If you’re anything like me, then you’d agree that there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good epic fantasy novel.
You know the sort—sprawling worlds, intricate plots, and a cast of characters so vast that it makes your family reunions look like a tea party.
But how can you be sure that you’re truly reading an epic fantasy novel?
Fear not, for I have compiled a list of nine telltale signs that will put your doubts to rest.
Before you even start reading, you’ll find that the book opens with a beautifully illustrated, yet slightly perplexing, map. This map will be your lifeline as you navigate the complex world, and you’ll find yourself referring to it more often than you’d care to admit. Bonus points if said map contains such cryptic names as ‘Evershadow Vale’ or ‘The Blighted Plains’.
Every epic fantasy worth its salt has a prophecy. And this prophecy, usually written in language so flowery and vague that even Nostradamus would be envious, is inevitably about a chosen one who will save the world from the Dark Lord (or just make things marginally better).
The Chosen One
Speaking of the chosen one, they’re usually an unassuming farm boy with a heart of gold. They’ll have absolutely no idea of their importance until a mysterious figure reveals their destiny. The chosen one will, of course, initially refuse the call to adventure, but eventually they’ll come around and embody the hero we all knew they could be.
The Wise Mentor
Behind every chosen one is a wise mentor who’s seen it all before. They’re usually an elderly wizard or warrior with a long white beard, a penchant for cryptic advice, and an uncanny ability to disappear just when they’re needed most.
The Improbable Weapon
The chosen one simply must have a weapon that’s both ancient and incredibly powerful. This weapon—be it a sword, bow, or toothpick— often has a name that’s impossible to pronounce and a history more complicated than the British Empire.
The Supporting Cast
Our chosen one can’t save the world alone, can they? Enter the ragtag group of misfits who will, against all odds, become the hero’s loyal companions. Expect a rogue, a warrior, a healer, and perhaps even a talking animal or two, preferably of the friendly dragon kind.
The Dark Lord
What’s an epic fantasy novel without a villain who’s equal parts terrifying and misunderstood? They’ll have a tragic backstory, an army of minions, and a penchant for wearing black. And just when you think you’ve got them all figured out, they’ll surprise you with a wicked plot twist.
Our heroes must embark on a quest that will take them through treacherous lands, dark forests, and the occasional tavern (because every epic fantasy needs at least one good bar fight). Along the way, they’ll encounter strange creatures, helpful allies, and the occasional riddle that requires the reader to suspend disbelief just a tad.
The Word Count
Finally, you’ll know you’re reading an epic fantasy novel when you realise it’s longer than the complete works of Shakespeare, and it’s just the first in a series of seven. But don’t worry, you’ll happily lose yourself in this rich world and eagerly await the next instalment.
You can read my fantasy story Orphan Farm Boy of Destiny for free on my Substack. Visit: joncronshawauthor.substack.com.