Ever found yourself torn between exploring a world filled with epic quests, mystical creatures, and legendary magic, and the gritty reality of modern cityscapes punctuated by supernatural phenomena? This is the dilemma of Urban Fantasy vs High Fantasy. Welcome to the diverse realm of fantasy genres, where, today, we’ll be taking a quick jaunt through urban fantasy and high fantasy, the magical cousins who grew up in different neighborhoods but love each other all the same.

Let’s start with high fantasy, the elder of the two, steeped in tradition like a pot of elvish tea. High fantasy hails from the mystical realm of Middle Earth, the wild expanses of Westeros, and the seven realms of Narnia. These stories are set in entirely fictional universes, carefully crafted by their authors, where magic is as essential to the daily grind as your morning coffee.

Take J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (find it here), which is the poster child of high fantasy. You’ve got mystical creatures like hobbits, elves, and dwarves, an epic quest to destroy a powerful ring, and a black-robed villain hell-bent on world domination. These stories often hinge on the age-old conflict of good versus evil, with fate-of-the-world stakes and the lofty theme of the hero’s journey.

But then, there’s urban fantasy — the young, punkish sibling with neon hair and a love for all things shiny and techy. This genre takes place in our world or something strikingly similar, but with a magical twist. Imagine spotting a unicorn in Central Park, or a vampire running your local library; that’s urban fantasy for you.

One of my recent favs, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files (get it here) is a classic example of this genre. The protagonist, Harry Dresden, is a private investigator and wizard (no, not the Harry you’re thinking of), solving supernatural crimes in modern-day Chicago. Urban fantasy allows us to imagine a world just like ours, but where magic and the supernatural coexist with the mundane.

But what happens when these two worlds collide? You get a delightful genre-blurring masterpiece like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (buy it here). This book, set in “London Below,” a magical realm existing underneath modern-day London, serves up the perfect cocktail of high fantasy’s epic world-building and urban fantasy’s recognizable setting. It’s the cosmopolitan lovechild of the two, proof that the genre boundaries are there to be danced upon.

What sets these genres apart isn’t merely the backdrop, but also the themes they tend to explore. High fantasy often grapples with grandiose concepts of good vs evil, destiny, and the power of unity, while urban fantasy frequently tackles social issues, personal identity, and the fusion of the mundane with the magical.

So, what’s the verdict? Are you a citizen of The Shire or a resident of “London Below”? For me, while I love my city home in “London Below” I also crave weekend getaways to The Shire. Is that too much to ask? (Luckily, a book is far more affordable than multiple homes.) Remember, the real magic lies in the beauty of diversity, in how these genres—each unique yet connected—offer us multiple perspectives to view and experience the mystical.

Urban fantasy or high fantasy, or a delightful cocktail of the two, the choice is yours, reader. No matter where you find your magical niche, it’s guaranteed to be a page-turning, nail-biting, “just one more chapter” kind of adventure.

So, the next time you see a dragon perched on a skyscraper, or a fairy fluttering by your apartment window, take a moment to appreciate the magical mash-up of these two fantastical genres. After all, who’s to say there isn’t a magical realm waiting for you just around the corner of your city block, or beyond the next turn of the page?