Epic fantasy, a genre as enduring as an overambitious wizard’s beard, has long been the home of grand tales and even grander clichés.
Yet, in recent years, these tropes have undergone a transformation, much like a reluctant hero who realises he’s left the oven on in chapter one.
Let’s delve into this fantastical world to see how these changes have unfolded.
1. The Chosen One, or the Accidentally Selected
The ‘Chosen One’ – a character as traditionally predictable as rain at a British barbecue. Once, they were the heart and soul of epic fantasy, plucked from obscurity to save the world.
Think Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” or Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”. But modern authors, like George R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson, have had a bit of a laugh with this trope.
Now, our ‘chosen’ ones are more likely to stumble into destiny after a wrong turn, bringing a delightful blend of incompetence and unforeseen heroics to the table.
2. Good vs. Evil, or How Everyone’s a Bit Dodgy
Gone are the days when good and evil were as clear cut as a knight’s sword through a surprisingly soft dragon. In the past, we knew where we stood – or, more accurately, who we’d cheer for.
Today, thanks to writers like Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson, characters inhabit moral grey areas, much like a politician’s promises.
It’s no longer about good triumphing over evil; it’s about who’s less of a scoundrel.
3. World-Building, Now with More Realism!
Tolkien’s Middle-earth set the bar for world-building, but let’s face it, it lacked a certain… what’s the word? Ah, yes, diversity.
Modern epic fantasies, such as N.K. Jemisin’s “The Broken Earth” trilogy, offer worlds with more layers than a wizard’s wardrobe, complete with cultures and languages that reflect our own world’s messy, wonderful diversity.
4. Magic Systems, or Making Sense of the Nonsense
Magic, once as mysterious as the contents of a deep, dark dungeon, has evolved.
Earlier fantasies treated magic like a secret recipe, known only to a select few. Nowadays, authors like Brandon Sanderson give us ‘hard magic systems‘, where magic is so well-defined, it could feature in a physics exam.
It’s less about waving wands and more about understanding the fine print of the universe.
5. The Role of Women: From Damsels to Destroyers
Remember when women in epic fantasy were as active as a painting on the wall?
Thankfully, those days are as gone as a dragon’s diet plan.
Now, female characters are leading the charge, armed with their own complexities and strengths.
From G.R.R. Martin’s formidable women to Robin Hobb‘s influential heroines, these characters are shattering glass ceilings with a battle axe.
Epic fantasy has certainly come a long way from its once-predictable roots, much like a hero on a quest who realises halfway that the real treasure was the friends they made along the way (or, perhaps, the enemies they gleefully thwarted).
This genre’s evolution, laced with a touch of dark humour, shows us that even in worlds filled with magic and myth, change is the only true constant.
So, let’s raise our goblets to the ever-shifting landscape of epic fantasy, where the only guarantee is a thrillingly unpredictable adventure.