Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #3: Fantasy Sub-Genres

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday┬áis my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: sub-genres of fantasy.

I did mean to post this one last week, but as I have proven in the past couple of weeks, I’m really good at double-booking myself and actually posted my Spooky Songs playlist for Horror October instead.

Fantasy isn’t all just witches and wizards. There are many different types of fantasy, for all different kinds of people. I’ve tried to sort them into sub-genres but some cross over into other genres, and you’re more than welcome to debate with me about it!

High or epic fantasy

e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

High or epic fantasy typically takes place in a completely different world from our own, and the author has often created new languages, a new religion and a whole new completely different way of life for the characters. Different races are often present, as well as monsters, e.g. hobbits in Tolkien’s work, or dragons in George R.R. Martin’s work.

Contemporary & urban fantasy

e.g. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Contemporary and urban fantasy tend to be set in our own world, but with added fantastical elements – the most popular example is probably Harry Potter. The books are set in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, but there is another side to our own world within the books. As with Percy Jackson, where the Olympian gods are real and ancient places are connected to modern day landmarks in the USA. Urban fantasy often includes more paranormal elements, such as vampires and werewolves.

Science fiction fantasy

e.g. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

Science fantasy is typically fiction that is a bit of a mix of the science fiction and fantasy genres. It often gives ‘realism’ (in a sense) to things that could not really happen in our world, through sense. It is sometimes used to describe post-apocalyptic fiction.

Mythology based fantasy

e.g. The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythology based fantasy is pretty much as it sounds – fantasy novels based on myths and legends. Some books stick to the legends, whereas others play off of the well-known stories. Common stories covered by these sorts of books are the legends of King Arthur, and the Trojan War – as both are possible historical fact, but there is no definite proof.

Historical fantasy

e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell and The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Again, just as it sounds, historical fantasy is fantasy based on real historical periods, with a twist. Often elements such as magic are added to the story, or the world that the story is based in is clearly our own with some differences. Popular periods of history are the Viking age or feudal Japan, as well as Victorian England.

Dark fantasy

e.g. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Dark fantasy can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It can be used to describe fantasy novels where the main characters are anti-heroes or have questionable morals, such as Jorg in Prince of Thorns. He is part of a group of thieves and bandits, who rape and pillage others. It has also been used to describe horror fantasy, for example Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Of course, there are so many different sub-genres, some books fit into several – there are lots of different ways of looking at it! Are there any books that you would define as a definite genre? What do you think about the way I have categorised these examples?

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