My Guide To Navigating The Fantasy Genre

Saturday, 18 October 2014
What is fantasy? What's the difference between high and low fantasy? What is urban fantasy anyway and what makes it different from paranormal?

Well, you're about to find out.

(Just a quick disclaimer, I don't know everything about the genre. This is more general characteristics.)

What is fantasy?

Fantasy books are books that involve magic and/or other supernatural phenominons that do not exist in our world. They can also involve fantastical creatures such as dragons, and/or take place in another world. Generally, the genre tends to avoid scientific and technological themes.

What is the difference between high, middle, and low fantasy?

While there is still much debate and there are plenty of exceptions, these are the main differences between the three:

High Fantasy:
  • Takes place in another world without our world even existing.
  • The rules in this other world are different from ours.
  • Usually one hero who is of mysterious origin.
  • Deals with the whole "Good vs. Evil" concept.
  • Examples include: Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass, and A Girl of Fire and Thorns.
Low/Middle Fantasy:
  • Can have a world within our world, or have a portal to enter the other world.
  • Has fantastical elements.
  • Can take place in our world or a fictional one, but the world has rational laws.
  • Examples include: Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and The Chronicles of Narnia.
I know that some people place these low fantasy titles in high fantasy, but to me, they seem more mid to low fantasy.

Sword And Sorcery (A.K.A. Heroic Fantasy)

In sword and sorcery, it's more about a sword-wielding hero and his personal struggle as opposed to him saving the world. It also involves a lot of action and adventure.

Urban Fantasy Vs. Paranormal

These books are set in the real world (no matter the time period) and involve fantastical elements. They may discover mythological and/or paranormal creatures, and other otherworldly beings. They also must take place in a city.

Unlike paranormal, which has no definitive place in the real world where it must take place. In paranormal, there is a bigger focus on romance, while urban fantasy focuses more on "good vs. evil" and saving the world.

Examples of paranormal include: Twilight, Fallen, Vampire Academy, and Sweet Evil, while examples of urban fiction include: The Mortal Instruments, Need, and The Infernal Devices.

I hope that helps you all navigate the fantasy genre. If you feel there is anything I missed, or you want me to explain anything else fantasy related, let me know. If you want me to do this for another genre, let me know as well.

Also, Monday is my stop on Erin Rhew's blog tour for her new book, The Outlanders, (which is also fantasy) so do be sure to check that out.

- Liran

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