction literature-related topic!

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