Best Horror and Fantasy Books About New York City
From Rosemary's Baby to Clive Barker, these books explore the haunted townhouses, Lovecraftian gods, and the magic hidden in the city that never sleeps!
Every October, New York Comic Con transforms the humble Javits Center into an epic gathering place for cosplayers, stars, authors, and fans. But any New Yorker can tell you that the city is possessed by magic year-round—some secrets found tucked into corners or beneath bridges, or sparkling in plain sight across the five boroughs.
These 10 novels span New York’s mythical past, alternate present, and potential future. Attend Jay Gatsby’s endless parties out on Long Island, or put your ear to the walls of the Bramford to catch an occult ceremony. Seek out the entradas to the underworld in Prospect Park, or listen for the Old Ones beneath the Gowanus. But more than the place, it’s the people who give the city its spark: musicians and magicians, assassins and jinn, brujas and avatars and even humble office workers.
Here are the best horror and fantasy novels set in the city that never sleeps…
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Publisher: Tordotcom Publishing
Many a high schooler got their first impression of New York City through Jay Gatsby’s glittering parties in the fictional West Egg on Long Island in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Nghi Vo’s retelling lifts the veil from Gatsby’s glamour through the eyes of queer Vietnamese socialite, golfer, and magician Jordan Baker, revealing the wicked price of these endless parties.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Publisher: Pegasus Books
The New York City real estate market is brutal, but how much would you put up with if it meant living in a dream apartment for starting a family? For Rosemary and Guy, it’s a literal deal with the devil—only she didn’t have any say in it. Ira Levin’s horror classic illuminates the monstrosities lurking in our neighbors’ homes, separated by just a thin wall.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Publisher: Tordotcom Publishing
Victor LaValle’s horror fantasy novella engages with the uglier aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy—namely, his most racist story, “The Horror in Red Hook.” This retelling adopts the perspective of Tommy Tester, a Black street musician whose access to the occult gets him the job of contacting ancient gods beneath New York City. Available for the first time in hardback with a haunting new cover.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Helene Wecker’s historical fantasy explores the solidarity among immigrants in 19th-century New York City, except these two new arrivals to the Lower East Side are both displaced magical creatures: Chava, a golem freed from her controlling husband, and Ahmed, a jinni unleashed from his cage, yet powerless. Together, they learn to pass as human without losing sight of their inhuman destinies.
Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
The Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series captures the in-between existence of so many New Yorkers hustling and scraping by; Carlos Delacruz is not quite dead but not fully alive, hunting down malcontents trying to open up the entradas to the underworld. But exhuming a conspiracy among the New York Council of the Dead means confronting Carlos’ locked memories about his life before.
Books of Blood by Clive Barker
Clive Barker’s horror anthologies contain many a gory tale, but “The Midnight Meat Train” captures the eeriness of the subway in the dead of night when anything could happen—like a serial killer butchering commuters. Disillusioned office worker Leo Kaufman must decide whether to intervene because it’s not as simple as stopping serial killer Mahogany but becoming the city’s new Butcher….
Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Publisher: Tor Books
In an alternate-history Harlem at the start of World War II, Phyllis LeBlanc is a former assassin, legendary for her “saint’s hands” and the lives they took by knifepoint. But she can’t ignore the family juju, nor the dreams foretelling her return downtown, a.k.a. to the seductive, magical underworld of Manhattan… and Dev, the lover she left behind.
Severance by Ling Ma
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ling Ma’s alternate-history pandemic novel recasts familiar New York City moments from 2011 onward through the lens of societal collapse: the Big Apple blogging peak; the Occupy Wall Street movement; and the peculiar dystopia of office workers continuing their jobs while their peers succumb to a fever that makes them compulsively repeat routines until they simply waste away.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas YA trilogy follows the three Mortiz sisters and their specific gifts: Alejandra the encantrix, healer Lula, and Rose, who can sense spirits. Each burgeoning bruja learns that casting /cantos/ (or spells) meant to improve their lives instead leads to cataclysmic consequences, which alter their relationships with one another as well as with the city itself.
The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit Books
N.K. Jemisin’s Great Cities duology (concluding on Nov. 1) is built on the foundation that every city in the world has only one human avatar—except for New York City, with five representatives for each of its unique boroughs. These avatars (young and old, rappers and shapeshifters) have learned to band together against the xenophobic, gentrifying Enemy, but this time they’ll need reinforcements from the other Great Cities to protect their beloved home.