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Fantasy books and their subgenres

By Brad Dehnert

The fantasy book genre is a type of fiction that often involves magical or supernatural elements and takes place in a fantastical world or in the real world with added fantasy elements. Fantasy stories often have elements of adventure, romance, and mythology and may include mythical creatures, mythical lands, or magical powers. The genre allows for a wide range of storytelling styles and can include subgenres such as epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and sword and sorcery. Some well-known examples of fantasy books include "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling, and "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis.

Below is a long list of fantasy subgenres that people write novels in. And if you're interested in other book genres, you'll like our article on popular book genres.

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High fantasy

High fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in a fictional world that is completely separate from the real world. This type of fantasy often includes elements such as magic, mythical creatures, and epic battles between good and evil. High fantasy is known for its world-building and complex plotlines, and it often has a clear sense of right and wrong. High fantasy can be either standalone novels or part of a series.

Some examples of high fantasy include:

  • "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
  • "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan
  • "The Inheritance Cycle" by Christopher Paolini

Low fantasy

Low fantasy, also known as everyday fantasy or contemporary fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in the real world but includes fantastical elements. This type of fantasy often involves magic or supernatural elements that are hidden or not well-known in the world of the story. Low fantasy can be set in the past, present, or future, and it often focuses on the experiences of one or more characters who have some connection to the magical elements of the story. Unlike high fantasy, low fantasy is often more focused on character development and personal relationships than on epic battles and world-building.

Some examples of low fantasy include:

  • "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling
  • "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman
  • "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman
  • "The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue" by Mackenzi Lee

Dark fantasy

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is characterized by its bleak and sinister tone. Dark fantasy often includes elements of horror and deals with themes of death, violence, and the supernatural. Unlike traditional fantasy, dark fantasy often has a much more ambivalent view of good and evil, and it often focuses on the psychological effects of the fantastical elements on the characters. Dark fantasy can be either standalone novels or part of a series.

Some examples of dark fantasy include:

  • "The Dark Tower" by Stephen King
  • "The Witcher" by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
  • "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

Sword and sorcery

Sword and sorcery is a subgenre of fantasy that is characterized by its focus on adventure and combat. This type of fantasy often features a hero or group of heroes who are on a quest or journey to achieve a specific goal. Sword and sorcery typically involves magical or supernatural elements, but it is often more focused on the physical challenges and battles faced by the heroes than on the magical aspects of the story. Sword and sorcery can be either standalone novels or part of a series.

Some examples of sword and sorcery include:

  • "Conan the Barbarian" by Robert E. Howard
  • "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" by Fritz Leiber
  • "Red Sonja" by Robert E. Howard and Roy Thomas
  • "The Witcher" by Andrzej Sapkowski

Heroic fantasy

Heroic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is characterized by its focus on the adventures and heroic deeds of a single character or group of characters. This type of fantasy often involves a hero or group of heroes who are on a quest or journey to achieve a specific goal. Heroic fantasy typically includes elements of magic or the supernatural, but it is often more focused on the physical challenges and battles faced by the hero or heroes than on the magical aspects of the story. Heroic fantasy can be either standalone novels or part of a series.

Some examples of heroic fantasy include:

  • "The Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks
  • "The Dragonlance Chronicles" by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • "The Legend of Drizzt" by R.A. Salvatore
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by R.A. Salvatore
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Urban fantasy

Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in a contemporary urban environment. This type of fantasy often includes elements of magic or the supernatural that are hidden or not well-known in the world of the story. Urban fantasy can be set in any city, real or fictional, and it often involves a human protagonist who discovers or becomes involved with the magical elements of the story. Unlike traditional fantasy, urban fantasy is often more focused on character development and personal relationships than on epic battles and world-building. Urban fantasy can be either standalone novels or part of a series.

Some examples of urban fantasy include:

  • "The Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher
  • "The Mortal Instruments" by Cassandra Clare
  • "The Iron Druid Chronicles" by Kevin Hearne
  • "The October Daye Series" by Seanan McGuire

Epic Fantasy

Epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that often includes large-scale battles, sweeping landscapes, and a cast of diverse characters. These stories often take place in a fictional world with its own set of rules and often involve a hero on a quest to save the day. Epic fantasy often incorporates elements of magic, mythical creatures, and ancient folklore.

Some examples of epic fantasy include:

  • "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
  • "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin

Historical Fantasy

Historical fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in a specific historical period, often incorporating elements of fantasy or magical realism into the story. These stories may include mythical creatures, magic, or fantastical elements, but are rooted in a specific time and place in history. The historical setting provides a backdrop for the fantastical elements of the story and can offer a unique perspective on historical events.

Some examples of historical fantasy include:

  • "The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker
  • "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
  • "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke
  • "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon

Contemporary Fantasy

Contemporary fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in the modern world, often incorporating elements of magic or the supernatural into the story. These stories may include mythical creatures, magic, or fantastical elements, but are rooted in the reality of the modern world. The contemporary setting provides a familiar backdrop for the fantastical elements of the story and can offer a unique perspective on contemporary issues.

Some examples of contemporary fantasy include:

  • "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling
  • "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman
  • "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs
  • "The Golden Compass" by Philip. Phil Pullman

Superhero Fantasy

Superhero fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that combines elements of superhero fiction with traditional fantasy elements. These stories often involve a group of superheroes with unique abilities or powers who come together to save the world from a mystical or supernatural threat. Superhero fantasy can incorporate elements of magic, mythical creatures, and ancient folklore, and often includes epic battles and larger-than-life characters.

Some examples of superhero fantasy include:

  • "The Wicked + The Divine" by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  • "The Sandman" by Neil Gaiman
  • "The Umbrella Academy" by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá

Portal Fantasy

Portal fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy in which the protagonist discovers a magical portal that transports them to a different world or dimension. This subgenre often involves the exploration of fantastical lands, the discovery of hidden magic, and the overcoming of challenges in order to return home.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis
  • "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
  • "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J.K. Rowling

Mythic Fiction

Mythic fiction is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of mythology and folklore into the narrative. This subgenre often features mythical creatures and gods, epic quests, and the exploration of ancient cultures and traditions.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Mabinogion" by various authors
  • "The Odyssey" by Homer
  • "The Iliad" by Homer
  • "The Silmarillion" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Gothic Fantasy

Gothic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of horror and the supernatural into the narrative. This subgenre often features dark, eerie settings, supernatural beings, and a focus on fear and the unknown. It often explores themes of death, decay, and the power of the human mind.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "Dracula" by Bram Stoker
  • "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley
  • "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde
  • "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

Fairy Tale Fantasy

Fairy tale fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of traditional fairy tales into the narrative. This subgenre often features magical beings, enchanted forests, and happy endings. It often explores themes of good vs. evil, the power of love, and the importance of courage and determination.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen
  • "Sleeping Beauty" by Charles Perrault
  • "Cinderella" by Charles Perrault
  • "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen

Magic realism

Magic realism is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of magical or supernatural events into the real world. These elements are often blended seamlessly with the mundane, creating a sense of wonder and mystery. The characters in magic realism may not always be aware of the magical events happening around them, and the fantastical elements are often used to comment on the human condition or explore the complexities of the real world.

Some examples of magic realism include:

  • "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez
  • "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie
  • "The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende
  • "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho

Romantic fantasy

Romantic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on the romantic relationships between the characters. These stories often include elements of adventure and magic, and the characters often face challenges and obstacles on their journey to finding true love. The settings of romantic fantasy stories can range from historical to modern, and the magical elements can vary from simple spells to complex worlds of magic and mystery.

Some examples of romantic fantasy include:

  • "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer
  • "A Court of Thorns and Roses" by Sarah J. Maas
  • "Beauty and the Beast" by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
  • "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon

Arthurian legend

The Arthurian legend is a subgenre of fantasy that centers around the legendary King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. These stories often include elements of magic and mythical creatures, and they often draw from the rich history of Arthurian lore. The Arthurian legend has been a popular subject for fantasy stories for centuries, and many authors have put their own spin on the classic tale.

Some examples of Arthurian legend include:

  • "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White
  • "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • "The Sword in the Stone" by T.H. White
  • "The Crystal Cave" by Mary Stewart

Legendarium

The legendarium is a subgenre of fantasy that encompasses the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, including "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" series. These stories are set in Middle-earth, a fictional world created by Tolkien, and they often include elements of magic, mythical creatures, and epic quests. The legendarium is known for its intricate world-building and richly detailed characters and settings.

Some examples of the legendarium include:

  • "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • "The Silmarillion" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy of manners

Fantasy of manners is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on the complex social interactions and etiquette of the characters in a fantasy world. These stories often involve political intrigue and courtly manners, and may be set in a medieval-like society or a fantastical version of Victorian society. The characters in these stories are often aristocrats or members of the upper class, and the story explores their relationships and power struggles within their society.

Some examples of the subgenre include:

  • "The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch
  • "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison
  • "The Court of Broken Knives" by Anna Smith Spark
  • "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison

Folklore fantasy

Folklore fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of folklore and mythology from various cultures and traditions. These stories often revolve around mythical creatures and magical beings, and may include elements of fairytales, legends, and traditional folktales. The settings for these stories may be based on real-world locations or may be entirely fictional and fantastical. Folklore fantasy often incorporates elements of magic and the supernatural, and may explore the relationships between humans and mythical creatures.

Some examples of the subgenre include:

  • "The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden
  • "The Girl with the Dragon Heart" by Stephanie Burgis
  • "The Starless Sea" by Erin Morgenstern
  • "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

Chinese & Korean fantasy

Chinese and Korean fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates elements of Chinese and Korean folklore, mythology, and culture. These stories often revolve around mythical creatures and magical beings from Chinese and Korean traditions, and may include elements of fairytales, legends, and traditional folktales. The settings for these stories may be based on real-world locations or may be entirely fictional and fantastical. Chinese and Korean fantasy often incorporates elements of magic and the supernatural, and may explore the relationships between humans and mythical creatures.

Some examples of the subgenre include:

  • "The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang
  • "The Grace of Kings" by Ken Liu
  • "The Descent of Monsters" by J.Y. Yang

Occult detective

Occult detective is a subgenre of fantasy that centers around detectives who investigate supernatural phenomena and solve mysteries involving the occult. These stories often blend elements of mystery and horror, and the detective may have special abilities or knowledge of the supernatural world.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Adventures of the Occult Detective" by Jonathan Maberry
  • "The Occult Detective Megapack" by Various Authors
  • "The Adventures of Sexton Blake" by Edgar Wallace
  • "Sherlock Holmes: The Occult Cases" by Barry Grant

Demonic fantasy

Demonic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on the depiction and exploration of demons, either as protagonists or antagonists. These stories often involve a battle between good and evil, with the demon characters representing the forces of darkness. The stories may have religious or mythical themes and may be set in a fantastical world or in the real world with supernatural elements.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Demon King" by Cinda Williams Chima
  • "The Demonata" by Darren Shan
  • "The Demon's Lexicon" by Sarah Rees Brennan
  • "Demon Road" by Derek Landy

Christian fantasy

Christian fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that incorporates Christian themes, symbols, and values into the story. These stories often have a spiritual or allegorical focus and may explore Christian themes such as faith, redemption, and the battle between good and evil. The stories may be set in a fantastical world or in the real world with supernatural elements.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
  • "The Wormling" by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry
  • "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis
  • "The Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks

Gaslamp fantasy

Gaslamp fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in a fictionalized version of the Victorian or Edwardian era. These stories often have a steampunk or gothic aesthetic and may incorporate elements of science fiction or horror. The stories may be set in the real world or in a fantastical world, and may involve magical or supernatural elements.

Some examples of the sub-genre include:

  • "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke
  • "The Infernal Devices" by Cassandra Clare
  • "The Glamourist Histories" by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • "The Shadow Campaigns" by Django Wexler

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Posted in Learn to Write on 2022-12-04 17:49:25 -