Fantasy novels offer a colourful escape from the dreariness of reality into worlds of magic, adventure, and whimsical absurdity.
But within the fantasy genre, there are several subgenres offering vastly different vibes and moods, from the delightfully whimsical to the intolerably gloomy.
So how does one choose which particular brand of fantasy matches your current disposition?
Here are four major types of fantasy fiction and the moods they are best suited to remedy.
High fantasy features sprawling worlds and epics, often involving the struggle between good and evil. The stakes are always high and magic as abundant as rain in Manchester.
If you’re in the mood for an sweeping tale full of magic, mythology and adventure to distract you from the emptiness of existence, high fantasy is ideal. The sheer enormity in scope and scale make it perfect for when you want to lose yourself entirely in a different world to avoid the one you find yourself in.
Examples include J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Robery Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.
Light fantasy novels have a lighter tone than high fantasy. They often feature humour and themes which don’t plunge you into a deep despair. Examples include Terry Pratchett’s Disworld series and Stardust by Neil Gaiman, authors who demonstrate that fantasy needn’t take itself too seriously.
Light fantasy suits a mood that requires charm, wit, and heart to remedy it rather than dark tones and grittiness which usually only make things worse. The largely optimistic tone of light fantasy makes it ideal for when you want a cheerful escape into fantasy to avoid dwelling on the misery of the latest headlines.
Urban fantasy takes the usual fantasy tropes and plonks them into modern, urban settings, proving that magic can exist even in familiar environments. Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series demonstrate this, with wizard and warewolves happily coexisting with cars and pubs.
If you’re in the mood for contemporary fantasy with magic and mystery set in familiar urban environments, this subgenre caters to those craving escapist fantasy in more believable settings.
Dark fantasy leans heavily into grim, Gothic and horror themes for those who find the world quite jolly enough already, thank you very much, and would like some fictional misery to plunge themselves into. Sagas like A Game of Thrones and Prince of Thorns provide strong doses of darkness and despair.
When in a mood which requires grim, disturbing fantasy to reflect your own malaise, dark fantasy satisfies perfectly. The moral bleakness, violent themes and dreary settings mirror the darker recesses of our foulest moods and dispositions.
If you want to try some new fantasy books, you can claim your free Ravenglass Universe starter library, featuring high and dark fantasy tales.