Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

Posted on Posted in Book Talk, Urban Fantasy

There are probably a million and one PNR vs. UF articles out there describing the difference between the two. So you may ask why am I posting yet another one? Well, for one because I can. But also because there’s obviously still confusion out there about it from what I see in the book community, so I suppose one more article about it wouldn’t hurt. lol

At this point, I think I have a pretty good understanding of the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, so for anyone who doesn’t feel like they have a grasp on it, I made a pretty little chart describing the key differences!

Below the chart I’ll go ahead and ramble on with my explanation anyways, because what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t enjoy rambling on? I will also address where Young Adult Paranormal books fit into the two categories.

For those of you who are less visual and would like to read it out instead…

Paranormal Romance

A paranormal romance series has multiple books with completely different main characters (primarily the hero/heroine) for each book. Of course, background characters can be the same as most PNRs tend to take place around one particular group of people. But the primary characters (hero/heroine) who receive a point of view (POV), will be different in each book.

Generally each book will alternate between the hero/heroine’s point of views, and sometimes there will also be a couple of side characters who get their own point of view and story as well (but to a smaller degree).

A paranormal romance will also focus primarily on the romance, with there most of the time being a secondary conflict outside the romance. But the actual relationship between the hero/heroine is the primary focus of the story and everything else is secondary.

Another rule of thumb is that a PNR book will always end with a happily ever after (HEA) sort of feel at the end of each book. There may be a continuation of the background conflict throughout the series, but the couple who’s POVs we were just inside have received their HEA together within one book.

Urban Fantasy

Now, with an urban fantasy what gets to be confusing I think for some people is that there can be a romance going on. But, this romance is always secondary to the bigger story/conflict. You can tell if it’s secondary a couple of different ways.

First off, the bigger plot/story generally tends to be more interesting than in a PNR. I’m sorry, that’s just a fact. You can sort of tell that the bigger story was more thought out and not worked around the romance itself, but rather the romance was worked around the conflict.

You can also tell because the hero/heroine are not constantly boinking each other. There might be sexual tension and we might get a few sex scenes, but it will be nothing to the degree of a PNR, and the sex scenes we do get will usually remain fairly brief.

Aside from the romance, an urban fantasy will generally be from the point of view of one person and generally that person is a female. Of course, depending on the series you’re reading, those two things could be different. I’ve read a few series’ that I would consider urban fantasy that were from multiple view points and also some where the primary view point is a male. But, in general it will be one POV from a female.

Young Adult Paranormal

Now here’s where it gets really confusing though. How do you categorize a young adult paranormal book? Well, in general I personally categorize all of them as urban fantasy. Although many of them focus primarily on the romance (with the conflict secondary), the hero/heroine’s relationship spans multiple books and (usually) the book is from the female’s perspective with no POV for the hero.

It’s kind of one of those things that you just have to make a judgement call on. Many of them tend to be such a mashup of both PNR and UF that it’s hard to tell. Take for example the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. The POV switches between the hero/heroine like a PNR would do, and the primary focus of the story is their romance. So that’s a tough one. The only real thing that makes me think of them as UF instead is the relationship spanning more than one book.

So when it comes to young adult books, I think how you categorize them is left more open to interpretation. I generally just categorize them as UF. There’s usually no sex and the romance is also mild (given that it’s YA), so that’s just how I see it.

So did that clear up anything for those of you who were confused or did I just make it worse? Did I miss any other major differences? Leave a comment to let me and others know!

by Sarah

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