Explore the influence of the iconic ‘Final Fantasy’ video game series on contemporary fantasy literature, from world-building to character complexity. Dive into the parallel universes!
Final Fantasy, the video game series that’s been anything but ‘final’, has made a considerable impact not just on the gaming world, but also on the pages of contemporary fantasy literature.
So, how exactly did a bunch of pixelated characters hopping across our screens wield such influence over authors and their hefty tomes?
Chocobos to Giant Hawks?
The first, and possibly most important, aspect is the sheer scope of the worlds Square Enix created.
If you’ve read any of Patrick Rothfuss’s “Kingkiller Chronicle”, you may have noticed his world’s depth, from the currency system to the layout of the University.
Much like the intricate maps and city layouts of Final Fantasy, it seems Rothfuss might’ve spent a wee bit too much time in virtual taverns.
Environmental issues, from the lifeforce-sapping Mako Reactors in FFVII to the Sin-tainted oceans of FFX, run deep.
N.K. Jemisin, in her “Broken Earth” series, paints a world under ecological collapse.
Well, maybe. But who wouldn’t fancy a ride on the Highwind while navigating through a post-apocalyptic Earth?
You thought Cloud’s and Squall’s angst was reserved for teenagers with oversized swords?
The nuanced character development we see, especially in later FF titles, mirrors the emotional depth and complexity found in characters like Kaladin from Brandon Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive.”
Moody hero with hidden depth? Check.
Just as in the games, where a side quest could lead to acquiring that elusive ultimate weapon, authors like Sarah J. Maas in her “Throne of Glass” series often indulge in side plots that are just as compelling as the main narrative.
Sometimes, they even steal the show.
Mixing Technology and Magic
FF has always toyed with the balance between the mystical and the mechanical.
A theme picked up by authors like Brian McClellan in his “Powder Mage” trilogy where gunpowder sits alongside sorcery, lending the stories a similar charm to FF’s technological landscapes brimming with magic.
In the end, while it’s a playful stretch to claim that every modern fantasy author has a hidden stash of FF games under their bed, there’s no denying the influence of this legendary series.
It’s as if the literary realm looked at Final Fantasy and thought, “Well, why should video games have all the fun?”
Characters like Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister are guided (and misguided) by prophecies, resulting in a series of events that make a rollercoaster seem like a leisurely drive through the countryside.
Sands of Prophecy: The Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic, ‘The Wheel of Time,’ offers a fascinating study of prophecy guiding the characters’ actions.
The Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, is the central figure of many prophecies in this series.
His future actions, which are prophesied to either save or doom the world, act as significant drivers of the plot and character decisions.
The Hidden Destiny: The Belgariad
In David Eddings’ ‘The Belgariad,’ the protagonist, Garion, grows up unaware of the prophecies that predict his role in overcoming the dark god Torak.
The series showcases how prophecies can be intertwined with the protagonist’s coming-of-age journey, providing both external conflict and internal growth.
The Prophecy of Elan: Mistborn
Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series presents a unique twist on the prophecy trope.
The series’ characters believe they are acting according to a prophecy to overthrow a tyrant.
Still, as the series progresses, they realise the prophecy has been manipulated, leading to an unexpected outcome.
This series beautifully illustrates how prophecies can be used to introduce surprising plot twists and explore themes of power and deception.
The Witch’s Oracle: The Witcher Series
Andrzej Sapkowski’s ‘The Witcher’ series includes a prophecy involving the protagonist’s adopted daughter, Ciri, who is destined to cause a catastrophic event known as the Time of Contempt.
This prophecy influences several character’s actions and alliances throughout the series, illustrating how prophecies can impact not only plot but also character relationships and political dynamics.
A Prophecy Unfolds: The Chronicles of Narnia
In C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ the prophecy that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve will rule Narnia and defeat the White Witch drives the entire plot of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’
The prophecy not only foretells the outcome but also provides motivation and validation for the characters’ roles, demonstrating the power of prophecy in establishing character identity and purpose.
The Purpose of Prophecy
So, why does prophecy get such a good gig in fantasy?
Well, it’s a nifty tool for foreshadowing, creating tension, and driving the plot.
But it’s not just that.
Prophecy also explores the complex interplay between fate and free will, the nature of time, and the reliability of perception.
The Prophecy Paradox
Yet, there’s a paradox in prophecy—if the prophecy is going to come true, can the characters do anything to stop it?
This is where authors often get creative.
They may use deceptive wording, dual meanings, or self-fulfilling prophecies to keep us on our toes.
Prophecy in fantasy is as integral as a cuppa to a good British morning.
It adds layers of complexity to the plot, deepens character development, and keeps readers engaged.
So the next time you crack open a fantasy novel, keep an eye out for the prophecy. It might just foretell the adventure that awaits.
Explore the deep impact of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy on modern fantasy literature, its character evolution and redefining portrayal of heroes.
Unbeknownst to some, the fantastical world of modern literature has a secret benefactor.
Robin Hobb, with her Farseer Trilogy, has bestowed riches upon the genre that would make Smaug blush.
Kicking things off with “Assassin’s Apprentice,” Hobb didn’t just open a book—she flung open the gates to a new realm of character development.
Our protagonist, FitzChivalry Farseer, doesn’t merely grow, he unfolds, evolves, and occasionally unravels, like a well-kept tapestry being slowly unveiled.
His journey from royal bastard to skilled assassin shows us that heroes don’t always come in shining armour or with a penchant for loquacious speeches about destiny.
Sometimes, they come with a complex past and an uncertainty about the future that feels remarkably human.
Before we knew it, “Royal Assassin” and “Assassin’s Quest” followed suit, guiding us through Fitz’s adventures and growth in an intricate world with more twists and turns than a hedge maze after a few sherries.
This focus on personal evolution and the realities of the human condition amidst high fantasy turned the genre on its head, and we’ve been doing headstands ever since.
While traditional fantasy was busy grappling with trolls and casting arcane spells, Hobb was subtly changing the game.
Her potent mix of complex characters, political intrigue, and emotional depth offered readers a fresh perspective.
Suddenly, a dragon wasn’t merely a fire-breathing lizard, but a symbol of our deepest desires and fears.
The once clear-cut lines between good and evil began to blur, just like in our everyday life, showing that the realm of fantasy isn’t so removed from reality after all.
It was this depth, this infusion of reality into a fantastical world that had a seismic impact on modern fantasy.
Today, you can see Hobb’s influence strewn across the genre like breadcrumbs in the Grimm’s tales.
Authors have started focusing on characters who feel real, not just because of their witty dialogue or mysterious pasts, but due to their relatability, their flaws, their triumphs, and their growth.
They have started weaving worlds where magic and politics dance in harmony, and where morality is more nuanced than simple black and white.
Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, an understated game-changer, has left a mark on the sand of fantasy literature that’s as enduring as a dragon’s footprint.
After all, who needs a knight in shining armour when you can have a complex, evolving hero with a knack for assassination?
If you enjoy reading about flawed characters, you might enjoy my Dawn of Assassins series.
You can read the prequel novel Birth of Assassins for free as part of the Ravengass Universe starter library.
Exploring Scott Lynch’s monumental impact on modern fantasy literature through his ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series, shaping characters, world-building & narrative style.
Scott Lynch’s tour de force, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ burst onto the fantasy scene in 2006, marking a significant turning point in the genre’s evolution.
The book, and its subsequent sequels in the ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series, introduced readers to a unique and innovative world of fantasy that has since greatly influenced countless authors and contributed to the development of modern fantasy literature.
Lynch breathes life into the city of Camorr, imbued with a Renaissance Venice-like setting, complete with a network of canals, grand structures, and a dark underworld.
This type of detailed and vivid cityscape, one that is both fantastical and grounded in historical reality, has inspired subsequent authors to create rich, detailed, and believable fantasy worlds of their own.
The city of Camorr, much like a character itself, is layered, flawed, and complex.
Its distinct districts, culture, social structure, and even food, craft an immersive and palpable atmosphere.
Lynch’s approach to world-building has changed how modern authors perceive and depict their settings, encouraging them to create worlds that extend far beyond generic kingdoms and forests.
The Significance of Realistic Characters
Lynch has also made his mark on the fantasy genre through his complex, flawed, and deeply human characters.
Locke Lamora, the eponymous protagonist, is no stereotypical hero.
Instead, he’s a crafty thief with his own set of morals, which don’t always align with societal expectations.
The novel’s emphasis on character development, relationships, and moral dilemmas has encouraged authors to break away from traditional, archetypical fantasy characters, forging instead more relatable, complex, and morally grey personas.
Further, the use of camaraderie and brotherhood as a central theme adds depth to the narrative.
The characters in ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ are tied together by bonds of friendship and loyalty, rather than destiny or prophecy, which was previously a common trope in fantasy literature.
This has pushed authors (include myself) to explore the themes of loyalty, love, and friendship in more profound and nuanced ways.
The Impact of Lynch’s Narrative Style
Lynch’s narrative style, rich in its use of suspense, humour, and shocking plot twists, represents a departure from the more traditional, linear storytelling techniques previously prevalent in the genre.
This approach adds a level of unpredictability and dynamism to the story, compelling readers to stay engaged and constantly guess what might happen next.
‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ also excels in its fusion of elements from different genres.
The book blends fantasy with crime, mystery, and thriller elements, creating a diverse and captivating narrative.
This cross-genre style has inspired many contemporary authors to experiment with genre boundaries, resulting in a new breed of hybrid fantasy books.
The Legacy of ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’
Lynch’s narrative introduced a vibrant blend of genres and a distinctive approach to character and world-building that many subsequent authors have embraced.
Notably, Michael J. Sullivan’s ‘Riyria Revelations,’ Fonda Lee’s ‘Green Bone Saga,’ and Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Six of Crows’ exhibit the profound influence of Lynch’s work.
One of the distinctive qualities of Lynch’s novel is the comradery and complex relationship between Locke Lamora and his partner-in-crime, Jean Tannen.
The bonds of brotherhood that tie these characters together have created a blueprint for ‘bromance’ that is apparent in Michael J. Sullivan’s ‘Riyria Revelations.’
The protagonists of Sullivan’s series, Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, mirror the friendship and loyalty seen in ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’.
Sullivan, like Lynch, establishes a balance of humour, camaraderie, and dark pasts in the dynamic between his characters, showing that deep, platonic relationships can serve as a strong backbone for a compelling narrative.
‘Green Bone Saga’ and the Reflection of Realism
Fonda Lee’s ‘Green Bone Saga’ series reflects Lynch’s commitment to grounding a fantasy world in realism.
Much like Camorr, Lee’s city of Janloon is a well-structured, believable world.
Lee’s decision to focus on crime families and their struggles for power within a fantastical setting mirrors the gritty underworld and realistic socio-political structures found in ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora.’
The emphasis on gang wars, politics, and crime within a fantastical setting, strongly resonates with Lynch’s Camorr and the criminal activities of the Gentleman Bastards.
‘Six of Crows’ and the Band of Misfits
Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Six of Crows’ bears the undeniable mark of Scott Lynch’s influence.
Bardugo’s story revolves around a band of misfits who undertake a seemingly impossible heist, much like Locke and his band of thieves.
Kaz Brekker, the leader of the gang in Bardugo’s novel, shares Locke’s cunning and tactical mind, coupled with a moral compass that isn’t always aligned with the law.
Bardugo’s knack for intricate planning, multiple point-of-view storytelling, and the unexpected plot twists strongly echo Lynch’s narrative style, as she takes readers through a thrilling journey full of surprises.
Each of these works, while unique and inventive in their own right, owe a certain level of their approach to the trail blazed by Scott Lynch.
From the strong bonds of friendship, detailed world-building and the intricate blend of crime and fantasy elements, Lynch’s influence is apparent in these modern fantasy sagas.
Lynch’s masterpiece has not only altered the way we perceive fantasy literature but has also served as a stepping stone for other authors to push the boundaries of their own creativity.
As such, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ continues to shape the landscape of fantasy literature through its lasting influence on contemporary works.
Recommended Fantasy Reads for Fans of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Series”
If you have been captivated by the charm and intrigue of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, then you’re likely seeking more fantasy books that echo its rich world-building, morally complex characters, and intricate plots.
Below is a selection of excellent fantasy novels that should satiate your craving for more such fascinating stories.
‘The First Law’ Series by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie’s grimdark fantasy series ‘The First Law’ offers a realistic portrayal of a fantastical world, much like Lynch’s Camorr. Its morally grey characters and ruthless political machinations will appeal to fans of Lynch’s dark and complex narratives.
‘The Broken Empire’ Trilogy by Mark Lawrence
This trilogy, starting with ‘Prince of Thorns’, introduces readers to Jorg Ancrath, a character whose morally grey persona echoes that of Locke Lamora. The series is filled with complex characters, clever plots, and a dark, gritty world that fans of Lynch’s work will appreciate.
‘The Powder Mage’ Trilogy by Brian McClellan
Brian McClellan’s series is set in a world transitioning from a monarchy to a republic, and like Lynch’s work, it features a richly detailed world, complicated political intrigue, and characters with dubious morality. Its unique blend of gunpowder-era technology and magic adds a distinctive flair to the narrative.
‘Mistborn’ Series by Brandon Sanderson
For readers who enjoy Lynch’s intricate heists and complex magic system, Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series is an excellent choice. The protagonist, Vin, is a young woman adept at allomancy – a magic system involving the manipulation of metals – and her journey is filled with intriguing twists and turns that will appeal to fans of the Gentleman Bastard series.
‘The Night Angel’ Trilogy by Brent Weeks
A dark, gritty fantasy series about a young street rat who becomes an apprentice to the city’s top assassin. Fans of the ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series will appreciate the dark atmosphere and layered characters.
‘The Dagger and the Coin’ Series by Daniel Abraham
This series stands out for its intricate politics and economics, as well as a diverse cast of characters. Its blend of fantasy and political intrigue is reminiscent of the power struggles in Camorr.
‘Low Town’ Series by Daniel Polansky
This series centres on a former intelligence agent turned drug dealer navigating through the criminal underworld. Its noir style and focus on the seedy underbelly of society will appeal to fans of Scott Lynch.
‘The City of Stairs’ by Robert Jackson Bennett
This standalone novel is renowned for its innovative world-building, something Scott Lynch’s fans would be familiar with. The novel’s main character, a spy tasked with solving a murder in a city where gods once lived, will resonate with fans of complex, morally ambiguous characters.
‘The Gutter Prayer’ by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
This book is the first in ‘The Black Iron Legacy’ series, and it takes readers into a world of gods, monsters, and thieves. Its mix of horror and fantasy elements, along with its rich world-building and focus on the criminal underworld, should appeal to fans of Scott Lynch.
If you enjoy reading about thieves and assassins, you might also enjoy my Dawn of Assassins series.
You can get the prequel novel Birth of Assassins as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library.
Join us as we delve into the mind of R.E. Sanders, acclaimed fantasy author of ‘A Path of Blades’, exploring his unique world-building process.
Today, I’m delighted to introduce a captivating conversation with fantasy author R.E. Sanders.
From humble beginnings inspired by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Michael Moorcock, Sanders has crafted a unique blend of intricate world-building, deeply rooted in historical and cultural influences.
With his novel ‘A Path of Blades’ serving as a vibrant showcase of his storytelling prowess, Sanders dives deep into the realms of internal conflict and human resilience.
In this interview, Sanders reveals his creative process, his love for a good ‘what if’ question in world-building, and even his preference for dragons over unicorns.
From mythical creatures to tackling real-world issues, Sanders explores it all.
So whether you’re an ardent fan or new to his works, buckle up for an exciting journey into the mind of this fantasy luminary.
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
My inspiration to write is driven by my love of reading. As a child and then a teenager I read voraciously and the defining moment was when I took my dad’s battered copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ down from the shelf. The huge scope of the world and the stories blew my mind, and led me to read more fantasy; Eddings, Gemmel, brooks, Morwood, Moorcock, Jordan and others. It sparked my imagination and soon I began to create my own worlds where the grand, dramatic stories I wanted to tell could take place.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
I start with broad, culture-defining questions, sometimes in a ‘what if’ kind of way (like, ‘what if there had been no Roman empire…what would medieval Europe look like?’). The ideas that flow from this lead me to more detailed questions about society, history and organisation. Answering these start to build nations and continents as concepts. I put a lot of focus on history, to the extent that for many of my fantasy countries I’ve written legends, myths and historical texts as backstory. The last level of detail is to imagine myself arriving in the particular location and picturing the details that stand out; the differences that make that place rich, interesting and unique. I want it all to feel real.
Can you walk us through your writing process?
For, ‘A Path of Blades’ the seed was sown by an earlier novella (Tann’s Last Stand). At the conclusion of that story I felt that two of the characters (Ingvar Omarsson and Ammie Cowl) left a lot of unanswered questions about their backstory. A Path of Blades was the tale I told myself to fill in the detail on that story. Once I had the basic outline I just started writing! The tale flowed and the characters developed as I wrote more, sometimes just as I had planned but other times with unexpected turns! I tend to outline loosely and write quite freely within that – I like the sense of overall direction alongside a freedom to be spontaneous and creative.
Would you survive in your own fantasy world?
Tricky! It would depend where and when! Danger ebbs and flows in the world, so I think if I was around during the events of A Path of Blades I’d have a good chance. However, I’m working on a series in the same world where the stakes are about to be raised for everyone. No-one will be safe.
What themes do you explore in your work?
Although I write fantasy I try to confront real-world issues as I write. A Path of Blades asks questions about how people deal with internal conflicts; duty against morality, friendship against family, peace against action.
What do you consider to be your biggest influences as a writer?
I draw inspiration from everything that inspires me; culture, history, landscape and the natural world. I can no longer watch TV documentaries without a notepad nearby! Specific influences are other fantasy authors like I’ve mentioned, but also historical fiction authors such as Cornwell and Iggulden. I also aspire to be able to tell a story with the drama, flair and excitement of a Marvel movie, but I’m not sure it’s very cool to admit that!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
I did a bit of reading about grave digging. But who hasn’t done that?
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
I like to think there is a thread of hope that runs through my stories. The characters go through dark times, but they come out the other side changed, but not broken. They lose much but they learn what is really important. Relationships fail but some are strengthened.
Would you rather have a pet dragon or a unicorn, why?
I’d have a pet dragon because it would be much more practical for trips out the the beach for a barbecue.
In A Wheel of Time, Rand Al’Thor learns how to make gateways in the air to travel instantly anywhere in the world. I can’t help think I could make good use of that. Reducing my carbon emissions, if nothing else.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
My stories include a Dwarf character called Klay Garrant. He can make a fire literally anywhere and always has a supply of food. I think he’d be the best bet.
What would you name your pet dragon?
Fluffles, Destroyer of Worlds.
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
A Path of Blades is a good example of my style and a small window on the world that I will gradually reveal in my subsequent books.
Rob is a fantasy author based in the UK. A degree in archaeology and a fascination with British history has led him to create a world of his own in which to spin tales and create adventures.
Embark on a journey through fantasy literature’s memorable bromances, from Gentleman Bastards to the unforgettable duo in Stormlight Archive.
As avid readers of fantasy literature will attest, there’s little in this genre that captures our hearts and imaginations quite like a good bromance.
These intimate friendships, often between two (occasionally more) men, present an opportunity for deep character development, exhilarating adventures, and emotional resonance that many of us can relate to.
But fear not, this isn’t a dissertation on the sociological aspects of male bonding in fiction.
Think of it as a merry skip through the flowering fields of fantasy bromances, occasionally stopping to point and exclaim, “Look at those guys, aren’t they just great together!”
The Greatcoats themselves—Falcio, Kest, and Brasti—have a friendship that can only be described as…well, coat of arms deep.
They squabble like schoolboys one moment and are ready to take a sword for each other the next.
Not to mention their synchronised cloak-swirling—that’s some real friend goals there.
Clay and Gabriel
But hold your horses…or should I say wyverns?
Nicholas Eames’ ‘Kings of the Wyld’ series boasts Clay Cooper and Gabriel.
These two old warriors come out of retirement for one last hurrah, enduring all manner of beasts and bedlam.
Their banter will have you chuckling like a goblin on giggleweed, but at the same time, their loyalty will make you sob like a heartbroken dragon.
An emotional rollercoaster, isn’t it?
Jon and Samwell
Next stop is at the frosty wall of Westeros.
If you listen closely, you might just hear the sound of Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley’s friendship, a heartwarming chord that rings true even amidst the incessant chill.
In George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ Jon and Sam start as green boys at the Night’s Watch but soon develop an enduring friendship that weathers both White Walkers and the politics of the realm.
Jon, the brooding bastard, and Sam, the self-deprecating scholar, are as different as ice and fire, but they stick together like two wights in a snowstorm.
Kaladin and Adolin
Our next bromance takes us to the ‘Stormlight Archive’ by Brandon Sanderson, where we meet the mighty Kaladin and the charismatic Adolin Kholin.
Although their friendship starts on rocky grounds (and who can blame them—class tensions, haunted pasts, and all that), they grow to rely on each other.
Adolin might be the charming prince, and Kaladin a brooding ex-slave, but their friendship shines brighter than a Shardblade in battle.
Plus, nothing says ‘bromance’ quite like fighting an ancient, desolate evil together, does it?
Harry and Ron
Harry Potter and Ron Weasley from J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series undoubtedly deserve a mention.
Despite the magic and mayhem of Hogwarts, these two chaps stick together through thick and thin (and troll encounters).
0They’re the epitome of childhood friends turned lifelong companions.
It’s a true bromance when your mate is willing to face down You-Know-Who and play life-threatening chess for you.
Kvothe and Simmon
Turning the pages to Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘The Kingkiller Chronicle,’ we find the bond between Kvothe and Simmon.
Kvothe might be the protagonist, the dramatic hero with a tragic past, but it’s Simmon’s steady loyalty that lights up their friendship.
Sim is there through Kvothe’s ups, downs, and frequent tavern brawls.
Sure, Simmon might not be a legendary hero or a magical prodigy, but he’s a bloody good made, and isn’t that what counts?
Kennit and Wintrow
Next, we whisk ourselves to the high seas of Robin Hobb’s ‘Liveship Traders.’
Here, we witness the understated, deeply emotional bond between Captain Kennit and his shipmate Wintrow Vestrit.
Their relationship may start with coercion, but it evolves into an unexpected friendship full of emotional depth.
It’s a rare bromance, crafted masterfully by Hobb, and one that’s hard to forget.
Frodo and Sam
And of course, how can any discussion about bromances in fantasy literature be complete without mentioning Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from ‘The Lord of the Rings?’
Their enduring, pure, and simple friendship as they journey through Middle Earth is stuff of legends. Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom is nothing short of bromance in its most epic form.
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
If you’re not a tad teary after that, well, I’m afraid you might just be a stone troll.
Honourable mention: FitzChivalry and Nighteyes
Our exploration of bromances in fantasy literature would be woefully incomplete without delving into the peculiar, profound relationship that transcends the barriers of species: FitzChivalry Farseer and Nighteyes from Robin Hobb’s ‘Farseer Trilogy.’
You see, the ‘bromance’ that Fitz, the royal bastard, shares with Nighteyes, his wolf companion, is quite unlike any other we’ve discussed so far.
It’s not just friendship, it’s a ‘soulship’ if you will, a bond of minds and spirits.
Through the Wit (a form of magic that allows telepathic and empathic bonds with animals), these two are bound together in ways that redefine the traditional concepts of friendship.
Nighteyes isn’t just Fitz’s pet or even his sidekick—he’s his confidant, his moral compass, and quite frankly, the sensible one in the pair (and yes, we’re talking about a wolf here).
When you have a wolf advising you on your love life, you know you’ve got something unique.
Their banter (if you can call telepathic wolf-human conversations that) is full of playful humour and wisdom.
It’s touching how Nighteyes, the wolf, often ends up being the one teaching Fitz about loyalty, courage, and living in the moment.
One might even say he’s the real hero of the story—Fitz certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.
But it’s not all sunshine and howls—their bond carries a profound sense of melancholy too.
As readers, we’re reminded of the fleeting nature of Nighteyes’ life compared to Fitz’s, a fact that lends an additional depth to their relationship.
It’s this blend of love, wisdom, and impending heartbreak that makes their bond feel so real and resonates with readers even after they close the book.
And in the echoing words of Nighteyes, “We are pack.”
It’s friendships like these that teach us the true magic in fantasy isn’t always about casting spells or slaying monsters—sometimes, it’s about having someone who’ll stand by your side, laugh at your bad jokes, and help you pick yourself up when you’ve had one too many pints of dwarven ale.
And aren’t those just the best types of friendships?
If you love a good bromance in fantasy, you might enjoy my Dawn of Assassins series which centres around the friendship of Fedor and Lev.
Read the prequel novel Birth of Assassins for free as part of your starter library.
Explore the colourful spectrum of character alignments in fantasy fiction. From Lawful Good heroes to Chaotic Evil villains, discover how these archetypes shape narratives and deepen character development.
Today, we’re going to delve into the captivating world of character alignments in fantasy fiction.
You see, fantasy fiction isn’t just all fire-breathing dragons and chivalrous knights, it’s also a grand tapestry woven with intricate character threads.
And the tool that helps us sort these threads into a tidy, comprehensive pattern is what we lovingly call ‘character alignment.’
But, what is this character alignment tomfoolery, you ask?
Imagine a giant Sudoku puzzle.
On one axis, we’ve got the moral compass: good, evil, and of course, the fence-sitting neutral. On the other, we find the scale of obeisance to rules: lawful, chaotic, and, you guessed it, another neutral option.
It’s where these two axis intersect that we discover our character alignments.
The concept of character alignment hails from the granddaddy of fantasy role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons, and is used to define a character’s ethical and moral perspectives.
A character’s alignment isn’t just a label, it’s a fundamental part of their belief system, acting as a guideline for their actions, reactions, thoughts, and motivations.
Understanding these alignments can help readers to make sense of a character’s behaviour.
It aids in comprehending why a character might slay a dragon to rescue a princess, betray their best friend for power, or choose to sit out an epic battle to enjoy a pint at their local inn.
As such, character alignments are incredibly useful for readers and writers alike, as they help flesh out characters, giving them depth and dimension.
In the following sections, we’re going to journey into each specific alignment, exploring their quirks, understanding their motivations, and spotlighting examples from popular fantasy fiction.
From Lawful Good heroes to Chaotic Evil villains and all those intriguing folks in-between, we’re about to discover how these alignments shape the colourful, fantastical world of fantasy fiction.
Lawful Good: Unsung Heroes of Fantasy
In the top left corner of the character alignment sheet, with a shiny gold star for good behaviour, we find the Lawful Good character.
Lawful Good characters are morally righteous and abide by the laws and norms of society.
They’re the ones who, when faced with a moral dilemma, always go for the right thing, even if it’s as tough as a two-quid steak.
They’re the reliable ones, the steady Eddies and Edinas, always stepping up to the plate and swinging for justice.
“But, where’s the fun in predictability?”
Sure, Lawful Good characters may not have the madcap unpredictability of their Chaotic Neutral counterparts, but they’ve got something equally appealing—moral fibre.
They’re a beacon of hope, a shining light in the grimmest of times, embodying a sense of justice and righteousness that resonates deeply with us.
Take, for instance, Samwise Gamgee from ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Reliable, brave, and always putting Frodo’s welfare before his own, even when Frodo’s about as cheerful as a rainy Bank Holiday.
Samwise, the loyal gardener, is a classic Lawful Good character, embodying the ideals of courage, friendship, and unwavering loyalty.
He’s a beacon of justice and morality in the midst of a realm mired in corruption and deceit.
His strict adherence to the law and moral codes is as consistent as a cup of Yorkshire Tea—always high quality, but not quite as entertaining as some of those with a bit more mischief in them.
While Chaotic Neutral characters are the ones who chuck the Monopoly board in the air when they’re losing, Lawful Good characters are the ones who meticulously count every note and ensure everyone’s got the correct change.
And we need these characters.
In a world where it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped, their unwavering moral compass guides us, reminding us of the power of honesty, integrity, and steadfastness.
Neutral Good Characters: The Unseen Heroes of Fantasy Fiction
In between the pillars of ‘Lawful Good’ and ‘Chaotic Good’, comfortably situated like a lovely country pub halfway through a Sunday walk, we find our ‘Neutral Good’ characters.
Neutral Good characters, you see, are a charming blend of righteousness and flexibility.
They are committed to doing what’s right, but aren’t as concerned about adhering to laws or bucking the system.
They’re like that mate who always recycles, but occasionally sneaks a Quality Street into the cinema.
They’re all about the greater good, but they don’t mind bending a rule or two to achieve it.
“But, what’s so great about a goody two-shoes?”
While the Neutral Good characters may not have the thrilling unpredictability of Chaotic Neutrals or the moral rigidity of Lawful Goods, they possess a captivating flexibility.
They’re the ‘pragmatic heroes,’ willing to do what’s necessary to achieve good, and that makes them a right interesting bunch.
Take, for instance, the beloved wizard, Albus Dumbledore from ‘Harry Potter’.
While he is generally a force for good, old Dumbles doesn’t mind bending a few school rules here and there, does he?
As long as it’s in the name of stopping He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, of course.
He embodies the Neutral Good alignment, maintaining a strong moral core whilst occasionally sidestepping the rules when necessary.
Then there’s Bilbo Baggins from ‘The Hobbit’, a quiet, peace-loving hobbit who steps out of his comfort zone (and the Shire) to do what’s right, even if it involves a bit of burglary.
He’s the epitome of a Neutral Good character, isn’t he?
Comfortably sitting between a saint and a scoundrel, doing what’s necessary for the greater good.
In a world that’s often as clear as mud, Neutral Good characters offer a refreshing middle ground.
They represent the balance that we often seek in our own lives—the desire to do good, without being bound too rigidly by the rules or slipping into utter chaos.
Chaotic Good Characters: The Unruly Heroes We Can’t Help But Love
In the realm of ‘good’ but on the side of ‘chaos’, we find the Chaotic Good characters, causing a ruckus and saving the day.
Chaotic Good characters are the mavericks of fantasy.
They’re driven by a moral compass as true as a Yorkshire terrier to its favourite toy, but they won’t let a silly thing like ‘rules’ stand in their way.
They’re the sort of characters who will pick the lock to a city’s gates to let in reinforcements, all while flashing a mischievous grin.
“But isn’t that just anarchy wrapped up in a hero’s cloak?”
Chaotic Good characters infuse the narrative with a thrilling unpredictability, while their steadfast commitment to doing good keeps us firmly in their corner.
Consider Robin Hood, the legendary socialist outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
He broke the law left, right, and centre, but always with the aim of helping those less fortunate.
He’s a top-notch example of a Chaotic Good character—a rebel with a righteous cause.
And who could forget everyone’s favourite smuggler, Han Solo from ‘Star Wars’?
He may not be one for protocol (or for paying his debts), but when push comes to shove, he always ends up fighting for the forces of good.
Chaotic Good characters remind us that sometimes, rules need to be bent to achieve a greater good.
They are the embodiment of moral flexibility, proving that it’s possible to remain on the side of good without always following the straight and narrow.
Lawful Neutral Characters: The Unswerving Champions of Balance
Tucked in the middle of the Lawful spectrum and neither good nor evil, we find our steadfast Lawful Neutral characters.
These characters are the epitome of structure and order.
They abide by laws, traditions, and personal codes with a dogged determination that makes a bulldog chewing a bone look positively lackadaisical.
But they’re not necessarily out to save the world or plunge it into darkness—they’re all about the balance, the fairness of it all.
“But isn’t that a tad dull?”
Lawful Neutral characters may not ignite the page with anarchic antics or saintly deeds, but they provide a crucial anchor in the fantastical storm.
They uphold the rules of the world, lending an air of realism and balance that’s as comforting as a mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s eve.
Take Stannis Baratheon from ‘Game of Thrones.’
Now there’s a bloke who sticks to the rules, even if it won’t make him the life of the party.
His rigid adherence to the law, without leaning towards good or evil, makes him a classic Lawful Neutral character.
And consider Judge Dredd, the iconic comic book character who serves as judge, jury, and executioner in the dystopian future city of Mega-City One.
He’s not out to serve personal morality or malevolence, but simply to enact the law, making him a solid Lawful Neutral chap.
Lawful Neutral characters remind us that not everything is about good vs evil.
Sometimes it’s about maintaining balance, upholding traditions, and sticking to one’s principles.
They’re the steadfast lighthouses in the chaotic seas of fantasy narratives, guiding the story with their unwavering dedication to order and fairness.
True Neutral Characters: The Balanced Conduits of Fantasy Fiction
Bang in the centre of our character alignment square, refusing to take sides like a well-behaved football referee, we find our True Neutral characters.
True Neutral characters are the epitome of balance.
They’re not overly concerned with moral standings or societal norms.
They’re the types who’d happily sit on a seesaw all day, making sure neither end touches the ground.
Their primary concern isn’t with good, evil, law, or chaos, but with neutrality and equilibrium.
“But doesn’t that make them as bland as unbuttered toast?”
True Neutral characters may not blaze a trail of heroism or villainy, but their dedicated impartiality provides a unique perspective that’s as intriguing as a twist in an Agatha Christie novel.
Consider, for instance, the enigmatic Tom Bombadil from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
This whimsical character lives in harmony with nature and shows a conspicuous indifference to the power of the One Ring.
He’s neither swayed by its evil, nor particularly invested in the quest to destroy it.
Bombadil is a classic example of a True Neutral character, following his own beat without getting tangled in moral or societal knots.
Another fine example is Dr. Manhattan from ‘Watchmen,’ who observes the world with an almost aloof detachment.
He doesn’t bend to human morals, laws, or chaos, but rather maintains an absolute neutrality, making him a brilliantly engaging True Neutral character.
True Neutral characters, in their refusal to pick sides, remind us of the importance of balance.
They’re the tranquil centre in the maelstrom of fantasy narrative, providing a counterpoint to the grand battles of good and evil, law and chaos.
Chaotic Neutral Characters
Moving to the middle-right square of the character alignment Sudoko, we find the Chaotic Neutral characters.
They’re a right ‘mish-mash,’ aren’t they?
Neither good nor evil, neither lawful nor completely disregardful of rules.
They’re guided by their whims and desires, and they don’t fancy being shackled by rules or a dogged determination to do the ‘right thing’.
These are the ‘bloody hell, what are they going to do next?’ type of characters.
The ones that make the audience shout, “You did what, mate?!” at their telly, Kindle, or maybe even an actual physical book if you’re a bit old school.
But why do we love these unpredictable rapscallions?
It’s simple, isn’t it? They’re unpredictable, cheeky, and bring a breath of fresh air to the classic hero-villain narrative.
They’re like that one unpredictable mate in your group, the one who might show up at the pub wearing a tuxedo or maybe just their pyjamas. They keep things exciting.
Traditional heroes are predictable.
You know they’ll always do the right thing, the honourable thing.
They’re like a comforting, predictable old British weather. “Oh look, it’s raining… again.”
You know what’s coming, and it’s mostly, well, rain.
In contrast, the chaotic neutral character is like a whirlwind trip to the local fair.
They’re the candy floss, the rickety roller coaster, and the dodgy bloke who scams you at the ring toss.
They’re an entire experience packaged into one unpredictable and compelling entity.
Take, for example, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. A veritable poster boy for the chaotic neutral alignment.
He’s self-serving, unpredictable, but he’s entertaining as hell.
Is he going to save the day or nick the treasure and do a runner?
Who knows, but we can’t wait to find out!
Another such character is Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series.
Now there’s a gent who doesn’t give two hoots about laws or social order.
He’s an absolute rogue—but with that irresistible charm and quick wit, we can’t help but cheer him on, even when he’s pickpocketing the city’s elite.
Lawful Evil Characters: The Dark, Orderly Titans of Fantasy Fiction
At the intersection of orderliness and a decidedly wicked agenda, we find our Lawful Evil characters.
Lawful Evil characters are the meticulously organised villains of the fantasy world.
They’ve a grand evil scheme, sure, but they also have a five-year plan, colour-coded spreadsheets, and a solid retirement strategy.
They adhere to a set of rules and codes, even if their ultimate aim is as friendly as a wasp at a picnic.
“But isn’t that just a rather fussy baddie?”
Lawful Evil characters may not be the anarchic villains of nightmares, but their cunning, organisation, and adherence to their own codes make them captivating figures to follow.
Take Tywin Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones’ as a prime example.
He might not be the sort to cackle manically in a dark tower, but his ruthless dedication to family legacy, power, and order embodies the Lawful Evil alignment.
He is a villain with principles and rules, making him an intriguing and complex character.
Another shining (or should we say, shadowy) example is Lord Voldemort from ‘Harry Potter.’
Despite his unquestionable evil, he still adheres to certain rules, showing respect for ancient wizarding laws and customs.
This complex mix of evil and lawfulness makes him a character we love to hate.
Lawful Evil characters are the dark stars of the narrative cosmos.
They may be the baddies, but their respect for order, laws, and personal codes adds layers of complexity, making them deeply compelling.
Neutral Evil Characters: The Self-Serving Strategists of Fantasy Fiction
Nestled between chaos and order on the evil axis, we discover Neutral Evil.
Neutral Evil characters are the opportunistic pragmatists of the fantasy realm.
They have an agenda as sour as a week-old lemon, but they aren’t fussed about obeying laws or inciting anarchy to achieve it.
They’re about as loyal as a tomcat on the prowl and won’t let anything, or anyone, obstruct their path to power.
“But aren’t they just nasty without a cause?”
Neutral Evil characters may not champion a cause or adhere to strict rules, but their crafty manoeuvres and flexible morals make for a riveting read.
Take Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish from ‘Game of Thrones’ as an exemplar.
His moral compass is as reliable as a chocolate teapot, but he’s not exactly a rabble-rouser either.
He’ll scheme, manipulate, and play all sides to get what he wants—a classic Neutral Evil tactician.
And who could forget the White Witch from C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Chronicles of Narnia?’
She’s not about upholding order or fomenting chaos; she’s simply after power and will use deceit, magic, and a particularly tempting Turkish delight to get it.
Neutral Evil characters, with their flexible strategies and personal agendas, add a hefty dose of intrigue to the narrative stew.
They’re the self-serving schemers that keep us guessing, proving that sometimes, the middle road can be the most treacherous one.
Chaotic Evil Characters: The Unpredictable Malefactors of Fantasy Fiction
Where chaos and wickedness converge, we unearth our Chaotic Evil characters.
Chaotic Evil characters are the unrestrained villains of the fantasy world.
They’ve got a moral compass that spins more wildly than a child on a sugar rush, and a respect for rules that’s about as sturdy as a paper umbrella.
They’re the wild cards of malevolence, pursuing their own selfish desires without a jot of regard for law, order, or the well-being of others.
“But isn’t that just being unpleasant without any trousers?”
Chaotic Evil characters may not be tied to rules or causes, but their anarchic villainy creates unpredictability that’s as addictive as a bag of sherbet lemons.
Consider the inimitable Joker from the Batman franchise, a character who takes pleasure in sowing chaos and relishes his own unpredictable malevolence.
With no respect for laws or other people’s well-being, he embodies the Chaotic Evil alignment in all its unsettling glory.
Another sterling example is Bellatrix Lestrange from ‘Harry Potter.’
This lady isn’t exactly what you’d call a stickler for rules, and her wickedness is as untamed as her hair.
Chaotic Evil characters, in their unbridled pursuit of their own whims and desires, infuse the narrative with a volatile energy.
They’re the stormy seas in the voyage of a fantasy narrative, unpredictable and dangerous.
The Fluid Spectrum of Character Alignments: A Conclusion
As we reach the end of our journey through the varied alignments of fantasy fiction, it’s time to set down our tea and contemplate what we’ve learned.
From the righteous Lawful Good characters to the untamed Chaotic Evil personas, and the delightful mix of characters in-between, it’s clear that these alignments provide a framework to understand and predict character actions.
They’ve given us insight into the motivations behind our favourite characters, shedding light on the underpinnings of their choices and behaviours.
However, it’s important to remember that just as the bumblebee doesn’t exclusively stick to one flower, characters needn’t be bound by a single alignment for their entire existence.
Indeed, one of the great joys in fiction is observing character development, which can often involve a shift in alignment.
Consider Jaime Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones.’
He starts as a seemingly clear-cut example of a Lawful Evil character, but throughout the series, we witness a dramatic character arc.
As his story unfolds, he moves away from the ruthless dedication to his family’s power, towards a more morally complex identity, embodying aspects of the Neutral and even Lawful Good alignments.
In a similar vein, characters might temporarily adopt different alignments in specific situations, providing depth and flexibility to their characters.
This fluidity of alignment keeps readers on their toes, preventing characters from becoming as predictable as rain in a British summer.
So, as we come to a close, let’s raise our last cup of tea to the rich tapestry of character alignments.
Whether you’re a writer looking to flesh out your characters, or a reader seeking to delve deeper into the worlds you love, understanding character alignments is a tool as useful as a compass for an adventurer.
And remember, the best characters, much like a well-brewed cup of English breakfast, are a blend of several elements, making them all the more delightful to savour.
Uncover the enchanting influence of mythology and folklore on the high fantasy genre. Join us on a journey through epic quests, magical realms, and prophetic tales of dragons and wizards.
Today, we shall embark on an heroic journey through the realms of mythology and folklore, delving into their influence on the high fantasy genre.
So, grab a cup of tea, settle into your favourite armchair, and prepare to be regaled with tales of dragons, wizards, and all manner of mythical beasts.
A Brief History Lesson
Before we dive headfirst into the fantastical world of high fantasy, let us take a brief detour through the mists of time to explore the origins of mythology and folklore.
From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, we humans have always had a penchant for spinning yarns about mythical beings and grand adventures.
It’s no wonder, then, that these stories have left an indelible mark on the genre of high fantasy, providing a veritable treasure trove of inspiration for authors, both old and new.
Now, let us examine some of the most well-known mythological and folkloric elements that have found their way into high fantasy literature.
Magic is as old as storytelling itself.
In the ancient myths of Greece, we see the witch Circe using her magic to transform Odysseus’s crew into pigs.
Meanwhile, in Norse tales, we have the Allfather Odin, who’s not shy about using a bit of the old magical arts, even if it involves plucking out an eye for wisdom.
Now, let’s swap our ancient scrolls for the glossy covers of modern high fantasy, where the mystical mumbo jumbo continues to enthral.
In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, magic is a complex system of checks and balances, involving ingesting and ‘burning’ metals.
It’s not quite “eye of newt, and toe of frog,” but it sure keeps the plot turning faster than a witch’s cauldron.
In Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle, magic, or Sympathy as it’s known, is a bit like a university degree—demanding, dangerous, and very likely to leave you in masses of debt.
Whether it’s transforming spells of yore or the arcane arts in our beloved high fantasy sagas, magic continues to captivate us, sparking our imagination and making us check twice in wardrobes for secret worlds.
Ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors first etched a hunter’s journey onto a rock wall, humanity has been captivated by tales of epic quests.
After all, who doesn’t love a good yarn about some plucky hero venturing out into the unknown to slay monsters, find treasure, or pop to the shops for a pint of milk?
When it comes to ancient literature, the quest narrative is as ubiquitous as a rainy Manchester afternoon.
These quests are typically bold undertakings filled with wondrous adventures, strange creatures, and a spot of character development for our heroic protagonists.
Most importantly, they’ve served as inspiration for the modern high fantasy tales we love so dearly today.
One of the oldest examples of the epic quest narrative comes from Mesopotamia in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Here, our eponymous hero Gilgamesh and his beefy buddy Enkidu venture into the Cedar Forest to square up against the beastly Humbaba.
It’s all for the sake of fame and glory, and it sets the stage for all subsequent epic quests.
After all, what’s a bit of casual monster-slaying between friends, eh?
Meanwhile, the ancient Greeks were not ones to be outdone in the epic quest department.
The Odyssey, one of the West’s oldest and most beloved epics, recounts Odysseus’s ten-year struggle to return home after the Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters cyclopes (who are not very fond of wine, it turns out), enchantresses, and cantankerous gods—a full roster of fantastical beings that wouldn’t feel out of place in a modern fantasy epic.
Now, fast forward a few millennia and we can see how these ancient quests inspire our beloved high fantasy narratives.
We can see these tropes in modern high fantasy tales, too.
Think of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, where numerous characters venture on epic quests, from Jon Snow’s journey beyond the Wall to Daenerys Targaryen’s path to reclaim her throne.
Not to mention her penchant for raising fire-breathing pets, which beats goldfish any day.
The point is, the epic quest, while thousands of years old, is a narrative we never grow tired of.
Perhaps it’s the sense of adventure, the battle against the odds, or just the joy of watching a character grow from zero to hero (or in some cases, zero to slightly-better-zero).
But no matter the reason, it’s clear that the epic quests of ancient literature continue to echo in our modern tales, providing a rich tapestry of inspiration for authors and a bounty of exciting tales for readers.
If there’s one thing that gets our literary pulses racing, it’s a good old prophecy.
Whether it’s foretelling the rise of a hero, the fall of a villain, or the precise moment your kettle will boil (usually when you’ve nipped to the loo), prophecies are a storytelling staple that never seems to lose its flavour.
From the mysterious riddles of the ancient world to the plot-twisting predicaments of modern high fantasy, prophecies are the Worcestershire sauce of narrative condiments.
They add a bit of zest, a dash of mystery, and a generous helping of ‘what on earth is going to happen next?’
When it comes to the classics, the Greeks really knew how to spin a prophetic yarn.
The Oracle of Delphi was a one-stop shop for all your prophetic needs. However, like the small print in a dodgy phone contract, her prophecies were often quite vague and open to interpretation.
A classic example can be found in Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex. The prophecy stated that Oedipus would end up doing in his dad and marrying his mum.
Attempting to avoid this awkward family reunion, Oedipus legs it to a different city, bumps off a stranger (who, surprise surprise, turns out to be his dad), and marries the local widow (you can guess where this is going).
The lesson? When it comes to prophecy, you can run but you can’t hide.
Fast-forward a few millennia, and the tradition of cryptic prophecies is alive and well in the realm of high fantasy. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a smorgasbord of prophecies, dreams, and visions.
The ‘prince who was promised’ prophecy, for instance, has kept readers and characters alike guessing.
Is it Jon Snow? Daenerys? Or Hot Pie? We’re still waiting for that one to bake.
J.K. Rowling also serves up a fresh prophecy in her Harry Potter series. Professor Trelawney’s prediction that a boy born at the end of July would be the one to vanquish Lord Voldemort sets the stage for the entire series.
Spoiler alert: it’s not Neville. Though let’s be honest, Neville had his moments…
These prophecies, like their ancient predecessors, work because they create suspense and drive the narrative.
They offer a tantalising glimpse of what might come to pass, without giving the game away.
In a nutshell, prophecies are like that friend who hints at a surprise birthday party but refuses to give any details.
It’s maddening, exciting, and keeps us on our toes.
They’ve been a part of storytelling for thousands of years, adding spice to our myths, folklore, and high fantasy tales.
Otherworldly realms have mystified mankind since time immemorial.
From gloomy underworlds to luminous fairylands, these magical domains have played pivotal roles in mythology and folklore, and continue to captivate us in the realms of modern fantasy.
First on our itinerary is the underworld, a staple in many mythologies.
Arguably the most famous is the Greek underworld, ruled by the god Hades. Yes, that’s right, even in the afterlife there’s still bureaucracy.
But, bear in mind, if you’re planning a visit, be sure to avoid the local cuisine—Persephone can attest to the unfortunate side effects of indulging in a seemingly innocent pomegranate seed snack.
In Nordic mythology, we have Valhalla, the eternal feasting hall where Viking heroes spend their afterlives in a continuous cycle of fighting and feasting.
It’s sort of like a never-ending stag do, but with more axes and less curry.
Then there’s Fairyland, a realm full of magic and mischief, traditionally accessed via portals in the natural world, like rings of mushrooms or ancient hawthorn trees.
Be wary of their hospitality, though, or you might find yourself stuck there for a few centuries.
Now, let’s step through the wardrobe (mind the coats) into the world of modern fantasy.
First off, there’s the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, which takes the concept of other realms to a whole new level with the idea of parallel universes.
Here we see everything from our own recognisable world to the eerily beautiful realm of Cittàgazze, a city haunted by soul-eating spectres.
It’s like Venice, but with fewer gondolas and more terror.
And let’s not forget the mystical lands in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
Through a humble wardrobe, we’re transported to a land where animals talk, witches have a worrisome obsession with Turkish Delight, and wardrobes are definitely larger on the inside.
And no exploration of other realms in fantasy would be complete without mentioning the realm of Faerie in Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince series.
In these books, we encounter a realm both breathtakingly beautiful and chillingly brutal, reminding us that other realms, like people, have their dark and light sides.
Other realms serve as reminders of the infinite possibilities of the human imagination.
They give us space to explore complex ideas, confront our deepest fears, and maybe even encounter a unicorn or two.
Just remember, if you do decide to venture into another realm, be sure to read the small print, respect the local customs, and whatever you do, don’t eat the food.
Gods and Demigods
Gods and demigods are powerful beings whose exploits have coloured our narratives from the earliest myths to the most recent fantasy yarns.
First off, we have the gods, our divine heavyweights.
From the chiselled Olympians of ancient Greece, to the Norse pantheon chilling in Valhalla, these celestial beings wield power that can shape the earth, command the elements, and, apparently, complicate the lives of mortals.
Next up, the demigods—the result of divine dalliances with mortals.
These half-god, half-human hybrids often find themselves in the middle of epic quests, world-saving, and a lot of identity crisis.
From Hercules to Perseus, these guys are proof that having a god for a parent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Gods, in their majestic might, have found a cosy home in stories like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, where they tackle the peculiar nuances of modern life. I
Demigods, meanwhile, have stamped their heroic mark in series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books.
Whether it’s the awe-inspiring power of gods, or the relatable struggles of demigods, these divine figures from ancient lore continue to cast their influence on our modern high fantasy tales.
What’s the first image that pops into your head when I say “witch?”
A cackling crone with a pointy hat, a warty nose, and an affection for cats and broomsticks?
Perhaps an eye of newt and toe of frog recipe?
Or, if you’re more aligned with modern high fantasy, a powerful and complex figure with a deep understanding of the arcane arts?
Regardless of your witchy vision, there’s no denying that these spellbinding ladies have left an indelible mark on literature and folklore, from the ancient world to Terry Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series.
Our earliest witchy wanderings take us back to ancient Greece, where the witch-goddess Circe made a name for herself in Homer’s Odyssey.
Circe had a penchant for turning men into pigs.
However, she wasn’t all about the porcine transformation; she also helped our hero Odysseus on his epic journey home, showing us that witches can be just as helpful as they are harmful.
Skipping ahead a few centuries, we meet the witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Weird Sisters.
With their eerie chants of “Double, double toil and trouble,” they whip up a storm of trouble for our ambitious antihero.
They’re a classic example of the trope of witches as foretellers of doom and spreaders of chaos. And let’s face it, they’ve got a cracking recipe for disaster soup.
Now, hold onto your hats, folks, because we’re hopping on our broomsticks and soaring into the modern realm of high fantasy.
One needn’t look further than the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for some of the most iconic and subversive witches in fantasy literature.
Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick (later replaced by the adorably feisty Tiffany Aching) are the witches of the ramshackle kingdom of Lancre.
They don’t fit the stereotypical mould of cackling, evil hags. Instead, they use their headology (a sort of folk-psychology-meets-common-sense approach), their knowledge of herbs and the human heart, and their innate grit to solve problems.
Granny Weatherwax, with her iron will and no-nonsense attitude, is the antithesis of the evil witch trope.
Nanny Ogg is the bawdy, jovial matriarch we all wish we had, while Magrat and Tiffany represent the idealistic, modern young witch trying to find her place in the world.
Pratchett’s witches are fully-realised characters, complete with strengths, weaknesses, and wonderfully quirky habits (we’re looking at you, Nanny Ogg and your naughty songs).
Over the year, witches have evolved from malicious spell-weavers and fortune-tellers into complex, multi-faceted characters.
They’ve gone from the sidelines of myth and folklore to the forefront of modern high fantasy, casting a spell that continues to enchant readers of all ages.
Whether you picture a bearded old man in a pointy hat or a bespectacled boy with a lightning bolt scar, there’s no doubt that wizards have cast a spell over our literary imaginations.
From their beginnings in ancient folklore to their lofty status in modern high fantasy, these magical maestros have had quite the journey.
Our first stop is in ancient Egypt, where we meet the high priest Djedi, who was said to be able to bring a decapitated animal back to life.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’d say resurrecting a goose definitely earns you a spot in the wizarding hall of fame.
Returning to ancient Greece, we encounter Medea. his enchantress, who appears in the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, certainly knew her way around a spell or two.
She could mix potions, control the elements, and generally bewitch anyone who got in her way. Although technically a witch, Medea’s powers and influence over the narrative can be seen as a precursor to our modern understanding of a wizard.
Moving on to the Medieval era, the figure of Merlin emerges in Arthurian legends.
Now, here’s a bloke who truly embodies the classic image of a wizard.
With his long beard, mysterious origins, and propensity for prophecies, Merlin set the standard for wizard-kind for centuries to come.
The mighty Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a wizard par excellence.
He’s old, wise, and can put on a fireworks display to put New Year’s Eve in London to shame.
Plus, he’s got that killer line, “You shall not pass!” which is handy not only when facing demon Balrogs but also when dealing with queue jumpers at the local chippy.
On the flip-side of a Merlin or Gandalf, we have Terry Pratchett’s wizard Rincewind from the Discworld series.
Now, Rincewind’s not your typical wizard—in fact, he’s rather rubbish at magic.
His true talent lies in running away and surviving against all odds, demonstrating that sometimes, it’s not the strength of the magic that matters, but the strength of the character.
And who could forget the wizarding world’s most famous teenager, Harry Potter?
This bespectacled boy wizard has undoubtedly left his mark (much like that pesky lightning bolt scar of his) on the world of fantasy literature, bringing magic and wizardry to a new generation of readers.
From elves to pixies, and gnomes to dwarves, these small humanoids may be lacking in height but are positively brimming with character.
Our first stop is ancient Ireland, where we encounter the mischievous leprechaun.
This little green chappie, with his propensity for shoe-mending and rainbow-hoarding, is a cornerstone of Irish mythology.
But be warned, if you’re planning on nabbing his pot of gold, remember this: leprechauns are not to be trifled with.
Journeying northwards, we find ourselves amid the Viking sagas and their hardy dwarves.
These stout fellows were renowned for their craftsmanship, forging legendary items such as Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.
Then, there’s the realm of the fairy folk, sprinkled throughout European folklore.
Ranging from the delicate, fluttery-winged beings of English lore to the more elusive and sometimes sinister entities found in Scottish and Irish tales.
Fast forward to the modern era of high fantasy, and we find J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits of The Lord of the Rings.
These pint-sized heroes, with their love for second breakfasts and their big, hairy feet, have won the hearts of millions.
Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin remind us that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Just don’t ask them to share their elevenses.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series also boasts a delightful array of smaller humanoids.
The Nac Mac Feegle (also known as the Wee Free Men) are a rowdy, boisterous group of blue-skinned, red-haired pictsies who enjoy fighting, stealing, and drinking.
As Pratchett so astutely puts it, they are “the most feared of all the fairy races, even before you get to the point of mentioning that they’re all six inches tall.”
From the early folklore of leprechauns and dwarves to the modern imaginings of hobbits and house-elves, small humanoids have always been a big part of our storytelling tradition.
They remind us of the power of the underdog (or undergnome, or underpixie), the potential for magic in unexpected places, and the truth of the old saying: good things come in small packages.
A time comes in every man’s life where you have to sit down and say, “let’s talk unicorns.”
These majestic beasts, with their singular spiralling horns and penchant for purity, have trotted through tales from ancient India to Medieval Europe.
Many a noble knight was said to have wasted his days chasing these elusive creatures, presumably because they had an aversion to practical pursuits like jousting or crocheting.
This majestic creature, boasting the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, has been a mainstay in mythology since the ancient Greeks first said, “you know what our stories need? More flying lions.” And frankly, who are we to disagree?
Next on our list is the ever-rising phoenix.
Hailing from ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, this fiery bird had the rather handy trick of bursting into flames and being reborn from its own ashes.
Next up, we have Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology.
Born from the blood of the slain Medusa, this high-flying steed had quite the dramatic entrance into the world.
He later served the hero Bellerophon, until a fall from grace—or rather, a tumble from the horse—sent Bellerophon back to the ground.
Then, we come to the centaur: half-human, half-horse, and all-around fascinating.
They trotted their way from ancient Greek lore to the fantastical world of Narnia and beyond, forever raising questions about where exactly they buy their trousers.
Moving from ancient lore to the realm of modern fantasy, we continue to see these magical creatures and their kin popping up all over the place.
Our beloved unicorn has evolved from the unattainable symbol of purity into magical creatures found in the pages of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.
They still carry the ethereal quality of yore, but with added layers of depth and pathos that leave us reaching for the tissues.
Then there’s the griffin.
Pegasus, the flying horse, inspired J.K. Rowling’s winged beasts in the Harry Potter series, from Buckbeak the Hippogriff to Fawkes the Phoenix.
Our magical tour continues to reveal the rich tapestry of mythical beasts that have galloped, flown, and trotted their way from ancient mythology to the heart of modern fantasy.
They add a pinch of the extraordinary to our stories and continue to ignite our sense of wonder. And who knows, next time you spot an unusually large bird in the sky or hear a rustle in the forest, you might just start to wonder…
Let’s begin with the not-so-gentle giants. They’ve stomped their way through folklore from Jack’s beanstalk to the tales of David and Goliath.
Always towering over us mere mortals, they have a knack for making us feel like Lilliputians on a bad day.
Next on our parade of peculiarities are the goblins.
These mischievous miscreants of the night have their roots in European folklore.
Not exactly known for their good looks, they’re usually trotted out to serve as a warning to children who misbehave.
I imagine it’s like saying, “eat your peas, or the goblins will get you.”
And let’s not forget the brutish ogres.
This lot have been the stuff of nightmares since their first mention in the epic French poem “La Chanson de Roland”.
Traditionally depicted as large, ugly and fond of human snacks, these creatures would make terrible dinner guests.
Next on our monster menu are the harpies. These winged women of Greek mythology, known for their screeching cries and unsavoury habits, were once considered the personifications of wind.
Of course, over time they’ve become less wind goddess and more flying fury.
Next up, we have the infamous Minotaur.
This half-man, half-bull chap was known for his residence in a labyrinth on Crete and his penchant for the occasional human snack. If ever there was a case for carrying a ball of string and avoiding suspicious mazes, it’s this fellow.
Lastly, we have the trolls of Norse folklore. These behemoths, known for their strength, slow wits, and aversion to sunlight, were not the sort of creature you’d want to stumble upon on a late-night hike.
Switching on the lantern of modern fantasy, we can see the shadows of these monsters stretching out into some of our favourite tales.
The giants have been reinvented by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Here, they range from the sympathetic and slightly dense Hagrid to the less appealing and significantly more violent Golgomath.
Goblins, with their green skin and industrious nature, find a home in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
They may be miners and metalsmiths, but their union rights leave much to be desired, and their customer service skills are truly something to wince at.
And then, there’s Shrek, our favourite ogre from William Steig’s book and the beloved DreamWorks film series.
He might have a face only a mother (or Fiona) could love, but he shows us that even ogres can have layers, just like onions.
The harpies, with their shrill cries and chaotic nature, can be found in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
In these stories, they’ve been repurposed as punishment for those who overstay their welcome in the underworld.
It’s like being told to move along by a terrifying, shrieking bird-woman.
Our bull-headed friend, the Minotaur, also makes an appearance in the Percy Jackson series, where he’s quite miffed about being beaten by a young lad with a piece of string all those years ago.
And finally, trolls. They’ve found a new home under J.R.R. Tolkien’s bridges and within J.K. Rowling’s magical world.
Now it’s time to dive into into the ocean’s depths, exploring the mysteries and myths of sea monsters. From the mighty Kraken to the enchanting merfolk and deadly sirens, we’ll traverse the tumultuous tides of ancient legends to the calmer seas of modern fantasy.
First on our maritime itinerary is the colossal Kraken.
This legendary sea monster, hailing from Norse sagas, was reputedly large enough to envelop entire ships with its giant tentacles.
Next, we have the merfolk.
These aquatic creatures with the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish are prevalent in folklore from all over the world.
They might seem inviting, but their whimsical nature hides a propensity for causing shipwrecks.
Lastly, we’ll listen for the captivating call of the sirens.
These Greek mythological creatures, often confused with mermaids, were said to lure sailors to their doom with their irresistible songs.
Now, let’s surface into the realm of modern fantasy, where these sea monsters continue to make waves.
The terrifying Kraken appears in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, proving that even demigods should be wary of what lurks beneath the ocean’s surface.
Merfolk, in all their alluring mystique, have swam into the hearts of modern readers in stories like Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch. These aren’t your Disney princesses, mind you. They’ve got more bite than you’d expect from fishfolk.
And who can forget the sirens? Their enchanting melodies have echoed through the pages of countless fantasy novels, including the Watersong series by Amanda Hocking.
Next, we’re lifting the lid on the coffin of undead mythology, from the spectral ghosts to bloodthirsty vampires and shambling zombies.
These timeless terrors have been chilling our spines from ancient legends to modern fantasy, so grab a garlic necklace, and let’s dig into the details!
First up, we have our friendly neighbourhood apparitions, the ghosts.
From Ancient Egypt to Shakespearean England, these ethereal beings have been haunting our narratives, often sticking around due to some unfinished business.
Next, let’s sink our teeth into vampires.
These undead aristocrats, originating from Eastern European folklore, are famed for their penchant for a liquid diet—type O, please, hold the garlic.
Lastly, we’ve got the ever-persistent zombies.
With roots in Haitian folklore, these undead folk don’t let a little thing like mortality get in the way of a good walk.
Ghosts float through many of our favourite stories.
From the mournful spirits in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series to the helpful ghosts of Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, they’re as much a part of the scenery as the cobwebs in an old house.
Vampires, with their impressive canines and nocturnal habits, have swooped into the likes of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.
For some unfathomable reason, there’s something tantalising about a brooding, eternally young fellow who only comes out at night.
And let’s not forget the zombies, those steady if somewhat slow, pursuers of the living.
In novels like World War Z by Max Brooks, they serve as a stark reminder that the slow and steady can indeed win the race, especially if the race is to devour brains.
As the old saying goes, “Here be dragons!” But what are dragons, really?
Not the scaly blighters who keep nicking the BBQ sausages off your grill.
No, we’re talking about the fire-breathing, gold-hoarding, riddle-spouting creatures that have haunted the nightmares and fantasies of many a culture around the world.
Dragons are fascinating creatures.
They’re the Beyoncés of the mythological world—everyone’s heard of them, and they come with a full range of talents.
Breath of fire? Check.
Shapeshifting, telepathy, riddles? All present and correct.
They’re multi-talented, to say the least, and it’s not difficult to see why they’ve captivated the imaginations of authors and readers alike in the realm of high fantasy.
One of the main reasons we’re so drawn to dragons, I suspect, is because they’re wildly different depending on who you ask.
In much of Western mythology, dragons are usually the baddies.
They’re the embodiment of chaos and destruction, a menace that needs to be sorted out by our brave knight in shining armour.
St. George and the Dragon, anyone?
Meanwhile, some Eastern mythologies give us a different perspective.
Here, dragons are often benevolent, symbols of wisdom and power, the kind of being you wouldn’t mind having around for a cuppa and a chat.
They’re associated with water, agriculture, and the heavens, embodying harmony rather than chaos.
So, one dragon’s fiery chaos is another dragon’s spot of tea.
This diversity offers authors a fantastic toolbox when they’re crafting their high fantasy novels.
Whether a dragon is a fearsome antagonist, a wise ally, or an intriguing mixture of the two, it’s the dragon’s character that adds depth and colour to a tale.
It’s the one creature where the sky isn’t just the limit—it’s a mere starting point.
But these mythological fire-breathers didn’t simply pop up overnight.
Dragons have been slithering around in the imaginations of humans for millennia.
From their ominous roles in ancient religious texts to the great epics of early literature, let’s set our time machine back a bit and explore some of these beastly origin stories.
The Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, introduces us to the rather marvellous Tiamat, a chaos sea-dragon.
She’s one of the earliest dragon-esque beings in mythology.
With her, we’re in serious trouble. I mean, she’s the embodiment of chaos. Nice lass, I’m sure, but not one for a quiet pint down at the local.
Fast forward to ancient Greece and we encounter a plethora of dragon-like creatures.
There’s the Hydra, a water serpent with nine heads, slain by our friendly neighbourhood demigod, Hercules.
And let’s not forget about Python, a dragon-serpent slain by the god Apollo, which even had a prophecy-telling gig at the Oracle of Delphi.
Over in the Bible, we have the well-known serpent from the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, often interpreted as a dragon in early Christian art and literature.
And don’t get me started on Revelation, where dragons and serpents are all the rage, particularly one “great red dragon” with seven heads.
Even the ancient Chinese had a spot for dragons, who were often considered as deities associated with water and weather.
These dragons were vastly different from their Western counterparts – they were symbols of power and luck, rather than monstrous beasts.
They even had a Dragon King, who was in charge of rain and water. So, if you had a water leak, you knew who to blame.
Whether they were feared or revered, dragons have been an integral part of cultural lore across the world, shaping tales and myths for thousands of years.
Even today, in our high fantasy novels, we see echoes of these ancient dragon tales, reminding us of our enduring fascination with these legendary beasts.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey, or monomyth, is a common template found in many stories from cultures around the world.
Proposed by Joseph Campbell, it illustrates the cyclical journey undertaken by the protagonist—the hero—in a transformative adventure.
From the trials and tribulations of Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey to the adventures of Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon, the hero’s journey is a tried and true formula that continues to capture the imaginations of readers the world over.
After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
The Hero’s Journey in The Lord of the Rings
The Ordinary World: This is the hero’s regular life before the story begins. For Frodo Baggins, the hero of our tale, this is his peaceful existence in the Shire.
Call to Adventure: The hero is presented with a challenge or quest. In Frodo’s case, this comes when he inherits the One Ring from Bilbo and learns of its dark history from Gandalf.
Refusal of the Call: Often, the hero will initially refuse the call due to fear or uncertainty. While Frodo is anxious about the dangerous journey, he understands the necessity and takes up the mission.
Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who provides guidance or training. Gandalf serves as Frodo’s mentor, imparting knowledge about Middle-Earth, the Ring, and the dangerous quest ahead.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero leaves their ordinary world and embarks on their quest. Frodo, accompanied by his friends, leaves the Shire to take the Ring to Rivendell.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces a series of challenges while making friends and encountering foes. Frodo and his companions – the Fellowship of the Ring – encounter numerous obstacles, from Orcs to the treacherous Gollum.
Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches the goal. For Frodo, this is his arduous journey towards Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.
The Ordeal: This is a major challenge that the hero must overcome, usually facing death or severe danger. Frodo faces many ordeals, notably the climactic struggle at Mount Doom, where he battles the influence of the Ring and Gollum’s treachery.
Reward (Seizing the Sword): After overcoming the ordeal, the hero receives a reward or accomplishes their goal. Frodo’s reward is the destruction of the Ring, leading to the defeat of Sauron and the liberation of Middle-earth.
The Road Back: The hero must return to their ordinary world. Here, Frodo and his companions return to the Shire.
Resurrection: This is the final test, where the hero must face the consequences of their journey. For Frodo, this is the scouring of the Shire, where he and his companions defend their home one last time.
Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world but is transformed by their journey. Frodo, forever changed by his journey, ultimately decides to leave Middle-earth with the elves, passing on his story (the ‘elixir’) to Sam to continue in the Shire.
Ten High Fantasy Books Inspired by Mythology and Folklore
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Blending elements of American folklore, Norse mythology, and modern-day life, Gaiman’s tale follows ex-convict Shadow Moon as he becomes embroiled in a war between the old gods and the new.
Circe by Madeline Miller
This enchanting novel tells the story of Circe, the daughter of the Titan Helios and the nymph Perse, who is banished to a remote island where she hones her witchcraft and encounters legendary figures from Greek mythology.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Drawing upon European folklore and mythology, Beagle’s novel tells the story of a unicorn who sets out on a journey to discover why she is the last of her kind, encountering a cast of colorful characters along the way. The novel is known for its beautiful prose and poignant exploration of themes such as love, loss, and mortality.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Set in medieval Russia, Arden’s novel draws upon Russian folklore and Slavic mythology to tell the story of a young girl named Vasilisa who must protect her village from dark forces.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
In this epic fantasy tale, Rothfuss draws inspiration from various mythologies and folklores to create a richly detailed world filled with magic, music, and adventure.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
In this beautifully crafted series, Jemisin weaves together elements of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern mythology to create a captivating tale of gods, mortals, and the power struggles that bind them.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s classic series is set in a world of magic and dragons, drawing inspiration from various folklores and myths, including Norse, Celtic, and Taoist traditions. The story follows the wizard Ged as he journeys through the islands of Earthsea, confronting ancient evils and learning the true meaning of power and wisdom. The series is known for its vivid world-building, complex characters, and exploration of themes such as balance, identity, and the power of language.
The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence
This dark, gritty series follows the rise of a ruthless prince named Jorg Ancrath as he battles demons, both internal and external, in a world shaped by ancient myths and legends.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
A love letter to storytelling, Morgenstern’s novel draws inspiration from a wide array of mythologies and folklores to create a mesmerizing tale of a hidden, magical world beneath the surface of our own.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
In this standalone epic fantasy, Shannon weaves together elements from Eastern and Western mythologies, creating a world filled with dragons, magic, and complex political intrigue.
Each of these stories offers a unique perspective on the timeless themes and archetypal characters that have captivated readers for centuries. Happy reading!
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Dive into the magical worlds of Jan Foster, British historical fantasy author, as she discusses her inspirations, writing process, and magical creatures in her stories.
Today we are joined by British historical fantasy author Jan Foster.
With a passion for history, Jan has created a world filled with magic and intrigue.
In this interview, we’ll dive into the inspiration behind her world, her writing process, and what readers can expect from her books.
So grab yourself a cuppa and join us on this journey into the world of historical fantasy.
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
I write historical fantasy and history, although written often by the victors, could be read as absolute. Fantasy allows me to ask the ‘What if’ questions – like, what if I had to live with wings but pass as a human, what if the world as fae knew it was ruled by an immortal woman, and what if a bastard son was made vampire and took over the English throne. It’s fun to explore these ideas and play with them in a parallel world.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
I have a world within the human world, whose society structure is based on nature’s creatures. The beings who inhabit this hidden world have to, at times, interact with the human world though but because they are more ancient, it’s accepted that they shouldn’t interfere too much and change the course of human history. Because its a parallel world, there is crossover though, and I tried to imagine the view which an ancient observer would have on the human world with the benefit of their long life and experience. Naturae itself is on a real (geographically speaking) island, so I had to incorporate the topography into the design of it!
Can you walk us through your writing process?
My stories are quite character driven (as in, I want the character to start at one point in their journey, face their challenge and then, grow from it – thus making up their arc), but I always start the plotting with the history. I look for years where there was a lot happening in the society – preferably a seismic shift because of change in ruler/religion/discovery and imagine how that might effect a character’s aims in their story arc. Once I’ve noted down those events and plotted out the character’s arc within the context, the storyline is virtually broken down into chunks for me to write. It takes a lot of research and pondering to see how the jigsaw of multiple POV’s is going to fit together so its a long process. Recently, I thought it would be quicker to write against a beat sheet, for a romantic fantasy, but it actually took me longer because I was so worried about keeping to the desired structure and at times, it just didn’t ‘feel’ right to move ahead with the plotline then. I think, when all is said and done, I’m a plantster through and through – I have a rough idea of where things are heading and when in the story, but let it evolve a bit more naturally than sticking to a word count for an intended end number of words!
Would you survive in your own fantasy world?
Absolutely – but not if I was still a human. I’d quite like to be a witch though.
What themes do you explore in your work?
Belief, right to rule, female empowerment (in a time when women were definitely second class citizens)
What do you consider to be your biggest influences as a writer?
I read widely, especially historical/historical fantasy, but I also LOVE thrillers. I’d like to think some of my influences are those who write in these genres, but I also highly rate authors / specialists who talk about story structure like John Truby and Lisa Cron.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
Blacksmithing and medieval spycraft!
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
I’d love it if they could see the parallels I infer with modern life from the history I cover, but perhaps that’s a wish too far. Mostly, I just want to tell a good story to escape into!
Would you rather have a pet dragon or a unicorn, why?
Dragon – I grew up with probably every Anne McCaffrey book she ever wrote so it had to be really!
If you could have any magical ability, what would it be?
I’m easy to please – I just want to be able to fly. Telekinesis would be cool though, or am I just too lazy to reach for my brew when I’m reading?
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Spenser – my Fae Ambassador to Europe. He’s a bit of a fop, a dandy, highly entertaining and well travelled, but would have so many tales to tell I’d never get bored. Plus he’s kinda hunky for a fae.
What would you name your pet dragon?
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
Sign up to my newsletter and receive a free novel – the prequel set in Viking era, Risking Destiny. You can sign up on my website and find out more about the Naturae series there as well.
By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off, into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cosy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England