Explore fantasy literature’s unsung heroes—the steadfast sidekicks. From hobbits to wolves, they shape narratives with loyalty, humour, and courage.
Sidekicks & Sundry: Memorable Aides-de-Camp in Fantasy Literature
Fantasy literature, with its entrancing realms and bewitching narratives, has forever been the refuge for those who crave a bit of magical escapism.
But let’s take a moment to tip our proverbial hats to the unsung heroes of these tales—the trusty sidekicks.
They may not always bask in the limelight, but we’d be hard-pressed to imagine our heroes traversing treacherous terrains or vanquishing dastardly villains without them.
Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)
We’d be as forgetful as a goldfish to not mention our dear old Sam. This hobbit doesn’t just carry Frodo’s luggage, but on occasion, Frodo himself.
Who needs a GPS when you’ve got Samwise?
Armed with his unyielding loyalty, pot of potatoes (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew), and the odd heroic monologue, Samwise truly encapsulates the spirit of a fantasy sidekick.
Nighteyes (Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb)
Who wouldn’t want a wolf as a sidekick? Nighteyes, with his ancient wisdom and candid observations, steals the show in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy.
While Fitz might be the royal bastard with assassin skills, it’s Nighteyes who provides the emotional support, humour, and even philosophy.
Fancy a good telepathic chat? Look no further.
Jean Tannen (Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch)
Every con artist needs a reliable partner, and Jean Tannen fits the bill perfectly for Locke Lamora.
Jean isn’t just your token big guy with an axe but a scholar, strategist, and a dab hand at intricate swearing.
He’s the meticulous planner to Locke’s hasty schemes.
His loyalty is as unwavering as his love for fine brandy.
Without Jean, Locke would be as lost as a pirate in a desert.
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore)
Introduced as a minor character in ‘Graceling,’ Bitterblue blooms into a steadfast sidekick in ‘Fire’ before seizing the main stage in her titular book.
She might be a queen, but her relentless quest for truth and justice, combined with her pragmatic approach, make her a superb sidekick.
Also, she manages to retain her royal dignity while dealing with mystical nonsense, which is quite a feat, isn’t it?
Tia (Aru Shah Series by Roshani Chokshi)
Tia, the pigeon who’s really a vahana (vehicle of a deity), adds a dash of plucky charm and sass to the Aru Shah Series.
Sure, Aru Shah’s reincarnation as a Pandava is pretty cool, but who can overlook a pigeon who can transmogrify into a flashy car and dispense sage advice, all while looking impeccably stylish?
Asha (The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon)
An epic fantasy by Samantha Shannon, ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ introduces us to Asha, a dragon slayer of repute and a steadfast ally.
Asha provides an invigorating contrast to the courtly intrigues with her bluntness, courage, and a healthy dose of dragon-related badassery.
Wayne (Mistborn Series: Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson)
Wayne, an expert shapeshifter and quick-witted con artist, adds a dash of levity to the intense world of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.
Armed with an impressive array of accents, a love for hats, and a bizarre sense of humour, Wayne serves as the perfect foil to the more serious Waxillium.
They’re the dynamic duo of the rough-and-tumble world of the Roughs.
Loial (The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan)
Loial, the Ogier scholar from Robert Jordan’s sprawling ‘Wheel of Time’ series, is as endearing as sidekicks come.
This giant, book-loving, somewhat naïve character offers a softer and often humorous contrast to the tumultuous world around him.
Despite his peaceful nature, Loial is stalwart in his loyalty, proving time and again that there’s more to this gentle giant than meets the eye.
Gurton (The Axe and the Throne by M. D. Ireman)
‘Gruff yet tender-hearted’ could be the motto of Gurton, the loyal sidekick from M. D. Ireman’s ‘The Axe and the Throne.’
With his masterful skills in tracking and survival, Gurton is more than just a supporting player.
His unyielding loyalty and unexpected depths keep the readers engaged and rooting for him.
Sophronia (The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin)
Sophronia, a godling in a child’s form in N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Inheritance Trilogy’ provides comic relief, poignant moments, and powerful insight.
While she might appear as a playful child, her wisdom and ability to see through deception add layers to her character, making her an unforgettable sidekick.
Syl (The Legacy Chronicle by T.J. Garrett)
The Legacy Chronicle gives us Syl, an impish sprite who accompanies the main character, Alex.
Witty, fun-loving, and full of surprises, Syl is the perfect counterpoint to the series’ darker elements.
We’ve heard of a light at the end of the tunnel, but a light leading you through a magical world? Now that’s special!
Finn (The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung)
In Michael McClung’s Amra Thetys series, Finn is the steadfast companion of the titular thief, Amra.
A wizard with a mysterious past, Finn brings a balanced mix of wisdom and levity to the adventure-filled narrative.
His faithfulness to Amra, despite her criminal lifestyle, adds a touching depth to his character.
Minalan’s Familiars (Spellmonger Series by Terry Mancour)
The Spellmonger series introduces us to an unconventional sort of sidekick—a group of magical familiars who assist Minalan the Spellmonger.
These familiars, including a feisty fay, a resourceful raven, and a motherly hawk, each contribute their unique magic and perspective, making Minalan’s adventures a magical delight.
Kestrel (Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood)
Kestrel, a cheeky yet highly skilled thief from the Steps of Power series, serves as an engaging counterpoint to the seriousness of the royal intrigue surrounding him.
His unorthodox methods and quick wit bring a refreshing touch of humour to the narrative, making him a memorable sidekick in this epic tale.
Snickers (Legends of Dimmingwood series by C. Greenwood)
In C. Greenwood’s ‘Legends of Dimmingwood’ series, Snickers might be a squirrel, but he’s a loyal friend and companion to the series’ protagonist, Ilan.
Don’t underestimate this furry little chap—his keen senses and quick reactions often help Ilan out of sticky situations.
Just goes to show, you don’t need to be big to make a big impact.
Bayaz (The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie)
Bayaz, the First of the Magi in Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The First Law’ Trilogy, may seem like a typical wise old wizard at first glance.
However, his mysterious past, hidden motives, and a decidedly manipulative streak add layers of complexity to his character.
He serves as a guiding light and occasional puppet master to the trilogy’s protagonists, ensuring that the narrative is anything but dull.
Falcio’s Greatcoats (The Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell)
Falcio’s companions, Kest and Brasti, in Sebastien de Castell’s ‘The Greatcoats’ series, form a trio that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
They provide much-needed camaraderie, banter, and support for their leader, Falcio, making their adventures a delightful ride.
Their unwavering loyalty to each other and their shared cause makes them more than sidekicks—they are brothers in arms.
Kip’s Squad (Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks)
In Brent Weeks’ ‘Lightbringer’ series, Kip’s squad of talented misfits serves as an engaging ensemble of sidekicks.
From the wise-cracking Gunner to the brave and resolute Teia, each member brings unique strengths to the table.
The dynamics within this diverse group are humorous, heartwarming, and at times, heart-wrenching, making them an unforgettable part of Kip’s journey.
Bronn (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin)
Let’s turn to George R. R. Martin’s sprawling saga, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’
Bronn, the sellsword who becomes an unlikely sidekick to Tyrion Lannister, is a fan favourite.
His pragmatism, dry humour, and surprising loyalty to Tyrion provide a refreshing contrast to the intrigue-laden world of Westeros.
And who can forget his notable mantra, “I’ll stand for the dwarf?”
Iorek Byrnison (His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman)
In Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, Lyra’s journey wouldn’t be quite the same without the mighty Iorek Byrnison.
The Panserbjørne (armoured bear) adds muscle and an unusual wisdom to Lyra’s quest.
Also, he’s a giant talking bear who can make and mend armour, so he’s ticking quite a few boxes on the cool sidekick checklist.
Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman)
The Dragonlance series introduces us to Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a kender (a race akin to hobbits) whose curiosity and kleptomania often lead to humorous and unexpected situations.
Tasslehoff’s sense of adventure and knack for getting out of sticky situations make him a sidekick to remember.
He’s the kind of fellow who’d ‘borrow’ your keys, wallet, and possibly your socks, but you’d still want him around for his unwavering optimism and courage.
Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)
In Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, the fire demon Calcifer plays a key role as a sidekick.
Calcifer powers the titular castle and aids the young protagonist, Sophie, in her quest to break her curse.
With his sarcastic humour and hints of a deeper, more complex past, Calcifer lights up the narrative—and not just because he’s a literal flame.
Jimmy the Hand (The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist)
From Raymond E. Feist’s ‘Riftwar Saga’, we have the charming and resourceful Jimmy the Hand.
This master thief may start as a minor character, but his courage, quick-thinking, and knack for getting in and out of trouble make him an unforgettable sidekick.
Whether he’s navigating the dangerous alleys of Krondor or the intrigues of court, Jimmy proves time and again that a clever mind can be as potent as any sword.
The Luggage (Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett)
Finally, where would a list of sidekicks be without The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Discworld series?
This sentient, multi-legged travel case made of Sapient Pearwood has been a loyal and, shall we say, ‘forceful’ companion to Rincewind the inept wizard.
Unflinchingly loyal, literally eating up foes, and offering an infinite amount of storage, The Luggage redefines the term ‘travel buddy.’
Each of these sidekicks, in their unique ways, enhances the epic narratives they are part of, providing support, camaraderie, humour, and occasionally, a reality check for our heroes. They may not be the ones wearing the crown or sitting on the throne, but their role in shaping the story is just as important, if not more so.
Who are your favourites? Share yours in the comments.
Explore the allure of rogues in fantasy literature, uncover their charm, and discover some of the genre’s most memorable scoundrel characters.
Fantasy is filled with brave heroes, wicked villains, and wise old mentors.
But some of the most memorable characters are the rogues—those lovable scoundrels and rapscallions who charm their way into readers’ hearts.
Who doesn’t love a witty, wildcard rule-breaker?
Let’s take a look at what makes fantasy rogues so dashingly appealing.
What is a Rogue?
While definitions vary, a fantasy rogue is generally a character who lives by their wits, thumbing their nose at laws and social conventions.
They usually have criminal tendencies, whether picking pockets, running scams, or just generally causing a ruckus.
Think Han Solo rather than lawful good paladins.
Rogues are notoriously unpredictable.
You never know if they’ll swoop in to save the day or make off with the loot.
Their moral compasses are often more flexible than your average hero’s.
But their quips are sharper than the daggers they have hidden up their sleeves.
Why Readers Love Rogues
They’re exciting – Rogues thrive on breaking rules and causing mischief, whether through thievery, assassinations, scams, or just general troublemaking. Their antics and scheming often directly drive the plot forward in unpredictable and kinetic ways. Rogues keep readers on their toes, never knowing what kind of havoc they will wreak next.
They’re funny – Sharp wits and razor-edged sarcasm are signature traits for many rogues. They constantly trade barbs with friends and foes alike, bringing much-needed levity and humor to balance out the seriousness of traditional stoic fantasy heroes. Their cheeky quips and dirty jokes act like spice, seasoning an adventure tale with delightful irreverence.
They’re capable – Rogues rely on their resourcefulness and varied skillsets rather than brute magical or physical strength to survive and succeed. Often starting from underdog positions, a rogue’s cleverness, adaptability, and expertise in areas like thievery, assassination, con artistry, and more allows them to punch far above their weight class. It’s immensely satisfying seeing a rogue turn the tables through creativity rather than combat prowess.
They’re relatable – Rogues in fantasy often operate outside of mainstream society, fighting against corrupt systems and unjust rulers. Their moral flexibility and willingness to question authority makes them more accessible and understandable protagonists than the archetypal lawful good knight errant. Readers recognize the rogue’s roguishness as a product of circumstancxes, rooting for the scrappy antihero.
They’re charming – For all their shady morals, rogues often have an underlying heart of gold that emerges through charming personality quirks and relationships that humanize them. Their care for fellow misfits and outcasts can tug at reader heartstrings. And who can resist falling for a scoundrel with a soft spot? The appeal of redeeming a charming rapscallion makes rogues hard to resist.
Fantasy’s Finest Rogues
From thieves to assassins, pirates to con artists, here are some of fantasy’s most iconic roguish characters:
Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard Sequence) – This saboteur leads a band of thief protagonists in Lynch’s Ocean’s Eleven-esque fantasy heist series.
Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass) – Assassin turned royal champion Celaena is fiercely independent and not afraid to break rules. A YA fantasy favourite.
Royce and Hadrian (Riyria Revelations) – This thief/fighter duo banters their way through Sullivan’s adventures, stealing from the rich and meddling in conspiracies.
Tyrion Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire) – The wisecracking “Imp” is one of few characters whose wit can match his intellect in Martin’s gritty fantasy saga.
Kvothe (The Kingkiller Chronicles) – With his magical talents, intellect, and roguish disregard for authority, Kvothe charms his way through Rothfuss’ epic trilogy.
Jalan Kendeth (Red Queen’s War) – Mark Lawrence portrays an enjoyably amoral antihero forced to be brave despite his cowardly instincts.
Vlad Taltos (Dragaera) – Assassin, mob boss, and sorcerer Vlad lives by his wits in Brust’s long-running series of swashbuckling fantasy adventures.
FitzChivalry Farseer (The Realm of the Elderlings) – Hobb’s royal bastard turned assassin has flexible morals yet an underlying heart of gold.
Gen (The Queens of Renthia) – No rogues gallery would be complete without a smart-mouthed thief. Gen steals scenes (among other things) in Dennard’s nature-based fantasy series.
Binti (Binti) – Math genius and intergalactic adventurer Binti hacks, tinkers, and tricks her way through Okorafor’s afrofuturist sci-fi/fantasy series.
Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows) – Leader of a gang of outcasts, Kaz is cunningly ruthless in Bardugo’s YA heist fantasy inspired by the Dutch Golden Age.
Wydrin (The Copper Promise) – Heavily tattooed sell-sword Wydrin is tough, hilarious, and more than a bit amoral in Jen Williams’ dark yet cheeky epic fantasy trilogy.
Locke (Sorcerer to the Crown) – Sharp-witted, magic-wielding Locke disregards rules of race and gender amid 19th century magical politics in Cho’s witty fantasy of manners.
Eloise (His Secret Illuminations) – Scribe, forger, seducer, spy – Eloise plays many roles in Winters’ Renaissance-inspired fantasy full of political intrigue.
Levisor (We Ride the Storm) – De Castell’s former revolutionary wields wit and wiles as weapons against oppressive regimes in this original secondary world fantasy.
So whether they’re carrying out elaborate heists, trading insults with enemies, or just being lovable jerks, roguish characters bring dashing flair and relatable humanity to fantasy tales.
We can’t get enough of these witty rabble-rousers – here’s hoping for many more in the years to come.
Any favourite fantasy rogues or recommendations for great roguish reads?
With his rippling muscles, disdain for witchcraft, and tendency to solve problems with a broadsword, Conan embodied the genre’s defining characteristics. He was no knight in shining armour, more like a brigand in a blood-stained loincloth.
And readers loved him for it.
The pulp era was a veritable breeding ground for such characters. Amidst the lurid covers of magazines like ‘Weird Tales,’ they battled monsters, rescued (and occasionally abducted) maidens, and got up to all sorts of sword-swinging, sorcery-slaying shenanigans.
From Pulp to Paperback
The pulps may have birthed the genre, but it was the paperback revolution of the 1960s and 70s that really spread the seeds of sword and sorcery across the globe.
This was the era of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, a somewhat anaemic-looking bloke with a cursed sword that devoured souls.
Elric was the polar opposite of Conan—frail, introspective, and reliant on sorcery (and his soul-sucking sword) to survive.
He was a new type of hero for a new age, typifying the shift towards more morally complex characters.
Then, of course, there was Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.
These two roguish heroes, one a burly barbarian and the other a nimble thief, navigated a grimy, dangerous world full of dark magic and dangerous women.
It was a world where the monsters were often human, and the heroes were just trying to make a dishonest living.
The Modern Age of Grizzled Heroes
Fast forward to the present day, and sword and sorcery is still going strong, although perhaps it’s had a few pints, put on a bit of weight, and developed a slightly cynical outlook on life.
Modern authors have taken the genre’s foundations and built upon them, creating worlds that are darker, grittier, and dripping with even more gore.
Take Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The First Law’ series, a work of grimdark fiction as cheerful as a funeral in a rainstorm.
Its characters are deeply flawed, its world is cruel, and its magic is as likely to kill you as save you.
It’s sword and sorcery that’s been dragged through a hedge backwards, and it’s bloody brilliant.
Or consider Scott Lynch’s ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora.’
It’s a tale of thieves and con artists plying their trade in a city that makes the dens of the pulps look like a holiday resort.
It’s a world where the swords are sharp, the wit is sharper, and the sorcery…well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of it.
Looking to the Future
Sword and sorcery has come a long way since the days of pulp magazines, but its heart remains the same.
It’s a genre that relishes in the raw, the rough, and the real.
It’s about heroes who aren’t always heroic, magic that’s as dangerous as it is powerful, and worlds where life is cheap and survival is an art.
It’s a dark, dangerous dance—a bloody ballet of blades and black magic.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
33 Recommended Sword and Sorcery Novels
If you’re looking for fantasy tales full of daring heroes, arcane magic, and thrilling adventures, sword and sorcery stories never fail to deliver action-packed escapism.
Here are 33 page-turning sword and sorcery novels everyone new to the genre should read:
Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
The iconic series that defined sword and sorcery featuring everyone’s favorite loincloth-wearing Cimmerian warrior.
Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore
Groundbreaking tales of the first female sword and sorcery heroine Jirel and her battles in a demon-haunted medieval France.
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
Sword and sorcery inspired by Aztec mythology with an engrossing mystery.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Excellent sword and sorcery in a Middle Eastern inspired setting featuring a ghul hunter protecting the people.
The Amethyst Sword by Fleur Adcock
A lyrical and imaginative tale of warriors, wizardry and Celtic mythology.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
An original post-apocalyptic African sword and sorcery adventure.
The Copper Promise by Jen Williams
An action-packed epic following mercenaries, dragons, and ancient powers.
The Barbed Coil by J. V. Jones
A gritty tale of battle mages and political intrigue.
The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick
A subversive, contemporary take on sword and sorcery tropes.
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
Soaring dragon rider adventure perfect for fantasy fans.
The Fox Woman by A. Merritt
Classic Asian folklore inspired sword and sorcery.
Explore the legendary Hero’s Journey as we delve into its usage in epic fantasy. From Frodo Baggins to Harry Potter, learn how this timeless narrative structure shapes our favourite tales.
Today we’re going to explore the legendary Hero’s Journey in the world of epic fantasy.
The Hero’s Journey, or as some like to say, the Monomyth, is a storytelling template made famous by Joseph Campbell, an American scholar (here’s not the place to delve into the other story forms that exist).
It has been used by story-tellers for millennia, both consciously and unconsciously, as a way to craft a satisfying narrative.
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry—you’ll recognise its structure no doubt from some of your favourite books or movies.
So, grab yourself a cuppa, and let’s delve into the Hero’s Journey.
The Unexpected Invitation
The Hero’s Journey kicks off with our main character living a humdrum life. For instance, Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. One day he’s munching on second breakfast, the next, he’s burdened with the most feared piece of bling in all Middle-Earth.
Declining the Invite
Initially, our hero doesn’t find the idea of a dangerous journey as tempting as a troll’s tea party. Harry Potter, from J.K. Rowling’s famous series, spends quite some time denying his wizardry status. But a Hogwarts invite isn’t a letter you just ignore.
A Magical Helping Hand
Right when our hero’s in a dilemma, a mysterious mentor often pops up. Cue Gandalf, Merlin, and Albus Dumbledore, the all-knowing dudes with beards with a taste for obscure advice and quirky attire. They offer guidance, magical gifts, or at least some mystifying wisdom that makes sense only three books down the line.
Leaping into the Unknown
This is where our hero steps into a brave new world, owning their fate, probably with some dramatic theme music. Daenerys Targaryen from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, strides into a blaze, coming out with three newly born dragons.And with that, her path is changed forever.
Adventures, Allies, and Adversaries
Next, our hero has to get through a maze of trials, win over unlikely allies, and dodge possible foes. They might even have to rough it in a spooky forest or two. In Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, our hero Kvothe juggles all this and a magical university.
The Epic Showdown and the Spoils
In the tale’s peak, our hero faces their worst fear. They may even “die” metaphorically (or sometimes, literally) only to be reborn. Like Vin, in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, who *spoiler alert* topples the indestructible Lord Ruler. The prize? Usually a ton of power and a dollop of self-realization.
The Homeward Journey
At last, our hero comes back to their old life, bearing the gains of their journey. They’ve evolved, mastered a legendary weapon, realised they’re royalty in disguise, or perhaps, discovered the joy of home sweet home.
The Hero’s Journey has its fair share of fans for a reason.
It appeals to our innate desire to conquer, to explore, to evolve. Yes, it’s a popular route, but isn’t that part of its appeal? Each turn has its surprises.
And, of course, when author subvert this trope, it can surprise and delight…and sometimes leave us scratching our heads.
So, next time you delve into a fantasy epic, think of our brave hero. They’re doing all the heavy lifting.
Explore the evolution of epic fantasy from Tolkien’s foundational works to today’s expansive sagas, tracing key authors, series, tropes, and innovations that have shaped the growth of the beloved fantasy genre.
Today, we’ll embark on a journey through the annals of epic fantasy, traversing the vast landscapes of imagination. From the legendary works of J.R.R. Tolkien to the sweeping sagas of Brandon Sanderson, we shall explore the evolution of this beloved genre. So, grab your walking stick, saddle your trusty steed, and let us begin the adventure.
Standing on Tolkien’s shoulders
In the beginning, there was Tolkien. And Tolkien said, “Let there be Middle-earth!” And lo, Middle-earth was born, replete with hobbits, elves, dwarves, and a fearsome Dark Lord. Tolkien’s monumental work, The Lord of the Rings, set the stage for all the epic fantasy that would follow. It was a tale of heroic deeds, grand quests, and a world so rich in detail, you’d think he’d been there himself. But Tolkien’s mastery of world-building and language was not without its consequences. For many years, the epic fantasy genre languished in his mighty shadow, with countless would-be wordsmiths attempting to recreate the magic of Middle-earth. Some reached for the stars, while others, fell rather short of the mark. But a new generation of authors emerged, each bringing their own unique flavour to the table.
The Wardrobe Opens with C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia
In the wake of Middle-earth’s creation by J.R.R. Tolkien, another towering figure in fantasy literature offered readers an invitation to a different kind of epic journey. C.S. Lewis, a close friend and contemporary of Tolkien, crafted a world of magic and adventure accessible through an ordinary wardrobe in his iconic series, The Chronicles of Narnia. While Tolkien endeavoured to craft an detailed, adult-oriented mythology, Lewis’ Narnia aimed to capture the imaginations of children. The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” introduced readers to a realm where animals talk, witches reign, and battles between good and evil are fought. One of the distinguishing elements of Lewis’ series is the blend of Christian allegory with elements of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies, as well as traditional British and Irish fairy tales. Aslan, the lion, is a figure of nobility and sacrifice, whose story arc draws heavily on Christian narratives, while other characters and plot elements borrow from a wide array of mythologies. This synthesis creates a world that is both familiar and fantastical, allowing for complex moral and philosophical explorations within an accessible, adventure-filled narrative. The Chronicles of Narnia demonstrated that epic fantasy could be made accessible and enjoyable to younger readers while still engaging with complex themes and moral questions.
Envisioning the Far Future with Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth
Stretching the temporal dimensions of epic fantasy to their limits, Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth presents a richly detailed world set so far in the future that it teeters on the brink of entropy.
First published in 1950, this collection of loosely connected stories takes place in a time when the sun is nearing the end of its lifespan, casting a perpetual twilight upon an Earth populated by strange creatures and remnants of advanced, forgotten civilisations.
The Dying Earth features vivid world-building, characterised by a mix of fantasy and science fiction elements.
Vance’s far-future Earth is both a playground of advanced technology and a cradle of arcane magics, blurring the line between the two.
His prose is marked by a distinctive, ornate style that lends a sense of antiquity and melancholic beauty to the tales.
Inventive and filled with eccentric characters, Vance’s series was among the first to combine elements of science fiction and fantasy in a single narrative.
Its dystopian portrayal of a dying world and advanced society in decline introduced darker, more complex themes to the genre.
The series also stands out for its influence on magic systems in fantasy literature, with its concept of ‘memorised spells’ having been adapted by several subsequent works and role-playing games.
Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth represents an important milestone in the evolution of epic fantasy.
By envisioning a world so far removed from our present or historical past, Vance expanded the genre’s temporal boundaries and demonstrated the potential of blending speculative genres to create rich, unique worlds.
His influence can be felt in countless later works that blend magic and science, and in those that take place in far-flung futures.
Discovering The Wizard of Earthsea
Published in the late 1960s, Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle was groundbreaking, blending elements of high fantasy, coming-of-age narrative, and philosophical exploration. Set in the archipelago of Earthsea, the story follows Ged, a young boy with innate magical talent. Le Guin’s Earthsea diverges from many fantasy realms by not focusing on grand battles and quests, but rather the inward journey of its protagonist. Ged’s struggles with his own pride and fear provide a powerful exploration of self-discovery and personal growth. Le Guin’s approach to magic is also worth noting. In Earthsea, magic is based on the idea of balance and understanding the true nature of things, primarily through their ‘true names’. This concept added a layer of depth and spirituality to the genre, reinforcing the idea that power comes with responsibility and often, personal cost. The Wizard of Earthsea’s focus on personal growth and introspection, along with its nuanced treatment of magic, were key milestones in the evolution of epic fantasy. Le Guin’s contribution showed that the genre was capable of tackling deep philosophical ideas and themes of personal identity, sowing seeds that would come to fruition in the works of future generations of fantasy authors.
Navigating Frank Herbert’s Dune
Frank Herbert’s Dune, while often categorised as science fiction, has had a profound influence on the epic fantasy genre. Its detailed world-building, complex political machinations, and exploration of ecology and religion have resonated deeply within the realms of fantasy literature. Dune unfolds on the desert planet Arrakis, the sole source of the universe’s most precious substance, the spice melange. The tale follows young Paul Atreides, who navigates a deadly web of political intrigue and warfare as he comes to terms with his destiny. Dune’s depth of world-building is striking. Herbert creates a universe rich in politics, religion, and ecology, detailing the interactions between various factions vying for control over the spice. This vastness and depth of world-building has become a hallmark of many epic fantasy narratives. Furthermore, the narrative delves into philosophy and the human condition, exploring themes of power, religion, and ecological stewardship. This blending of speculative fiction with complex thematic exploration is a facet that Dune shares with epic fantasy. Dune’s enduring legacy lies in its intricate narrative structure and the depths of its thematic exploration, which have become staples in the epic fantasy genre. It is a benchmark in speculative fiction, illustrating the genre’s potential for depth and complexity. Dune’s influence in the realm of epic fantasy is undeniable, with its contributions helping to shape the genre into its current form.
Soaring with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, is a groundbreaking work that blurs the lines between science fiction and fantasy, making a lasting impact on the landscape of epic fantasy. Dragonflight introduces readers to the world of Pern, a colonised planet where the inhabitants have bio-engineered dragons to combat an alien spore, called Thread, that periodically rains down from the sky. McCaffrey’s world is one where traditional fantasy elements, such as dragons and telepathy, meld with science fiction concepts, including space travel and genetic manipulation. The narrative centres around Lessa, a young woman who forms a psychic bond with the dragon queen Ramoth, becoming a key player in Pern’s survival against the Thread. McCaffrey’s use of a strong, complex female protagonist, a rarity in the genre at the time of the book’s publication, has had a lasting impact on epic fantasy, paving the way for increased gender diversity in the genre. Dragonflight’s blend of science fiction and fantasy elements marked a departure from traditional epic fantasy tropes, expanding the genre’s boundaries. McCaffrey’s distinctive fusion of genres, combined with her focus on character-driven narrative, opened new avenues for thematic and narrative exploration within epic fantasy.
Unsheathing The Sword of Shannara
Making its debut in the mid-1970s, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks played a pivotal role in the evolution of epic fantasy. It stands as one of the first successful high fantasy novels published after the monumental works of Tolkien, proving to the publishing world that readers were eager for more epic fantasy tales. Set in the Four Lands, a post-apocalyptic world brimming with magic, Brooks’ saga follows the half-elf Shea Ohmsford in his quest to wield the powerful Sword of Shannara against the malevolent Warlock Lord. The world of Shannara showcases a richly diverse cast of races including dwarves, gnomes, and trolls, as well as a unique magical system. While Brooks’ saga has drawn criticism for its perceived similarities to Tolkien’s work, it nevertheless helped to lay the foundation for modern epic fantasy. His storytelling, filled with grand quests, magical artifacts, and diverse characters, helped establish key tropes of the genre. The Sword of Shannara’s widespread popularity played a significant role in demonstrating the commercial viability of epic fantasy. This not only helped spawn a decades-long series of Shannara books but also paved the way for other epic fantasy authors.
Shattering Realities with Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber
In the 1970s, epic fantasy was given another twist, courtesy of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Zelazny’s work blurred the boundaries between fantasy and science fiction, weaving a tale of intra-dimensional politics and metaphysical exploration that was as philosophical as it was thrilling. The Chronicles of Amber centre on Corwin, a member of the royal family of Amber, the one true world of which all others, including our Earth, are but mere shadows. The concept of infinite parallel worlds, each a variation of Amber, offered an innovative take on world-building. Rather than crafting a single, detailed setting, Zelazny created a multiverse teeming with possibilities. Zelazny’s Amber series features a sophisticated narrative, characterised by non-linear storytelling, unreliable narrators, and an elegant, allusive prose style that draws heavily from mythology and poetry. His work, while replete with action and intrigue, also delves into philosophical and metaphysical themes, pushing the boundaries of what was traditionally expected from fantasy literature. The Chronicles of Amber’s integration of fantasy, science fiction, and philosophical musings represented a significant shift in the genre, opening the door for later works that would further blur genre boundaries and deepen the thematic complexity of fantasy literature.
Embracing Complexity with Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Series
In a daring departure from traditional heroics of epic fantasy, Stephen Donaldson introduced a profoundly flawed protagonist in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series. Launched in 1977 with “Lord Foul’s Bane,” the series was revolutionary, as it grappled with complex psychological and ethical dilemmas through its eponymous character, Thomas Covenant. Covenant is an antihero who is thrust into a magical realm known as The Land while suffering from a severe crisis of disbelief, exacerbated by his real-world diagnosis of leprosy. The series is marked by Covenant’s struggle to accept the reality of The Land, whilst grappling with his sense of morality and the burden of power. Donaldson’s works are recognised for their exploration of the human condition, introspection, and the moral implications of power. They are characterised by their dense, literary style and philosophical underpinnings, offering a stark contrast to the straightforward heroism often found in the genre. The series demonstrated that epic fantasy could delve deep into complex emotional and psychological landscapes. By focusing on an antihero, Donaldson underscored that fantasy characters could be deeply flawed and conflicted, opening the door for more nuanced character development in the genre. The series challenged the notion of escapism often associated with fantasy literature, instead confronting readers with harsh realities and moral complexities. This move toward greater complexity and realism has significantly influenced subsequent authors, making the series a landmark in the evolution of epic fantasy.
Exploring Interdimensional Conflict
Adding a new dimension to epic fantasy, literally and figuratively, Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga begins with “Magician,” a novel that ushered readers into the twin worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan. The saga, beginning in the early 1980s, brought a fresh take to the genre, blending traditional fantasy elements with ideas borrowed from science fiction, such as interdimensional travel and alien cultures. Feist’s narrative focuses on an epic conflict, known as the Riftwar, between the inhabitants of Midkemia and Kelewan, brought on by a rift in space-time. Over the course of the saga, readers are treated to intricate plotlines and a vast cast of characters, encompassing everything from humble apprentices to powerful sorcerers, from human thieves to alien invaders. Feist’s work stands out for its fusion of epic and personal narratives. While the Riftwar provides a backdrop of grandeur and spectacle, the saga’s heart lies in its focus on characters’ growth and relationships, lending a personal dimension to the interdimensional conflict. Feist’s Riftwar Saga offered a unique blend of elements, taking the best of epic fantasy—grand scale, intricate world-building, a large cast of characters—and blending it with the alien worlds and interdimensional concepts more common in science fiction. This cross-genre pollination, combined with the series’ emphasis on character development, played a substantial role in shaping the direction of modern epic fantasy.
Dungeons & Dragons
While our journey has primarily focused on literary works, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the influence of the iconic tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), on the evolution of epic fantasy. Devised by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, D&D broke new ground in the world of gaming and storytelling, inviting players to step into the shoes of adventurers in a multitude of fantastical settings. It established a framework of rules, races, classes, and magic systems that has since become synonymous with fantasy role-playing games. The game encourages collaborative storytelling, as players navigate through adventures, or ‘campaigns,’ guided by a Dungeon Master. This approach blends elements of improvisational theatre, narrative storytelling, and strategic gameplay into a singular experience. In this way, D&D mirrors the richness of epic fantasy literature, offering characters, plots, and worlds that can be as complex and captivating as any novel. D&D has not only inspired numerous fantasy authors but has also led to its own successful line of novels, such as the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms series (more on those in a moment). The game’s influence extends beyond the realm of literature and gaming, impacting broader pop culture and reinforcing the enduring appeal of the fantasy genre. Dungeons & Dragons’ influence on the evolution of epic fantasy cannot be overstated. It has influenced countless authors, and spawned its own rich literary tradition, solidifying its place in the annals of epic fantasy.
Rolling the Dice with Dragonlance
The Dragonlance series, initiated by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, holds a unique place in the evolution of epic fantasy. Born out of Dungeons & Dragons game sessions, the series merged the realms of tabletop gaming and fantasy literature, introducing a new level of collaborative storytelling and character development to the genre. Set in the world of Krynn, the Dragonlance series brought the high-stakes adventure and camaraderie of role-playing games to the page. The initial Chronicles Trilogy starts with “Dragons of Autumn Twilight,” launching readers into a tale of friendship, treachery, and epic battles, populated with a diverse cast of characters, each with their own distinctive traits and arcs. Dragonlance’s world-building is characterised by a blend of classic fantasy elements with original creations, such as the different types of dragons, the orders of knighthood, and the various races inhabiting Krynn. The pantheon of gods and the magic system in Dragonlance are also tied closely to the Dungeons & Dragons mechanics, creating a familiar landscape for fans of the game while extending the narrative possibilities. The series’ emphasis on character relationships and development, its exploration of moral themes, and the infusion of humour and camaraderie set it apart. The characters of Dragonlance, from the heroic Tanis Half-Elven to the enigmatic Raistlin Majere, resonate with readers, often because of their flaws and inner conflicts rather than their heroic deeds. The Dragonlance series, with its roots in Dungeons & Dragons, not only transformed the epic fantasy landscape but also highlighted the potential for role-playing games to inspire engaging and complex narratives.
Into the Depths with Forgotten Realms
Another cornerstone in the realm of fantasy literature rooted in the fertile ground of Dungeons & Dragons is the Forgotten Realms series. This franchise, with dozens of authors contributing over the years, has expanded into a vast literary universe that showcases the storytelling possibilities of shared-world settings. The most iconic subset of the Forgotten Realms series is R.A. Salvatore’s books featuring the drow, or dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt, with his moral complexity, deep sense of honour, and struggle against his people’s cruel reputation, quickly captured readers’ imaginations, making him one of the most beloved characters in all of epic fantasy. Set within the sprawling world of Faerûn, the Forgotten Realms stories encompass a broad range of settings and characters. The vastness of this shared world allows authors to delve into a myriad of stories, from high-stakes epic quests to smaller, more personal narratives, all against a richly imagined backdrop. The Forgotten Realms series, particularly through iconic characters like Drizzt Do’Urden, underscores the genre’s ability to delve into the internal conflicts of individuals as much as external epic quests, offering a nuanced perspective on heroism and morality within the larger context of a shared universe.
Unraveling the Pawn of Prophecy
Continuing the trend of epic fantasy in the 1980s, David Eddings’ The Belgariad series, beginning with Pawn of Prophecy, brought a refreshing character-centric approach to the genre. Eddings constructed a richly detailed world filled with diverse cultures, a pantheon of gods, and prophecies that entwine fate and free will. The Pawn of Prophecy introduces us to Garion, an unassuming farm boy, who is catapulted into an epic quest to fulfill a grand prophecy. Eddings’ focus on character development and interactions, particularly in the banter among Garion’s traveling companions, set a new standard for character dynamics within the genre. Eddings’ approach to magic is also notable. In his world, sorcery is rooted in the Will and the Word, where a person’s will, when voiced, can influence the world. This concept adds an intellectual aspect to his magic system, tying it closely with the characters’ emotional states and mental discipline. The Belgariad series, with its blend of rich world-building, engaging characters, and thought-provoking prophecies, has made a lasting impact on epic fantasy, with several modern author citing at as the series that made them want to write their own epic fantasy. David Eddings demonstrated that at the heart of epic fantasy can be deeply human stories, where the characters and their relationships can be as compelling as the grandest of quests.
Unfolding Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun
Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, a four-volume science fantasy epic, marks a significant departure from conventional epic fantasy narratives. Its fusion of science fiction and fantasy, coupled with a complex, layered narrative, has profoundly influenced the genre. The series is set in a far future Earth, now referred to as Urth, a dying world governed by a decaying society that has forgotten its technologically advanced past. The narrative is presented as a memoir of Severian, a journeyman torturer who is exiled for the crime of showing mercy. Wolfe’s work challenges the conventions of the genre, not just through its setting and narrative structure, but also through its complex use of language and its exploration of philosophical and theological themes. The narrative is rife with allusions, allegory, and symbolism, which add multiple layers of meaning, making each rereading a new experience. The Book of the New Sun also stands out for its unreliable narrator, Severian, whose flawed recollections add another layer of complexity to the narrative. This technique has influenced many contemporary fantasy authors, showcasing the narrative potential that lies in the unreliable perspective. The Book of the New Sun is a landmark in the evolution of epic fantasy, broadening the genre’s thematic and narrative horizons.
Entering The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
When you think of Stephen King, the genre that first comes to mind is likely horror, not epic fantasy. Yet with The Dark Tower series, starting with The Gunslinger, King successfully merges these genres, producing a unique blend of epic fantasy, horror, western, and science fiction elements that defies easy categorization. The series follows the journey of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, in his relentless pursuit of the enigmatic Man in Black and the quest for the Dark Tower. The Dark Tower itself, the nexus of all universes, is a compelling symbol of the intersection between order, chaos, and the protagonist’s obsession. King’s complex narrative blends the mundane with the fantastical, intertwining parallel worlds, multiple timelines, and a medley of characters each uniquely flawed yet endearing. The inclusion of elements from his other novels lends an additional layer of complexity to the series, effectively turning it into a meta-textual journey through King’s literary universe. With The Gunslinger, King successfully integrated elements of American Westerns—the lone gunslinger, the arid desert, the pursuit of a formidable enemy—into the epic fantasy genre, presenting readers with a unique take on the hero’s journey. The Dark Tower series demonstrates the flexibility of epic fantasy, highlighting its potential to borrow from and blend with other genres, further expanding its imaginative boundaries.
The Colourful Chaos of Discworld
Meanwhile, Terry Pratchett was busy turning the epic fantasy genre on its head with his satirical and whimsical Discworld series. Set on a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants riding a gigantic turtle swimming through space, Discworld is a testament to the limitless bounds of the genre. Pratchett’s work played with tropes and clichés, using humour, satire, and wit to present deep philosophical and social commentaries. The diversity of his characters, from sentient luggage to witches and city watchmen, created a universe as colourful and chaotic as our own. By not taking itself too seriously, Discworld opened up a new path for the genre, one that allowed for laughter and profundity in equal measure. Pratchett’s contribution demonstrated that epic fantasy could be light-hearted yet thoughtful, pushing the boundaries of the genre in unexpected and delightful ways.
Returning to Roots with Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy
As epic fantasy continued to evolve, Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy returned to the genre’s roots while simultaneously pushing it towards new horizons. Launched with “The Dragonbone Chair,” the trilogy is lauded for its revival of traditional fantasy motifs, skillfully reimagined within a complex narrative and thematic framework. Set in the realm of Osten Ard, Williams’ series explores the fallout of a historic war between humans and the immortal Sithi. The trilogy centres around Simon, a young kitchen boy, who is catapulted into an epic quest replete with magic swords, ancient prophecies, and warring factions. While Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn employs traditional epic fantasy tropes, Williams breathes new life into these conventions. His characters are complex and well-drawn, with Simon’s journey from kitchen boy to hero unfolding in a realistic and compelling manner. Williams also delves into the complexities of power, history, and memory, infusing the series with a depth that transcends typical fantasy narratives. Perhaps the most lasting impact of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, however, has been its influence on subsequent fantasy authors. George R.R. Martin, in particular, has cited the trilogy as an inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series, praising Williams for showing that epic fantasy could offer both the wonder of the imaginary and the dissection of human nature.
Spinning Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is a cornerstone in the landscape of epic fantasy, known for its enormous scope and intricate detail. Comprising 14 books, it is a sprawling saga set in a world that might be a far-future Earth, reshaping the genre with its depth and complexity. The series explores the cyclical nature of time through its protagonist, Rand al’Thor, the reincarnation of a powerful figure destined to fight the Dark One. Jordan’s work stands out for its enormous cast of characters, each contributing to the elaborate tapestry of a world teetering on the brink of chaos. The magic system in the Wheel of Time, based on the male-female duality of the True Source, is a masterful blend of eastern philosophy and western mysticism. This gender-based magic system contributes to the series’ exploration of gender dynamics, lending an interesting dimension to the narrative. Jordan’s world-building is astonishingly detailed. His societies are steeply stratified and feature distinct cultures, languages, and histories, making the world feel incredibly real and lived-in. He also masterfully interweaves political maneuvering, large-scale battles, and deeply personal character arcs, creating a rich, textured narrative. It is a testament to the genre’s capacity for grandeur and depth.
Exploring Historical Reflections
Known for his meticulous and evocative historical fantasy, Guy Gavriel Kay took a poetic leap with “A Song for Arbonne”. Published in 1992, the novel is set in a world inspired by the rich culture and turbulent history of the medieval Occitan region, now modern-day southern France. “A Song for Arbonne” offers readers a world of courtly love, bitter rivalries, and intricate political machinations, a backdrop against which Kay explores themes of love, honour, and the brutal cost of war. His characters, from the honour-bound Blaise to the fiercely independent troubadour, Lisseut, are drawn with a level of depth and complexity that elevates them beyond mere reflections of their historical counterparts. Kay’s approach to historical fantasy is unique in the way he infuses his world-building with a strong sense of real-world history. While he reimagines historical events and cultures, he does so with such finesse and depth of understanding that the resulting world feels as vibrant and real as any true historical setting. “A Song for Arbonne” is a prime example of how historical fiction and epic fantasy can meld together, creating a subgenre that offers the best of both worlds. The novel stands as a testament to Kay’s skill as a storyteller, demonstrating the potential of epic fantasy to delve deep into human history and experience. This work has undeniably influenced future authors who weave historical tapestries into their fantastical worlds.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin has indisputably reshaped the landscape of epic fantasy. Set in the continents of Westeros and Essos, the series is best known for its intricate character webs, political intrigue, and a disregard for protecting its key characters. The narrative, told from multiple points of view, explores the power struggles among noble houses vying for the Iron Throne. This multi-perspective storytelling gives readers a comprehensive look into the complex, often morally ambiguous world Martin has created. His characters, whether heroes or villains, are deeply flawed and multifaceted, challenging the traditional binaries of good and evil found in many epic fantasies. Martin’s world-building is meticulous. From the harsh winters of the North to the sprawling desert lands of Dorne, every setting is imbued with a distinctive culture, politics, and history. The series’ nuanced exploration of power, war, and societal structures sets it apart, making it a pioneer in ‘grimdark’ fantasy. However, Martin’s most significant contribution is arguably his willingness to subvert reader expectations by killing off key characters. This disregard for narrative safety adds a level of unpredictability, creating a palpable sense of danger and tension throughout the series.
Through the Eyes of the Farseer
Following this period of increasingly expansive and intricate world-building, a new chapter in the evolution of epic fantasy was heralded by the arrival of Robin Hobb and her Farseer Trilogy. Hobb took a different approach, bringing the reader down from the soaring heights of cosmic struggle and grandeur to focus on a single character’s perspective—FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard trained as an assassin. Hobb’s mastery of character development and emotional depth added a new dimension to the genre. Her world-building, while no less rich or detailed, was presented more subtly, woven into the very fabric of Fitz’s life and experiences. She also introduced a unique magic system, where abilities range from animal telepathy (the Wit) to empathetic manipulation (the Skill). She showed that epic fantasy need not be all about grand conflicts and large casts, but can also be deeply personal and emotional, delivering epic scope through the lens of a single character’s experience.
Unveiling the Malazan Enigma
In the evolution of epic fantasy, Steven Erikson’s formidable Malazan Book of the Fallen series stands out. Erikson plunged readers into the deep end of a labyrinthine world, mirroring the complexity of real-life archaeology and anthropology. Spanning continents, timeframes, and dimensions, Erikson’s ten-volume epic navigates through a vast sea of races, ancient history, a uniquely intricate magic system called ‘Warrens’, and an array of gods who meddle in mortal affairs. But the grandeur of the Malazan world does not overshadow its exploration of philosophical and human themes. Erikson digs deep into topics like compassion, mortality, and the cyclic nature of history, using the Malazan universe as his canvas. His approach to storytelling, a jigsaw of perspectives and non-linear narratives, offers a multifaceted exploration of these themes. The Malazan Book of the Fallen, with its dense complexity and intellectual depth, stretched the boundaries of epic fantasy. It proved that the genre can engage the intellect while providing entertainment, and redefined expectations for world-building and narrative depth.
Exploring Parallel Worlds in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with “Northern Lights,” introduced a level of philosophical and theological depth to epic fantasy that was groundbreaking at the time of its publication. Set across parallel universes, including one resembling our own, the series follows Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry as they navigate complex universes teeming with witches, armoured bears, and daemons—external representations of a person’s inner self. What sets His Dark Materials apart is its ambitious tackling of profound philosophical and theological questions. The series deftly explores themes of free will, the nature of consciousness, and the criticism of organised religion. This thematic richness, combined with Pullman’s brilliant storytelling, brings an intellectual heft to the genre. Pullman’s creation of daemons—external manifestations of a person’s soul in the form of animal companions—is a unique contribution to epic fantasy, providing a strikingly original mechanism to explore characters’ inner lives. Furthermore, the series’ protagonist, Lyra, is a complex and engaging female character whose narrative is not defined by a romantic storyline, a relative rarity in the genre. Pullman’s focus on a strong, independent young female lead has had a lasting impact on epic fantasy, paving the way for more such empowering characters.
Flying High with Eragon
Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, the inaugural novel in the Inheritance Cycle, brought a youthful perspective to the epic fantasy genre. Written when Paolini was just a teenager, the series resonated with a younger audience, carving out a place for adolescent voices in the realm of epic fantasy. Set in the world of Alagaësia, Eragon follows the journey of its titular character, a young farm boy, whose life takes an adventurous turn when he discovers a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. The story combines classic elements of epic fantasy, such as dragons, magic, and a grand quest, with a coming-of-age narrative that speaks directly to younger readers. The world-building in Eragon is expansive and immersive, featuring a host of races, languages, and cultures. Despite its traditional epic fantasy backdrop, the series manages to deliver a fresh take by focusing on the protagonist’s personal growth and the moral complexities he grapples with as he navigates his journey. Perhaps the most significant contribution of Eragon to the evolution of epic fantasy lies in its appeal to a younger audience. Paolini’s series helped to bridge the gap between children’s fantasy and adult epic fantasy, thereby expanding the readership of the genre.
Uncovering The Lies of Locke Lamora
, the first book in the Gentleman Bastard series, is a high-octane adventure that blends elements of epic fantasy with crime caper. This novel shines a light on the seedier side of fantasy, providing a refreshing contrast to stories of royal lineage and world-saving quests. The narrative introduces Locke Lamora, an orphan turned con artist leading a band of thieves known as the ‘Gentleman Bastards.’ In the city-state of Camorr, a place with Venetian-like canals and Elderglass towers, they execute elaborate scams targeting the city’s rich nobility. Lynch’s world-building is rich and immersive, portraying Camorr as a city teeming with political intrigue, gang warfare, and ancient secrets. The magic, while not as prevalent as in other fantasy novels, lurks in the background, adding an air of mystery and menace. What truly sets this novel apart is its focus on clever, high-stakes cons, and the deep camaraderie among the ‘Gentleman Bastards.’ Lynch presents an intriguing and gritty look at the lives of thieves, highlighting their ingenuity and resilience in a world filled with danger.
Unraveling Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles
Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, beginning with “The Name of the Wind,” signify a distinctive approach to epic fantasy, combining traditional tropes with a deep dive into the psyche of its protagonist, Kvothe. The series unravels as a first-person narrative, with an older Kvothe recounting his life story to the Chronicler over three days. This framework lends a uniquely introspective slant to the narrative, delving into the character’s motivations, feelings, and innermost thoughts in a manner seldom seen in epic fantasy. Rothfuss’s world-building is both comprehensive and captivating, encompassing a magic system rooted in scientific principles, an array of diverse cultures, and a richly detailed history. The inclusion of songs, poems, and stories within the larger narrative creates a deeply immersive world, harking back to the oral tradition of storytelling. However, the series distinguishes itself through its focus on the personal journey of Kvothe. While most epic fantasies revolve around large-scale events and their implications, the Kingkiller Chronicles zeroes in on Kvothe’s life, from his days as a troupe performer to his time at the University stud/headying magic. This character-driven narrative creates a powerful sense of intimacy, making Kvothe’s triumphs and tribulations profoundly relatable.
Stepping into The Way of Shadows
Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows, the first installment in the Night Angel trilogy, is an exhilarating foray into the dark underbelly of a world where assassins, or “wetboys,” wield magic. The novel features a high-stakes tale of survival and transformation, delving into themes of power, sacrifice, and the moral complexities of vengeance. The protagonist, Azoth, is a guild rat, struggling for survival in the slums, who apprentices himself to Durzo Blint, the realm’s most feared assassin. His transformation into Kylar Stern, a professional killer, challenges the narrative conventions of the hero’s journey, exploring the harsh realities and moral ambiguities that come with his profession. Weeks’ world-building is striking in its grit and complexity, with a magical system that is both mystical and cruel. The magic, termed Talent, is intertwined with the profession of wetboys, who employ it not just for killing, but also for stealth, healing, and even immortality. The Way of Shadows blends elements of epic fantasy with a dark, almost noir-like atmosphere, resulting in a distinctly grim and captivating narrative. Its focus on a morally gray protagonist, intricate magic system, and the exploration of sacrifice and survival broadens the horizons of epic fantasy. Weeks’ series signifies the genre’s capacity for darkness and introspection, and the continuing exploration of its ethical boundaries.
Reframing Morality with Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy
Entering the scene in the mid-2000s, Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy cast a gritty, grey-tinted lens on the epic fantasy genre. Known for its grim realism, moral ambiguity, and raw characterisation, Abercrombie’s series marked a significant departure from the genre’s traditional ‘good versus evil’ narrative. The series, beginning with “The Blade Itself,” introduces us to a range of deeply flawed, complex characters, from a barbarian warrior to a crippled torturer. Abercrombie’s world is not one of clear-cut heroes and villains but a murky realm where characters wrestle with their own vices, prejudices, and questionable morality. Abercrombie’s works stand out for their harsh realism and biting wit. He handles violence with unflinching honesty, emphasising its brutality and consequences. His knack for subverting tropes and expectations has made the First Law Trilogy a standard-bearer for the ‘grimdark’ subgenre of fantasy.
Facing the Darkness with Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle
In a world where nightfall brings fear and the ever-present threat of demonic attack, Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle unfolds. Starting with “The Warded Man” in 2008, the series melds the traditional fantasy premise of good versus evil with a nuanced examination of human nature and societal dynamics. Brett’s world is one besieged by demons, known as corelings, rising from the earth’s core each night. The only defence against these creatures are the protective wards, ancient symbols of power, which the inhabitants of this world use to shield their homes. This daily fight for survival creates a tense and relentless atmosphere that permeates the entire series. Central to the Demon Cycle’s narrative is the journey of its characters, from fearful survivors to heroes. However, Brett adds depth by highlighting the societal changes and conflicts that emerge as these characters wield their newfound power, raising questions about leadership, responsibility, and the cost of survival. The Demon Cycle is a significant contribution to the epic fantasy genre for its fusion of traditional fantasy tropes with intense survival drama and sociopolitical commentary. The series demonstrates how the boundaries of epic fantasy can be expanded without sacrificing its core themes of heroism and conflict.
Exploring A Darker Shade of Magic
V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the inaugural book in the Shades of Magic series, is an exhilarating dive into parallel Londons, each with its own distinct relationship with magic. Schwab’s novel masterfully blends elements of epic fantasy, parallel universes, and adventure, adding a splash of vibrant colour to the genre. The story revolves around Kell, an Antari magician who can travel between four different Londons—Red, Grey, White, and the forbidden Black London. Each of these worlds is strikingly unique, varying in their level of magical saturation and societal structures, and is brought to life through Schwab’s immersive world-building. Schwab introduces a compelling magic system, where magic is seen not just as a tool but as a living entity with its own will. The relationship between the characters and magic is intrinsically tied to the world they inhabit, forming a crucial part of the narrative’s tension and intrigue. Also noteworthy is Delilah Bard, a cunning thief from Grey London, who aspires to be a pirate. Schwab deftly subverts the damsel-in-distress trope with Delilah, who is driven by her ambition and thirst for adventure. A Darker Shade of Magic is an excellent representation of the innovative potential in epic fantasy and showcases the vast, multi-dimensional landscape that epic fantasy literature has evolved to inhabit.
Diving into Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, the first in a duology, blends the thrilling heist elements of crime fiction with the immersive world-building of epic fantasy, creating a unique narrative that broadens the genre’s scope. Set in the gritty, bustling city of Ketterdam, a hub for international trade and criminal activity, the story revolves around Kaz Brekker and his crew of skilled outcasts. These misfits are tasked with a near-impossible heist: breaking into the impenetrable Ice Court to retrieve a prisoner with invaluable knowledge. Bardugo’s world-building is rich and intricate, extending the Grishaverse established in her earlier trilogy. She uses the heist as a narrative device to explore the socio-economic dynamics, racial disparities, and political machinations in this morally grey world. The novel stands out for its well-drawn ensemble cast, each with a complex backstory and personal motivations that drive the narrative. They bring diversity to the genre, not just in terms of their varied backgrounds, but also through the exploration of themes such as trauma, addiction, and identity. Six of Crows is a testament to the genre’s ability to evolve beyond conventional fantasy tropes and settings. Bardugo skillfully intertwines elements of crime and epic fantasy, crafting a narrative centered around a high-stakes heist while exploring themes of friendship, loyalty, and survival.
Sailing with The Grace of Kings
Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, the first in the Dandelion Dynasty series, signals a significant shift in the epic fantasy genre towards a more diverse and globally inspired narrative. Drawing on elements from Chinese history and mythology, Liu crafts an epic tale of rebellion, friendship, and the transformative power of stories. The story takes place in the islands of Dara, where two unlikely friends, the bandit Kuni Garu and the defiant nobleman Mata Zyndu, rise against the tyranny of the emperor. Their friendship, tested by the tumult of rebellion and their differing ideologies, forms the emotional core of the narrative. Liu’s world-building is elaborate and distinctly Eastern in flavour, a divergence from the predominantly Eurocentric settings in epic fantasy. He infuses the narrative with elements of Chinese philosophy, mythological creatures, and a unique system of airships and battle kites. Liu’s innovative blend of epic fantasy with elements of wuxia, silkpunk, and Chinese history exemplifies the potential for cultural diversity within the genre.
Unleashing The Fifth Season
Marking a shift in the tectonic plates of epic fantasy, N.K. Jemisin’s groundbreaking The Fifth Season redefined what the genre could encompass. Set in a dystopian world, The Stillness, plagued by catastrophic climate changes known as ‘Seasons’, Jemisin weaves a story of survival, oppression, and the power of the earth itself. Jemisin’s innovative narrative structure, employing second-person point of view and non-linear storytelling, challenged traditional storytelling conventions, lending a distinctive voice to the genre. She breathed life into her characters and magic system, where ‘orogenes’ can control seismic activity, adding new layers to the world-building palette of epic fantasy. Jemisin uses the plight of the orogenes to explore themes of systemic oppression and racism, embedding these discussions naturally within her world. Her nuanced treatment of these subjects is both challenging and thought-provoking, ensuring her work resonates beyond the realm of fiction. The Fifth Season, with its fusion of sociopolitical themes and inventive storytelling, solidified Jemisin’s place as a transformative force in epic fantasy.
Igniting the Powder Mage Revolution
Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy ignited a fresh spark in the world of epic fantasy with its innovative blend of traditional magic and historical elements, forming a genre sometimes referred to as ‘flintlock fantasy.’ McClellan constructs a unique world that resembles 18th-century Europe in the throes of revolutionary fervor, yet suffused with magic, where the smell of gunpowder is as familiar as the scent of blood. The story revolves around a diverse group of characters caught up in political upheaval and civil war, including the titular ‘Powder Mages.’ These are individuals who can manipulate gunpowder to explosive effect, and even ingest it to enhance their physical abilities. This inventive magic system, juxtaposed with the series’ more conventional ‘Privileged’ sorcerers, establishes a tense dynamic that reflects the broader class struggle within McClellan’s world. The Powder Mage series offers a distinctive twist on epic fantasy, merging elements of historical and military fiction with traditional fantasy tropes. McClellan’s emphasis on military strategy, political intrigue, and battlefield tactics, combined with his gritty, unvarnished portrayal of war, adds a layer of realism that grounds the fantastical elements of the story. Through the Powder Mage trilogy, McClellan demonstrates that epic fantasy can successfully incorporate and reimagine elements from other genres. His unique blend of magic, history, and politics not only expands the genre’s boundaries but also highlights the creative potential of epic fantasy, contributing to its ongoing evolution.
The Onset of The Poppy War
Navigating a fresh course in the sea of epic fantasy, R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War offers a gripping, ruthless perspective on war and its costs. Drawing inspiration from the tumultuous history of 20th century China, including the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Opium Wars, Kuang masterfully interweaves real historical events with fantastical elements, offering a rich, immersive backdrop for her tale. The story follows Rin, a war orphan who escalates from obscurity to power through sheer determination and grit, but soon finds herself embroiled in the brutality of war and divine politics. Rin’s journey is not one of heroism in the traditional sense—instead, it’s a harrowing examination of the devastating effects of war and the corrosive influence of power. Kuang’s depiction of magic is tied intrinsically with gods and the price one must pay for their help. This links the fantastical with the horrific realities of war, and serves as a metaphor for the destructive power of weapons and the ethical dilemmas inherent in their use. The Poppy War is a stark departure from many of its epic fantasy contemporaries. Its unflinching portrayal of war’s horrors and its engagement with themes of colonialism, racism, and power dynamics present a challenging, thought-provoking narrative. Kuang’s work underscores the capacity of epic fantasy to grapple with grim historical realities and complex moral issues, further broadening the genre’s horizons.
The Unfolding of The Green Bone Saga
Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga, beginning with “Jade City”, offers a unique hybrid of epic fantasy and crime thriller, set in a world reminiscent of 20th-century Asia. Lee’s trilogy deftly mixes martial arts, organised crime, and magic into a narrative that challenges traditional definitions of epic fantasy. Centred on the island of Kekon, the story is grounded in the power of jade, a substance that bestows superhuman abilities upon its wearers. The societal and economic implications of jade form the heart of the narrative, with rival clans vying for control over its trade. Lee’s portrayal of jade as both a source of power and a potential curse mirrors the double-edged nature of wealth and ambition in real-world societies. Character dynamics in the Green Bone Saga are deeply entwined with family loyalty and clan politics. The protagonists, members of the Kaul family, must navigate treacherous political waters while dealing with their own interpersonal struggles and the moral complexities of their actions. With the Green Bone Saga, Lee effectively fuses elements of gangster drama with epic fantasy, creating a world that feels lived-in and authentic.
Exploring New Horizons with Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first installment in the Dark Star Trilogy, signifies a powerful emergence of Afrofuturism in the realm of epic fantasy. With a narrative that interweaves African history, mythology, and James’ potent imagination, the novel challenges conventional fantasy tropes and brings in a fresh, non-Western perspective. The novel’s protagonist is Tracker, a man with a keen sense of smell, who’s hired to find a missing boy. Accompanied by a diverse cast of characters including a shape-shifting man-leopard, he traverses ancient cities, dense forests, and treacherous kingdoms on his quest. James’ world-building is both immersive and expansive, drawing heavily from African folklore and mythology. This rich cultural tapestry gives rise to a fantastical realm filled with unforgettable creatures, mystical landscapes, and deeply entrenched power struggles. But it’s not just the African-inspired setting that distinguishes the novel. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is an exploration of truth and power, of love and loss, and the destructive and redemptive aspects of humanity. With Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James redefines the boundaries of epic fantasy, bringing in the richness and diversity of African culture. His complex narrative, combined with an innovative approach to storytelling, contributes significantly to the evolution of the genre, making it more inclusive and globally representative.
Riding the Indie Wave with Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations
As the publishing landscape expanded and evolved, so too did the paths available to authors in the epic fantasy genre. One such trailblazer is Michael J. Sullivan, whose Riyria Revelations series emerged as a leading light in the independent publishing sector. Riyria Revelations, which begins with “Theft of Swords,” combines traditional epic fantasy tropes with a buddy-cop dynamic, as it follows the adventures of the skilled thief Royce Melborn and his mercenary partner Hadrian Blackwater. Sullivan’s journey to publication is particularly noteworthy. Initially rejected by corporate publishers, Sullivan decided to self-publish his work. His series quickly gained a devoted following for its unique blend of high fantasy, humour, and heartl, illustrating the possibilities for independent authors in the modern publishing landscape. The rise of self-publishing and independent authors like Sullivan has significantly broadened the epic fantasy genre. It allows for greater diversity in storytelling, as authors who might not fit the traditional publishing mold, or whose stories are deemed too risky or niche, can now reach their audience directly. This freedom has led to a flourishing of new voices and narratives, enriching the genre in countless ways. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations not only demonstrates the compelling storytelling of indie authors, but it also serves as an important reminder of the evolving pathways to publication in the genre. Indie publishing continues to reshape the epic fantasy landscape, offering both authors and readers alike a wider array of narratives to explore and enjoy.
Allomancy and Highstorms: A New Giant Emerges
It’s fair to say we find ourselves in the age of Brandon Sanderson. A veritable powerhouse of the genre, Sanderson has crafted works of staggering scope and imagination. Sanderson’s Mistborn series is a key development in the epic fantasy genre, recognised for its innovative magic system, intricate plotting, and complex character development. The series, beginning with “The Final Empire,” is set in a world where the prophesied hero has failed, and a tyrant known as the Lord Ruler has established a reign of terror. Sanderson’s narrative turns the typical fantasy trope of the ‘chosen one’ on its head, offering a fresh perspective on the epic quest narrative. However, the series’ standout feature is Sanderson’s intricate magic system. Allomancy, the main magical system in Mistborn, is based on metals, where ‘Mistings’ can ingest and ‘burn’ a single type of metal to gain specific abilities, while ‘Mistborn’ can use all. This highly structured, almost scientific approach to magic has been influential in the genre, prompting other authors to rethink magic as a system with its own laws and limitations. His characters are multi-dimensional, each with their own flaws, strengths, and motivations. The narrative weaves multiple plot threads together, building towards an intricate, well-executed conclusion that pays off the series’ various narrative strands. Following the Mistborn series, Sanderson embarked on an even more ambitious project, The Stormlight Archive. Roshar is a world beset by fierce storms, and its flora and fauna have evolved to survive in these harsh conditions. This unique setting lends itself to some of the most original world-building in the genre. Sanderson creates complex societies, intricate political structures, and detailed histories that enrich the reader’s experience of Roshar. Sanderson introduces several magic systems in The Stormlight Archive, including Surgebinding and Shardbearing, each with their own distinct rules and limitations. This approach further showcases Sanderson’s ability to innovate within the epic fantasy genre, taking the idea of structured magic systems to new heights. The series also features a diverse ensemble of characters, each with their own narrative arc, contributing to a multi-layered, complex story. Characters grapple with issues of morality, duty, and identity, lending a depth and realism to the epic narrative. The Stormlight Archive, with its exceptional world-building, multiple magic systems, and complex character arcs, represents a high point in the evolution of epic fantasy. By weaving together these elements in a grand narrative, Sanderson demonstrates the genre’s potential to explore complex themes and ideas while captivating readers with rich, imaginative worlds. His Stormlight Archive series, still in progress, is emblematic of the ongoing evolution of epic fantasy. As the genre continues to grow and change, so too do the expectations of its readers. Gone are the days when a simple tale of good vs. evil could suffice; now, readers demand intricate plots, morally ambiguous characters, and worlds so vast and detailed, they could be charted by a cartographer.
Embracing the Future of Epic Fantasy
And, so, we have arrived at the present day, with epic fantasy more diverse and imaginative than ever before. From Tolkien’s foundational work to Sanderson’s groundbreaking sagas, the genre has grown by leaps and bounds, enchanting readers the world over. It is a testament to the power of human imagination and the enduring appeal of a good story. As we stand on the precipice of uncharted literary territory, one thing is certain—the future of epic fantasy is as bright and boundless as it has ever been. And so,let us raise our goblets in a toast to the tales that have come before, and to those yet to be told. Cheers!
Explore Noblebright Fantasy, a sub-genre that celebrates hope, virtue, and triumph of good over evil. Discover top books and how it contrasts with Grimdark fantasy.
If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, you may have come across the term “noblebright.” But what exactly does it mean?
In this post, we’ll explore the concept of noblebright fantasy and what sets it apart from other sub-genres of fantasy literature.
What is noblebright fantasy?
Noblebright fantasy is a relatively new term, first coined in 2014 by author C. J. Brightley. It’s an approach to fantasy that emphasises hope, virtue, and the triumph of good over evil.
The stories are generally uplifting, featuring heroes who are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place.
Noblebright fantasy often contrasts with the more grim and gritty sub-genres of fantasy, such as grimdark or dark fantasy.
What makes a fantasy story noblebright?
One of the defining characteristics of noblebright fantasy is the presence of noble and virtuous characters. These characters may be flawed, but they strive to do the right thing and uphold moral principles. They often work together to overcome challenges and obstacles, and their actions inspire hope in others.
How can you tell you’re reading a noblebright fantasy?
The worlds of noblebright fantasy are often filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, magical creatures, and wondrous artifacts. These elements are used to create a sense of wonder and enchantment in the reader, reminding us that there is still magic and beauty in the world.
What are the themes of noblebright fantasy?
Noblebright fantasy often features strong themes of community and cooperation. The heroes work together to overcome obstacles, and their actions have a positive impact on the world around them. There is often a sense of interconnectedness and unity in these stories, with characters coming together to support each other and achieve their goals.
What are the criticisms of noblebright fantasy?
Noblebright fantasy can sometimes come across as too idealistic or simplistic. Some readers may find the lack of nuance or shades of grey in the storytelling to be unrealistic.
However, defenders of the genre argue that there is still room for complex characters and difficult choices within a noblebright framework.
Where to start reading noblebright fantasy?
“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.
This classic epic fantasy novel is the perfect introduction to the genre and has had a significant influence on the development of noblebright fantasy.
“The Earthsea Series” by Ursula K. Le Guin.
This series follows the journey of a young wizard as he learns to harness his powers and fight for what is right.
“The Belgariad” by David Eddings.
This five-book series is a classic of the epic fantasy genre and features a cast of memorable characters and a thrilling story of good versus evil.
“The Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey.
This beloved series combines elements of science fiction and fantasy and features dragons, telepathic bonds, and a richly detailed world.
“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis.
This series of seven books is a beloved classic of children’s literature and features a magical world filled with talking animals, mythical creatures, and epic battles between good and evil.
“The Riddle-Master Trilogy” by Patricia A. McKillip.
This beautifully written series follows the journey of a young prince as he seeks to unravel the mysteries of his world and defeat the forces of evil.
Overall, noblebright fantasy offers readers a refreshing and uplifting take on the fantasy genre. If you’re looking for stories that celebrate hope, virtue, and the power of good to triumph over evil, noblebright fantasy may be just the sub-genre for you.
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Join Jon as he shares exciting updates on his ongoing projects – Guild of Assassins, Dawn of Assassins book 4, and a new fantasy series. Also, dive into his take on Horus Heresy and Glastonbury highlights.
Welcome to this week’s author diary.
In today’s episode, I’m excited to share updates on my progress with Guild of Assassins and the fourth Dawn of Assassins book, as well as outlining a brand new fantasy series.
I also discuss my thoughts on the Horus Heresy book series and my highlights of this year’s Glastonbury festival, as well as the importance of disability representation in popular music.
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Discover 20 influential female fantasy authors reshaping the genre. From Le Guin to Jemisin, explore their captivating worlds and unique narratives.
Fantasy is a genre that has traditionally been dominated by male writes.
However, in recent years, female authors have been gaining recognition for their incredible works of imagination and creativity.
In this blog post, you’ll twenty women writers that every fantasy fan should read (with one more honourable mention).
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is a legend in the world of science fiction and fantasy. Her most famous works include the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin is known for her ability to create complex worlds and characters that challenge societal norms and explore themes of gender, identity, and power. Her writing style is elegant and thought-provoking, making her a must-read for any fantasy fan.
N.K. Jemisin has gained critical acclaim for her works, including The Broken Earth trilogy and The City We Became. Jemisin’s writing is known for its rich world-building, intricate plotlines, and diverse characters that challenge the traditional tropes of fantasy literature. Her stories tackle themes of social justice, oppression, and power in a way that is both compelling and thought-provoking.
Ann Leckie burst onto the scene with her debut sci-fi novel, Ancillary Justice, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. Her writing is known for its unique perspective and exploration of complex themes. Her works often feature non-human characters and explore the ways in which they navigate the human-dominated world. Leckie’s writing is both thought-provoking and immersive, making her a must-read for any fantasy fan.
Robin Hobb is an author who has gained a loyal following for her works, including the Farseer Trilogy and the Liveship Traders Trilogy. Hobb’s writing is known for its emotional depth, character development, and immersive world-building. Her stories often focus on the internal struggles of her characters, making them relatable and engaging.
Sarah J. Maas
Sarah J. Maas is a bestselling author known for her works, including the Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Maas’s writing is known for its epic scope, romantic subplots, and engaging characters. Her stories often feature powerful female leads who challenge societal norms and explore themes of power and agency.
Fonda Lee is an award-winning author known for her works, including the Green Bone Saga and the Exo series. Her writing is known for its dynamic characters, and exploration of themes such as family, power, and identity. Her stories are thought-provoking and action-packed.
Kameron Hurley is a multiple award-winning author known for her works, including the Bel Dame Apocrypha series and the Worldbreaker Saga. Hurley’s writes with a gritty, unflinching style, and delves into themes such as war, politics, and gender.
Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning author known for her works, including the Binti series and the Akata Witch series. Okorafor’s writing is known for its unique blend of African mythology, science fiction, and fantasy. Her stories often explore themes such as identity, culture, and power, and feature strong female protagonists.
Sofia Samatar is an award-winning author known for her works, including the Winged Histories and A Stranger in Olondria. Samatar’s writing is known for its lyrical prose and intricate world-building, which often draw inspiration from real-world cultures and histories. Her stories explore themes such as identity, language, and colonization, making them both thought-provoking and immersive.
Helene Wecker is an award-winning author known for her debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, and its sequel, The Hidden Palace. Wecker’s writing is filled with vivid descriptions and richly imagined worlds, which draw inspiration from both Jewish and Arab folklore.
V.E. Schwab is best known for the Shades of Magic series and the Villains series. Her writing features intricate world-building and complex characters, blending elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Schwab’s stories often explore themes such as power, morality, and the nature of good and evil.
Deborah Harkness is an award-winning author known for her All Souls trilogy, which blends history, magic, and romance. Harkness’s writing features richly imagined worlds and vivid characters, which draw inspiration from real-world history and mythology. Her stories explore themes such as love, power, and the importance of family.
R.F. Kuang is an award-winning author known for her Poppy War series, which explores the devastating impact of war on both individuals and society. Kuang’s writing is dark and intense and explores the nature of power, morality, and the human condition.
Victoria Aveyard is best known for her Red Queen series, which blends elements of fantasy, dystopian fiction, and romance. Aveyard’s stories include fast-paced action, intricate plot twists, and engaging characters.
Cassandra Clare is an award-winning author known for her Shadowhunters universe, which includes multiple series set in a world of demons, angels, and supernatural creatures. Her stories explore themes such as love, power, and the bonds of family and friendship.
Naomi Novik is an award-winning author known for her works, including the Temeraire series and the Spinning Silver. Her writing blends historical and fantastical elements to explore themes of love and identity.
Leigh Bardugo is best known for the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. Bardugo’s stories often explore themes of power and loyalty.
Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold is best known as the author of the Vorkosigan Saga and the Sharing Knife series. Her writing blends science fiction and fantasy and explores themes of power, love, and the importance of family.
Patricia A. McKillip
Patricia A. McKillip is an award-winning author best know for the Riddle-Master trilogy and the Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Her writing is known for its lyrical prose, magical worlds, and engaging characters.
Martha Wells is the author of the Murderbot Diaries and the Books of the Raksura series. Wells’s stories often explore themes such as identity, autonomy, and the importance of found family.
Honourable Mention: Anne McCaffrey
While Anne McCaffrey is known for her works in science fiction, her Dragonriders of Pern series is a classic in the fantasy genre. Her stories are both thought-provoking and immersive, making her a must-read for any fantasy fan.
These women fantasy writers are just a few of the many incredible authors who are challenging the norms of the genre and creating immersive and thought-provoking works of fiction. Whether you’re a die-hard fantasy fan or just starting to explore the genre, these authors are definitely worth checking out.
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Discover the importance of fantasy books and how they transport us to new worlds, ignite imagination, and teach valuable life lessons. Explore the power of escapism and empathy. Dive into the magic of fantasy literature!
Fantasy books have been captivating readers for centuries, transporting us to magical worlds and introducing us to memorable characters.
But fantasy literature is more than just entertainment—it serves a vital role in our lives.
In this blog post, I want to share ten reasons why fantasy books are important.
1. Fantasy fiction allows us to explore new worlds and imagine new possibilities. Never stop dreaming and reading.
2. ‘In a world of reality, fantasy reminds us to embrace our imagination and think outside the box.
3. Fantasy transports us to places where anything is possible and remind us to never give up on our own dreams.
4. Fantasy helps us understand and cope with the real world by giving us a glimpse into different perspectives.
5. Reading fantasy books is a great way to escape from reality and explore new cultures and ways of thinking.
6. Fantasy fiction is not just about dragons and magic, but also teaches valuable life lessons and morals.
7. Fantasy offers a unique opportunity to explore the human experience in new and exciting ways.
8. Fantasy allows us to explore different placess and cultures, broadening our understanding of the world around us.
9. Reading fantasy helps us develop empathy, as it allows us to experience different perspectives and emotions.
10. Fantasy fiction is a powerful tool for self-discovery and understanding the world, it allows us to be whoever we want to be.