Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Fantasy Londons

Here’s a post by Deborah Hewitt at tor.com: Time-Hopping Across 5 Fantasy Londons

She mentions five fictional Londons, starting with the layered 1819 Londons of  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: Grey London, with plenty of smoke and no magic; White London, a cruel city warped by magic and ruled by power-hungry dictators on marble thrones; Red London, where people and magic flourish together in harmony; and the legendary Black London, destroyed by its magic and closed off from the others. 

Well, I didn’t know that much about the setting before. That sounds really interesting and neat.

Five more Londons after that, ending with The Bone Season by Samantha Shannona — here the setting is a London-yet-to-come, set after the year 2059 and straddling a boundary between fantasy and SF, with both supernatural and high-tech elements. Interesting! 

All the choices on this list are interesting, though the only one I’m personally familar with is Neverwhere. There are probably — certainly — a lot more fantasy London settings Hewitt doesn’t mention. Let me see if I can add a handful more.

6) Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, a book I didn’t actually like and didn’t finish, though I can’t quite remember what the problem was.

7) Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan. Fantastic title, and a detailed, beautifully drawn fantasy London.

8) Stretching a point, but DWJ’s Chrestomanci books are set, if not actually in a fantasy London, then definitely adjacent to a fantasy London. Chrestomanci’s own house is so separate from the city that I’m not sure it counts, but what the heck, it occurred to me, so I’ll include it here.

9. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clarke. Obviously wide-ranging, but a significant part of the very long novel is set in London.

10. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers — a lot of that is set in London.

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4 Comments Fantasy Londons

  1. Pete Mack

    Pyramids of London! Easily my favorite book by Andrea Höst. Mythical Gods and afterlife dependent on a country’s ancient mythology! Egyptian Vampires! French faeries kingdom! Just so much fun.

  2. Craig N.

    I get the impression the author only started looking at this stuff fairly recently — she calls Neverwhere “The London-inspired fantasy that spawned them all” (though I guess Neverwhere isn’t technically all that recent any more). If so, it’s a special pity since _The Anubis Gates_ belongs in the article as a totally literal example of time-hopping across fantasy Londons.

    I wonder what the ur-example of London as fantasy city really is? Seems like it ought to have appeared some time in the late 1800s, but maybe I’m back-projecting the current use of Victorian London as exotic.

  3. SarahZ

    There should be something steampunk-y. Maybe the Parasol Protectorate books? I love how intentionally ridiculous some of her character names are, like the pet dog, Bumbersnoot.

  4. Rachel

    Pete, I’m looking forward to reading Pyramids of London! When the next book in the series comes out, I probably will. I’ve been saving it, as AKH is one author who can usually get me out of a reading slump when I really am not in the mood to like anything.

    Craig, you’re probably right, because Neverwhere can’t be the ur-fantasy-London when there are so many examples. I get distracted by thinking about fantasy novels set in a city with a strong London flavor, but not London — like Death of the Necromancer.

    Sarah, haven’t read those, partly because ridiculous names are a hurdle for me — I almost always hate ridiculous names so much I can’t read the book. Even Terry Pratchett was just barely able to get me over that distaste for silly names.

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