1. “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin:
The palace of King’s Landing is the political centre of the Seven Kingdoms and the scene of many of the series’ most significant events. From the scheming of Queen Cersei Lannister to the machinations of Lord Petyr Baelish, the palace is a hub of intrigue and power.
2. “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas:
The palace of the kingdom of Adarlan is the setting for this action-packed fantasy novel. The kingdom is ruled by a tyrannical king, and the palace is filled with political intrigue, dangerous magic, and powerful assassins.
3. “Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb:
The palace of the Six Duchies is the setting for this coming-of-age story about a young assassin. The palace is filled with danger, political maneuvering, and magic, and the protagonist must navigate these treacherous waters in order to survive.
4. “The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison:
The palace of the Elfen Empire is the setting for this political fantasy novel. The new goblin emperor must navigate the intricacies of court life and the treacherous politics of the imperial palace in order to secure his rule and bring peace to the empire.
5. “Gormenghast” by Mervyn Peake:
The sprawling, ancient palace of Gormenghast is the setting for this dark and imaginative fantasy novel. The palace is filled with strange, grotesque characters and eerie magic, and the protagonist must navigate its labyrinthine halls in order to uncover its secrets.
If you love fantasy set in palaces, you can get The Fool for free as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library.
Embark on a captivating journey through the enchanting world of coming-of-age fantasy. Explore themes, top books, and claim your free starter library. Let the adventure begin!
Welcome to the enchanting world of coming-of-age fantasy!
In this post, you’ll discover the heart of this genre, exploring why readers are so drawn to these tales, and highlighting the top books and authors that have defined it.
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What is Coming-of-Age Fantasy?
Coming-of-age fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literature that focuses on the growth and development of a young protagonist.
The stories often centrr around themes of self-discovery, responsibility, and the transition from childhood to adulthood.
With the backdrop of a magical world, these narratives resonate with readers as they follow the protagonist’s journey, both physical and emotional.
Themes and Subjects of Coming-of-Age Fantasy
Coming-of-age fantasy stories are rich in themes that explore the human experience. Common themes include:
Self-Discovery: As the protagonist navigates their world, they often discover hidden talents, powers, or abilities that define their identity and influence their destiny.
Friendship: The bonds formed with companions on the journey are integral to the protagonist’s growth, teaching them about trust, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Responsibility: As they mature, the protagonist learns to shoulder the weight of their newfound powers and the expectations placed upon them.
Conflict: Coming-of-age fantasy tales often involve battles against external forces, such as evil sorcerers or malevolent creatures, as well as internal struggles within the protagonist’s own heart and mind.
Good vs. Evil: The protagonist discovers moral ambiguity and navigates the complexities of right and wrong, light and dark.
Love: The protagonist experiences various forms of love—familial, romantic, platonic—that shape their character and choices.
Choice: At critical junctures, the protagonist must make difficult decisions that determine their fate and the fate of others.
Identity: The protagonist undertakes a journey of self-discovery to determine who they are and who they want to become.
Independence: The protagonist gains freedom from authority figures or home environments, allowing them to think and act for themselves.
Courage: Finding bravery in the face of fear and danger is central to the protagonist’s triumph over adversity.
Top Coming-of-Age Fantasy Books
Some of the most celebrated books and authors in coming-of-age fantasy include:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:
This classic novel follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a young hobbit who discovers his own courage and resourcefulness as he embarks on a perilous quest.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling:
This beloved series chronicles the life of young wizard Harry Potter as he navigates the magical world of Hogwarts, learning about friendship, love, and the power of courage.
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman:
A thought-provoking series that explores themes of self-discovery, morality, and the nature of consciousness, as young Lyra Belacqua sets out on an epic journey through parallel worlds.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss:
This captivating novel follows the life of Kvothe, a legendary figure who recounts his rise from a lowly orphan to a renowned magician and adventurer.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle:
A moving story of Meg Murry, an awkward teen girl who embarks on an adventure across dimensions to find her missing father.
Sabriel by Garth Nix:
Sabriel, a young necromancer, must venture into the perilous Old Kingdom to rescue her father from the Land of the Dead.
The Belgariad by David Eddings:
Garion, an orphaned farm boy, discovers his destiny in a quest to retrieve a powerful orb and fulfill an ancient prophecy.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin:
The story of Ged, a sorcerer who must journey far from home to escape the darkness he unleashed into the world.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson:
Joel, a non-magical student at a school for Rithmatists–those who can animate chalk drawings and use them for defense–gets caught up in a dangerous mystery.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb:
This novel follows the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who is apprenticed to become an assassin in the Six Duchies. As Fitz navigates court intrigue and the skills of his grim trade, he also struggles to find his place in a world that does not always welcome him.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the captivating world of coming-of-age fantasy, it’s time to embark on your own adventure.
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Embark on a thrilling adventure with this beginner’s guide to Sword and Sorcery fantasy literature. Uncover this subgenre’s unique tropes, characters, and dive into our top ten recommended books.
Grab your enchanted swords and dust off your spellbooks, as today we’re delving into the rip-roaring world of Sword and Sorcery fantasy.
So, buckle up, or rather, belt up—we wouldn’t want your scabbards to slip, would we?
What is Sword and Sorcery?
Picture this: a rugged hero with biceps like boulders, wielding a sword so big that it’s probably compensating for something.
He’s joined by a sidekick who can summon a fireball quicker than you can say “abracadabra.”
Together, they’re thrust into a world of high adventure and low cunning, facing off against dastardly villains, ferocious monsters, and the occasional damsel in distress (or quite often, causing the distress).
Welcome to Sword and Sorcery. It’s a subgenre of fantasy that delightfully mashes up elements of action, adventure, magic, and a pinch of romance if we’re lucky.
It’s about the thrill of the quest, the clash of steel, and the incantation of mystic forces, all served with a healthy side of danger and daring-do.
How Does Sword and Sorcery Differ from Other Fantasy Subgenres?
You might be thinking, “Hold on, isn’t that just fantasy?”
Well, not quite.
Sword and Sorcery is like fantasy’s wild and unruly cousin, the one who turns up to the family reunion with a dragon’s tooth earring and a cloak made of griffin feathers.
While epic fantasy (think J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”) often focuses on world-shattering stakes, where the destiny of nations or even the whole world hangs in the balance, Sword and Sorcery is more intimate.
It’s about personal quests and small-scale conflicts.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of action and adventure, but our heroes are more concerned with their own survival than saving the world.
And unlike high fantasy, which often takes itself rather seriously, Sword and Sorcery isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun.
It revels in its pulp fiction roots, so expect plenty of thrilling escapades, improbable plot twists, and a dash of witty banter.
What Tropes and Characters Can I Expect?
Ah, tropes, those delightful genre conventions that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Sword and Sorcery has them in spades.
First off, our heroes. They tend to be roguish, adventurous types, more likely to solve problems with a sword than a soliloquy.
Think Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, a chap who’s never met a problem he couldn’t cleave in two.
And then there’s the sorcerer, a wily character who’s handy to have around when you need a fireball or a convenient plot device.
Sword and Sorcery worlds are generally untamed and dangerous, filled with ancient ruins, cursed treasures, and a startling number of things with too many teeth.
Good job our heroes are usually quite adept at dealing with these. Or, if not adept, at least enthusiastic.
And let’s not forget the villains. They’re often dark sorcerers, tyrannical rulers, or monstrous beasts—sometimes all three in one if it’s been a slow day.
They’re as dastardly as they come, and our heroes will need all their brawn and brains to overcome them.
Sword and Sorcery is a subgenre that offers a thrilling ride, filled with daring heroes, nefarious villains, and plenty of sword-swinging action.
If you’re after some high-stakes adventure without the burden of saving the world, then this might just be the genre for you.
Ten Essential Sword and Sorcery Books for Novice Adventurers
Here are ten enchanting tales that will whisk you away to realms filled with brave knights, cunning sorcerers, and enough fantastical creatures to fill a dragon’s hoard.
“Conan the Barbarian” by Robert E. Howard
The book that started it all. Howard’s Conan is the quintessential warrior, battling foes with his brawn and outwitting them with his cunning. A word of caution, however: these tales are as rough and ready as their eponymous hero.
“The Broken Sword” by Poul Anderson
A splendid mix of Norse mythology and high fantasy, ‘The Broken Sword’ is a tale of stolen children and feuding gods. With its intricate plot and Anderson’s beautiful prose, this book is a must-read for anyone new to the genre.
“Elric of Melniboné” by Michael Moorcock
Elric, the albino emperor who wields the soul-drinking sword Stormbringer, is a character you won’t soon forget. This book is a wonderful introduction to Moorcock’s multiverse and the concept of the Eternal Champion.
“The Sword of Shannara” by Terry Brooks
Often compared to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Brooks’s novel offers a fresh take on the hero’s journey. With its rich world-building and compelling characters, ‘The Sword of Shannara’ is a great starting point for new readers.
“The Witcher” series by Andrzej Sapkowski
Before it was a hit Netflix series, ‘The Witcher’ was a collection of captivating short stories and novels. Follow Geralt of Rivia as he navigates a world where morality is often as murky as a Witcher’s potion.
“The King’s Blades” series by Dave Duncan
Imagine a world where warriors are bonded to their monarch through magic, becoming his loyal Blades. Duncan’s series is full of political intrigue, thrilling battles, and a touch of humour.
“The Eyes of the Overworld” by Jack Vance
Follow the (mis)adventures of Cugel the Clever, Vance’s unscrupulous anti-hero. With its wry humour and imaginative world, this book is a delightful change of pace.
“The First Law” series by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie’s series is a dark and gritty take on the genre. With its complex characters and moral ambiguities, ‘The First Law’ is a brilliant introduction to grimdark fantasy.
“The Belgariad” by David Eddings
This five-book series is a classic tale of good versus evil. With its memorable characters and immersive world, ‘The Belgariad’ is an excellent starting point for new fantasy readers.
“Imaro” by Charles R. Saunders
Drawing from African history and mythology, ‘Imaro’ is a refreshing take on the Sword and Sorcery genre. Follow Imaro, a warrior on a quest for identity and belonging, across the vast landscapes of Nyumbani.
And there you have it, ten tomes to start your Sword and Sorcery adventure. But remember, the real magic is not just in the destination, but in the journey.
So, gather your courage, grab a book, and delve into the thrilling world of Sword and Sorcery. Happy reading!
Life is tough in Nordturm, but for Fedor, a street kid turned shoeshine boy, it becomes hell. Join him on a thrilling journey as he gets entangled with a gang of thieves in this prequel novel to the Dawn of Assassins series. Experience a coming-of-age high fantasy filled with assassins, thieves, and magic. Perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Robin Hobb, and Brent Weeks. Get your copy now!
Fedor blew out the flame and dipped his brush into the melted polish. He studied the man’s shoes—simple, but well-made, soft black leather fastened with silver buckles.
He applied the polish to the right shoe, building up the first layer with gentle circles until the leather turned matte.
“You know, child. I was once where you were.”
Fedor applied the foundation layer to the left shoe.
“Though it was Hafendorf where I first plied my trade.”
Fedor gazed up at him with a raised eyebrow. “You were a polish boy?”
“No. I used to run messages on the docks.”
Fedor spat on the right shoe and brushed back and forth across the polish.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what I did?”
Fedor shrugged. “What’s the point?”
The man chuckled. “What’s the point? The point is I’m trying to teach you something. Tell me, child, how old are you?”
“I don’t know.” He brushed around the buckles and moved onto the other shoe.
“You’re not a man yet. What are you—twelve, thirteen?”
“I said, I don’t know.” He glared at the man’s questions and quickly averted his gaze—this was no way to get tips.
“I started off as a lowly messenger, dodging the curses of sailors, and I now run a merchant company with trading houses in Welttor, Nebel Hafen, Reichsherz, and I’m always looking to expand my operation.” He chuckled to himself. “And yet I still find myself dodging the curses of sailors.”
“And do you know how I did it?”
“I don’t.” Fedor pulled a leather cloth from his box and made small circles in the leather, bringing the surface to a deep shine.
The man leaned forward and tapped Fedor’s shoulder. “Do you want to know the secret?”
Fedor frowned. “To what?”
“To everything, of course.” The man looked around the market square, seemingly seeking inspiration from something or someone. Alchemical lights shone from the cave roof above, twisting his features with shadows. “The secret, my boy, is integrity.” He held Fedor’s gaze. “If you can be trustworthy, people will come back to you again and again.”
“Right.” He pulled his gaze away and wiped a mark from the left buckle.
“Believe me. It works much better than fear.”
Fedor sniffed. “You should tell that to the gangs round here.”
“Of course, you can get things done with fear and intimidation, but no one will thank you for it. As soon as your back is turned, you’re likely to find someone willing to drive a knife into your back.”
“I get it. Treat people bad and it comes back threefold. Priest talks about that all the time.”
“But it’s about more than merely avoiding pain. No, it’s about building trust over time. It’s about being reliable. It’s about integrity.”
“I don’t know what that word means.”
The man shook his head. “Simply put, integrity is about knowing the difference between right and wrong.”
“I know about sin.”
“Indeed. But there’s a difference between knowing and doing.”
Fedor raised the man’s feet to check the soles. He scraped away bits of dried dirt and salt from the grooves. He studied his work for a long moment and got to his feet on creaking knees. “All done.”
The man examined his shoes and took a piece of hack silver from his pocket. “This is for you. Thank you.”
Fedor pocketed the silver and tipped his cap. “Thanks, mister.”
“Remember what I said.” He held Fedor’s gaze. “We all have choices in this world.” He turned and walked away.
Fedor dropped his scraping tool into his box and sighed. “Whatever.” His eyes widened at the glimmer of silver resting on the seat. He snatched it up and turned it in his fingers. It showed a wyvern crest on one side and a profile of Ostreich’s last empress on the reverse—a one krone coin.
He hurriedly stuffed his cloth and brushes into his box and slammed the lid shut.
What if he kept the coin for himself?
With a sigh, he picked up his box and chased after the man.
He caught up to him at the stairs leading to the arena. “Hey, mister.”
The man spun on his heels and smiled at Fedor. “Ah, child. Is there a problem?”
Fedor handed the coin to the man. “This must have dropped from your pocket.”
The man studied the coin and tossed it back. “That coin is for you.”
“For me?” His eyes widened. “I didn’t know. You should have said.”
“If I had said, you wouldn’t have done the right thing.”
Deep lines set between Fedor’s eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
The man reached into his purse and pulled out another one-krone coin. He held it between his fingers and flicked it with his thumb, sending it turning through the air into Fedor’s hand. “And now you have two.” He tapped the side of his nose. “Remember what I said about integrity. Take care of yourself.”
“Erm, thank you.” The man strode away and Fedor shook his head. Who was he? What in the void was he trying to prove? His heart raced. Maybe it was another test. What if the priests had sent him to make sure Fedor was not pocketing the gains for himself? They would beat him again and feed him only scraps for a week. He refused to go through that again.
But if it was not a test—
A hand slapped down on his shoulder. “I don’t know what that was, but that was great. Never seen one like that before.”
Fedor vaguely recognised the lad, a few years his senior. He wore a grey shortcoat, white shirt, trousers, and boots, his sharp features shaded by a flat cap.
“I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure, mate.” He pumped Fedor’s hand. “I’m Lev.”
“Confused? Thought your name was Fedor?”
“It is. Wait, how do you know—”
“Quick.” He tugged Fedor’s wrist and ducked into a tunnel at the edge of the market square. “This way.”
“Where are we going?”
Lev stopped. “Here’s fine.” He looked past Fedor and nodded to himself. “Never tell who’s listening, you know?”
“What do you want?” Fedor glanced back over his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, mate.” Lev held his palms open. “I got no intention of robbing you, if that’s what you’re worried about. Just want to know how you pulled it off.”
“Pulled what off?”
“You think I don’t recognise a scam when I see one? I’ve not seen that one before. How did it work? Is it just you?”
“Just me, what?”
“Mate, seriously?” Lev rolled his eyes and sighed. “I saw what happened. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”
“It wasn’t a scam. Honest.”
“No, mate. I saw it with my own eyes. You got Bartok Schultz to give you coin for no reason.” He fixed Fedor’s gaze. “I know a scam when I see one, trust me. How did you set it up?”
“It’s not a scam.”
“Course not.” He dropped his voice to a whisper and leaned forward. “Don’t worry. I’m not with the filth, if that’s what’s bothering you.”
“I know you’re not with the watch. I’ve seen you around. The priests say you’re no good.”
Lev spat on the floor. “The priests. The bloody priests? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’d sooner trust a wyvern than a priest.” He took a step forward and sneered. “Tell me. Priests make you grab their dicks yet or shoved things up your arse?”
Fedor started at the curses. “No.”
“Maybe it’s just the girls they do that to. Dirty bastards, either way.”
“They wouldn’t do—”
“I bet they hit you, don’t they? Give you a good smack for no reason.”
“Only sometimes.” He shuffled on his feet. “Only when we’ve sinned.”
“Yeah, I bet. Perverts, the lot of them.” He jabbed Fedor’s chest. “You need to get out of there, mate, before they start trying to bum you.”
“Bum me?” He pressed his back against the wall, his eyes growing wide. He had never heard anyone speak like this about the priests before.
“Good-looking lad like you.” He shrugged. “Surprised they haven’t already. Bloody pervs.”
“How would you know?”
“Everyone knows, mate.” He let out a sigh. “That’s how they do it.”
Lev inclined his head. “You’re not the smartest kid around here, are you?”
Fedor stared at him, his mouth unable to form words.
“Think about it. Where’s the best place to find kids who won’t grass to their parents?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged one shoulder. “An orphanage?”
“See, you’re not a complete thicksicle.” He rubbed his hands together. “When you think about it, it all makes perfect sense.” He spat on the floor again. “Dirty bastards. You need to get out of there, get as far away from those nonces as you can.”
“I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
“Those coins you scammed are a good start, mate. You got two, didn’t you?”
“So, out with it then. How did it work?”
“I swear it wasn’t a scam.”
Lev eyed him up and down and nodded to himself. “You’re either a good liar, or you’re telling the truth.” He folded his arms. “Tell me what happened.”
“I was shining his shoes and he was talking about doing good, and how he’d been a messenger.”
“Go on.” He tapped his foot.
“When I finished, he left a coin on the chair, and I went after him to give it back.”
Lev sniffed. “I would have kept it.”
“But he said the coin was for me and gave me another.”
“And that’s it?”
“So, it was like a reward. You returned his coin and he gave you two? That’s genius, that is, mate.” Lev pushed out his bottom lip. “Great angle. Do-gooders like to do that. What you going to do with it?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know much, do you, mate? You should get us a good meal and place for the night. Get away from that orphanage.”
“I don’t know.” He fingered the coins in his pocket. “I think it might be a test.”
Lev studied him for several seconds. “What kind of test?”
“Doesn’t seem real, does it? I think the priests might be behind it.”
Lev rubbed his chin. “Make sense. Seems a bit far-fetched, though, doesn’t it?”
“But what if it is?”
“Nah, mate. You’re wrong.” He shook his head. “What difference does it make to the priests?”
“It’s not my money to keep.”
“He gave it to you, didn’t he?”
“Yes. But anything I earn goes to the priests.”
“Really?” He cocked an eyebrow and snorted. “And I thought they abolished slavery.”
“It’s not slavery. They feed me. They give me a roof, a bed.”
“Honestly, mate. They used to give slaves places to eat and sleep. That’s your money, that is. I’d be in half a mind to tell one of the watch, though we don’t exactly see eye to eye, if you get my meaning.”
“You get money for shining shoes, right?”
“He paid for that as well, didn’t he? Bit of hack for your efforts, like the rest?”
Fedor narrowed his eyes. “How long have you been watching me?”
“I watch everyone, mate. It’s what I do. You’d be surprised what you see when you take time to watch. That’s what I do. I pay attention. I see things.”
“What kinds of things?”
“Lots of things. Pay attention and the truth reveals itself, isn’t that what they say?”
Fedor shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know.”
“Trust me. People don’t pay attention to things. I do. I might even tell you what some of those things are if we work together.”
“Sure. Why not? I can take you under my wing, show you what’s what. You seem like a smart enough kid. Bit wet behind the ears, like, but I’m sure we can sort you out.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Here’s an idea. Keep that hack aside for the priests and I can show you a good way to spend that coin.”
Fedor rubbed the back of his neck and lowered his voice. “But what if it’s a test?”
“What if it is? You’ve got to live in the moment. Take whatever they give you and move on. At least you’ll have a good night to show for it.”
Fedor licked his lips. “What you got in mind?”
“Meal. Nice room. Some good ale. Or, you could go down into the stinking foundries, spend another night with a priest who wants to bum you.”
“They don’t bum me.”
“Yet.” Lev raised a finger and grinned. “But there’s always time, mate.”
“But it’s a sin.”
“Depends who you ask.”
Fedor shook his head. “They wouldn’t do that.”
“You keep thinking that, mate.” He gestured back towards the market. “You get to the pubs much?”
Fedor shook his head. “No. We’re not allowed.”
“Well, in that case, we definitely need to do it. What you got to lose?”
“I don’t know.” Fedor shrugged. “Nothing, I guess.”
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Uncover the enchanting influence of mythology and folklore on the high fantasy genre. Join us on a journey through epic quests, magical realms, and prophetic tales of dragons and wizards.
Today, we shall embark on an heroic journey through the realms of mythology and folklore, delving into their influence on the high fantasy genre.
So, grab a cup of tea, settle into your favourite armchair, and prepare to be regaled with tales of dragons, wizards, and all manner of mythical beasts.
A Brief History Lesson
Before we dive headfirst into the fantastical world of high fantasy, let us take a brief detour through the mists of time to explore the origins of mythology and folklore.
From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, we humans have always had a penchant for spinning yarns about mythical beings and grand adventures.
It’s no wonder, then, that these stories have left an indelible mark on the genre of high fantasy, providing a veritable treasure trove of inspiration for authors, both old and new.
Now, let us examine some of the most well-known mythological and folkloric elements that have found their way into high fantasy literature.
Magic is as old as storytelling itself.
In the ancient myths of Greece, we see the witch Circe using her magic to transform Odysseus’s crew into pigs.
Meanwhile, in Norse tales, we have the Allfather Odin, who’s not shy about using a bit of the old magical arts, even if it involves plucking out an eye for wisdom.
Now, let’s swap our ancient scrolls for the glossy covers of modern high fantasy, where the mystical mumbo jumbo continues to enthral.
In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, magic is a complex system of checks and balances, involving ingesting and ‘burning’ metals.
It’s not quite “eye of newt, and toe of frog,” but it sure keeps the plot turning faster than a witch’s cauldron.
In Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle, magic, or Sympathy as it’s known, is a bit like a university degree—demanding, dangerous, and very likely to leave you in masses of debt.
Whether it’s transforming spells of yore or the arcane arts in our beloved high fantasy sagas, magic continues to captivate us, sparking our imagination and making us check twice in wardrobes for secret worlds.
Ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors first etched a hunter’s journey onto a rock wall, humanity has been captivated by tales of epic quests.
After all, who doesn’t love a good yarn about some plucky hero venturing out into the unknown to slay monsters, find treasure, or pop to the shops for a pint of milk?
When it comes to ancient literature, the quest narrative is as ubiquitous as a rainy Manchester afternoon.
These quests are typically bold undertakings filled with wondrous adventures, strange creatures, and a spot of character development for our heroic protagonists.
Most importantly, they’ve served as inspiration for the modern high fantasy tales we love so dearly today.
One of the oldest examples of the epic quest narrative comes from Mesopotamia in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Here, our eponymous hero Gilgamesh and his beefy buddy Enkidu venture into the Cedar Forest to square up against the beastly Humbaba.
It’s all for the sake of fame and glory, and it sets the stage for all subsequent epic quests.
After all, what’s a bit of casual monster-slaying between friends, eh?
Meanwhile, the ancient Greeks were not ones to be outdone in the epic quest department.
The Odyssey, one of the West’s oldest and most beloved epics, recounts Odysseus’s ten-year struggle to return home after the Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters cyclopes (who are not very fond of wine, it turns out), enchantresses, and cantankerous gods—a full roster of fantastical beings that wouldn’t feel out of place in a modern fantasy epic.
Now, fast forward a few millennia and we can see how these ancient quests inspire our beloved high fantasy narratives.
We can see these tropes in modern high fantasy tales, too.
Think of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, where numerous characters venture on epic quests, from Jon Snow’s journey beyond the Wall to Daenerys Targaryen’s path to reclaim her throne.
Not to mention her penchant for raising fire-breathing pets, which beats goldfish any day.
The point is, the epic quest, while thousands of years old, is a narrative we never grow tired of.
Perhaps it’s the sense of adventure, the battle against the odds, or just the joy of watching a character grow from zero to hero (or in some cases, zero to slightly-better-zero).
But no matter the reason, it’s clear that the epic quests of ancient literature continue to echo in our modern tales, providing a rich tapestry of inspiration for authors and a bounty of exciting tales for readers.
If there’s one thing that gets our literary pulses racing, it’s a good old prophecy.
Whether it’s foretelling the rise of a hero, the fall of a villain, or the precise moment your kettle will boil (usually when you’ve nipped to the loo), prophecies are a storytelling staple that never seems to lose its flavour.
From the mysterious riddles of the ancient world to the plot-twisting predicaments of modern high fantasy, prophecies are the Worcestershire sauce of narrative condiments.
They add a bit of zest, a dash of mystery, and a generous helping of ‘what on earth is going to happen next?’
When it comes to the classics, the Greeks really knew how to spin a prophetic yarn.
The Oracle of Delphi was a one-stop shop for all your prophetic needs. However, like the small print in a dodgy phone contract, her prophecies were often quite vague and open to interpretation.
A classic example can be found in Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex. The prophecy stated that Oedipus would end up doing in his dad and marrying his mum.
Attempting to avoid this awkward family reunion, Oedipus legs it to a different city, bumps off a stranger (who, surprise surprise, turns out to be his dad), and marries the local widow (you can guess where this is going).
The lesson? When it comes to prophecy, you can run but you can’t hide.
Fast-forward a few millennia, and the tradition of cryptic prophecies is alive and well in the realm of high fantasy. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a smorgasbord of prophecies, dreams, and visions.
The ‘prince who was promised’ prophecy, for instance, has kept readers and characters alike guessing.
Is it Jon Snow? Daenerys? Or Hot Pie? We’re still waiting for that one to bake.
J.K. Rowling also serves up a fresh prophecy in her Harry Potter series. Professor Trelawney’s prediction that a boy born at the end of July would be the one to vanquish Lord Voldemort sets the stage for the entire series.
Spoiler alert: it’s not Neville. Though let’s be honest, Neville had his moments…
These prophecies, like their ancient predecessors, work because they create suspense and drive the narrative.
They offer a tantalising glimpse of what might come to pass, without giving the game away.
In a nutshell, prophecies are like that friend who hints at a surprise birthday party but refuses to give any details.
It’s maddening, exciting, and keeps us on our toes.
They’ve been a part of storytelling for thousands of years, adding spice to our myths, folklore, and high fantasy tales.
Otherworldly realms have mystified mankind since time immemorial.
From gloomy underworlds to luminous fairylands, these magical domains have played pivotal roles in mythology and folklore, and continue to captivate us in the realms of modern fantasy.
First on our itinerary is the underworld, a staple in many mythologies.
Arguably the most famous is the Greek underworld, ruled by the god Hades. Yes, that’s right, even in the afterlife there’s still bureaucracy.
But, bear in mind, if you’re planning a visit, be sure to avoid the local cuisine—Persephone can attest to the unfortunate side effects of indulging in a seemingly innocent pomegranate seed snack.
In Nordic mythology, we have Valhalla, the eternal feasting hall where Viking heroes spend their afterlives in a continuous cycle of fighting and feasting.
It’s sort of like a never-ending stag do, but with more axes and less curry.
Then there’s Fairyland, a realm full of magic and mischief, traditionally accessed via portals in the natural world, like rings of mushrooms or ancient hawthorn trees.
Be wary of their hospitality, though, or you might find yourself stuck there for a few centuries.
Now, let’s step through the wardrobe (mind the coats) into the world of modern fantasy.
First off, there’s the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, which takes the concept of other realms to a whole new level with the idea of parallel universes.
Here we see everything from our own recognisable world to the eerily beautiful realm of Cittàgazze, a city haunted by soul-eating spectres.
It’s like Venice, but with fewer gondolas and more terror.
And let’s not forget the mystical lands in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
Through a humble wardrobe, we’re transported to a land where animals talk, witches have a worrisome obsession with Turkish Delight, and wardrobes are definitely larger on the inside.
And no exploration of other realms in fantasy would be complete without mentioning the realm of Faerie in Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince series.
In these books, we encounter a realm both breathtakingly beautiful and chillingly brutal, reminding us that other realms, like people, have their dark and light sides.
Other realms serve as reminders of the infinite possibilities of the human imagination.
They give us space to explore complex ideas, confront our deepest fears, and maybe even encounter a unicorn or two.
Just remember, if you do decide to venture into another realm, be sure to read the small print, respect the local customs, and whatever you do, don’t eat the food.
Gods and Demigods
Gods and demigods are powerful beings whose exploits have coloured our narratives from the earliest myths to the most recent fantasy yarns.
First off, we have the gods, our divine heavyweights.
From the chiselled Olympians of ancient Greece, to the Norse pantheon chilling in Valhalla, these celestial beings wield power that can shape the earth, command the elements, and, apparently, complicate the lives of mortals.
Next up, the demigods—the result of divine dalliances with mortals.
These half-god, half-human hybrids often find themselves in the middle of epic quests, world-saving, and a lot of identity crisis.
From Hercules to Perseus, these guys are proof that having a god for a parent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Gods, in their majestic might, have found a cosy home in stories like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, where they tackle the peculiar nuances of modern life. I
Demigods, meanwhile, have stamped their heroic mark in series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books.
Whether it’s the awe-inspiring power of gods, or the relatable struggles of demigods, these divine figures from ancient lore continue to cast their influence on our modern high fantasy tales.
What’s the first image that pops into your head when I say “witch?”
A cackling crone with a pointy hat, a warty nose, and an affection for cats and broomsticks?
Perhaps an eye of newt and toe of frog recipe?
Or, if you’re more aligned with modern high fantasy, a powerful and complex figure with a deep understanding of the arcane arts?
Regardless of your witchy vision, there’s no denying that these spellbinding ladies have left an indelible mark on literature and folklore, from the ancient world to Terry Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series.
Our earliest witchy wanderings take us back to ancient Greece, where the witch-goddess Circe made a name for herself in Homer’s Odyssey.
Circe had a penchant for turning men into pigs.
However, she wasn’t all about the porcine transformation; she also helped our hero Odysseus on his epic journey home, showing us that witches can be just as helpful as they are harmful.
Skipping ahead a few centuries, we meet the witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Weird Sisters.
With their eerie chants of “Double, double toil and trouble,” they whip up a storm of trouble for our ambitious antihero.
They’re a classic example of the trope of witches as foretellers of doom and spreaders of chaos. And let’s face it, they’ve got a cracking recipe for disaster soup.
Now, hold onto your hats, folks, because we’re hopping on our broomsticks and soaring into the modern realm of high fantasy.
One needn’t look further than the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for some of the most iconic and subversive witches in fantasy literature.
Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick (later replaced by the adorably feisty Tiffany Aching) are the witches of the ramshackle kingdom of Lancre.
They don’t fit the stereotypical mould of cackling, evil hags. Instead, they use their headology (a sort of folk-psychology-meets-common-sense approach), their knowledge of herbs and the human heart, and their innate grit to solve problems.
Granny Weatherwax, with her iron will and no-nonsense attitude, is the antithesis of the evil witch trope.
Nanny Ogg is the bawdy, jovial matriarch we all wish we had, while Magrat and Tiffany represent the idealistic, modern young witch trying to find her place in the world.
Pratchett’s witches are fully-realised characters, complete with strengths, weaknesses, and wonderfully quirky habits (we’re looking at you, Nanny Ogg and your naughty songs).
Over the year, witches have evolved from malicious spell-weavers and fortune-tellers into complex, multi-faceted characters.
They’ve gone from the sidelines of myth and folklore to the forefront of modern high fantasy, casting a spell that continues to enchant readers of all ages.
Whether you picture a bearded old man in a pointy hat or a bespectacled boy with a lightning bolt scar, there’s no doubt that wizards have cast a spell over our literary imaginations.
From their beginnings in ancient folklore to their lofty status in modern high fantasy, these magical maestros have had quite the journey.
Our first stop is in ancient Egypt, where we meet the high priest Djedi, who was said to be able to bring a decapitated animal back to life.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’d say resurrecting a goose definitely earns you a spot in the wizarding hall of fame.
Returning to ancient Greece, we encounter Medea. his enchantress, who appears in the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, certainly knew her way around a spell or two.
She could mix potions, control the elements, and generally bewitch anyone who got in her way. Although technically a witch, Medea’s powers and influence over the narrative can be seen as a precursor to our modern understanding of a wizard.
Moving on to the Medieval era, the figure of Merlin emerges in Arthurian legends.
Now, here’s a bloke who truly embodies the classic image of a wizard.
With his long beard, mysterious origins, and propensity for prophecies, Merlin set the standard for wizard-kind for centuries to come.
The mighty Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a wizard par excellence.
He’s old, wise, and can put on a fireworks display to put New Year’s Eve in London to shame.
Plus, he’s got that killer line, “You shall not pass!” which is handy not only when facing demon Balrogs but also when dealing with queue jumpers at the local chippy.
On the flip-side of a Merlin or Gandalf, we have Terry Pratchett’s wizard Rincewind from the Discworld series.
Now, Rincewind’s not your typical wizard—in fact, he’s rather rubbish at magic.
His true talent lies in running away and surviving against all odds, demonstrating that sometimes, it’s not the strength of the magic that matters, but the strength of the character.
And who could forget the wizarding world’s most famous teenager, Harry Potter?
This bespectacled boy wizard has undoubtedly left his mark (much like that pesky lightning bolt scar of his) on the world of fantasy literature, bringing magic and wizardry to a new generation of readers.
From elves to pixies, and gnomes to dwarves, these small humanoids may be lacking in height but are positively brimming with character.
Our first stop is ancient Ireland, where we encounter the mischievous leprechaun.
This little green chappie, with his propensity for shoe-mending and rainbow-hoarding, is a cornerstone of Irish mythology.
But be warned, if you’re planning on nabbing his pot of gold, remember this: leprechauns are not to be trifled with.
Journeying northwards, we find ourselves amid the Viking sagas and their hardy dwarves.
These stout fellows were renowned for their craftsmanship, forging legendary items such as Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.
Then, there’s the realm of the fairy folk, sprinkled throughout European folklore.
Ranging from the delicate, fluttery-winged beings of English lore to the more elusive and sometimes sinister entities found in Scottish and Irish tales.
Fast forward to the modern era of high fantasy, and we find J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits of The Lord of the Rings.
These pint-sized heroes, with their love for second breakfasts and their big, hairy feet, have won the hearts of millions.
Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin remind us that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Just don’t ask them to share their elevenses.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series also boasts a delightful array of smaller humanoids.
The Nac Mac Feegle (also known as the Wee Free Men) are a rowdy, boisterous group of blue-skinned, red-haired pictsies who enjoy fighting, stealing, and drinking.
As Pratchett so astutely puts it, they are “the most feared of all the fairy races, even before you get to the point of mentioning that they’re all six inches tall.”
From the early folklore of leprechauns and dwarves to the modern imaginings of hobbits and house-elves, small humanoids have always been a big part of our storytelling tradition.
They remind us of the power of the underdog (or undergnome, or underpixie), the potential for magic in unexpected places, and the truth of the old saying: good things come in small packages.
A time comes in every man’s life where you have to sit down and say, “let’s talk unicorns.”
These majestic beasts, with their singular spiralling horns and penchant for purity, have trotted through tales from ancient India to Medieval Europe.
Many a noble knight was said to have wasted his days chasing these elusive creatures, presumably because they had an aversion to practical pursuits like jousting or crocheting.
This majestic creature, boasting the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, has been a mainstay in mythology since the ancient Greeks first said, “you know what our stories need? More flying lions.” And frankly, who are we to disagree?
Next on our list is the ever-rising phoenix.
Hailing from ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, this fiery bird had the rather handy trick of bursting into flames and being reborn from its own ashes.
Next up, we have Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology.
Born from the blood of the slain Medusa, this high-flying steed had quite the dramatic entrance into the world.
He later served the hero Bellerophon, until a fall from grace—or rather, a tumble from the horse—sent Bellerophon back to the ground.
Then, we come to the centaur: half-human, half-horse, and all-around fascinating.
They trotted their way from ancient Greek lore to the fantastical world of Narnia and beyond, forever raising questions about where exactly they buy their trousers.
Moving from ancient lore to the realm of modern fantasy, we continue to see these magical creatures and their kin popping up all over the place.
Our beloved unicorn has evolved from the unattainable symbol of purity into magical creatures found in the pages of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.
They still carry the ethereal quality of yore, but with added layers of depth and pathos that leave us reaching for the tissues.
Then there’s the griffin.
Pegasus, the flying horse, inspired J.K. Rowling’s winged beasts in the Harry Potter series, from Buckbeak the Hippogriff to Fawkes the Phoenix.
Our magical tour continues to reveal the rich tapestry of mythical beasts that have galloped, flown, and trotted their way from ancient mythology to the heart of modern fantasy.
They add a pinch of the extraordinary to our stories and continue to ignite our sense of wonder. And who knows, next time you spot an unusually large bird in the sky or hear a rustle in the forest, you might just start to wonder…
Let’s begin with the not-so-gentle giants. They’ve stomped their way through folklore from Jack’s beanstalk to the tales of David and Goliath.
Always towering over us mere mortals, they have a knack for making us feel like Lilliputians on a bad day.
Next on our parade of peculiarities are the goblins.
These mischievous miscreants of the night have their roots in European folklore.
Not exactly known for their good looks, they’re usually trotted out to serve as a warning to children who misbehave.
I imagine it’s like saying, “eat your peas, or the goblins will get you.”
And let’s not forget the brutish ogres.
This lot have been the stuff of nightmares since their first mention in the epic French poem “La Chanson de Roland”.
Traditionally depicted as large, ugly and fond of human snacks, these creatures would make terrible dinner guests.
Next on our monster menu are the harpies. These winged women of Greek mythology, known for their screeching cries and unsavoury habits, were once considered the personifications of wind.
Of course, over time they’ve become less wind goddess and more flying fury.
Next up, we have the infamous Minotaur.
This half-man, half-bull chap was known for his residence in a labyrinth on Crete and his penchant for the occasional human snack. If ever there was a case for carrying a ball of string and avoiding suspicious mazes, it’s this fellow.
Lastly, we have the trolls of Norse folklore. These behemoths, known for their strength, slow wits, and aversion to sunlight, were not the sort of creature you’d want to stumble upon on a late-night hike.
Switching on the lantern of modern fantasy, we can see the shadows of these monsters stretching out into some of our favourite tales.
The giants have been reinvented by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Here, they range from the sympathetic and slightly dense Hagrid to the less appealing and significantly more violent Golgomath.
Goblins, with their green skin and industrious nature, find a home in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
They may be miners and metalsmiths, but their union rights leave much to be desired, and their customer service skills are truly something to wince at.
And then, there’s Shrek, our favourite ogre from William Steig’s book and the beloved DreamWorks film series.
He might have a face only a mother (or Fiona) could love, but he shows us that even ogres can have layers, just like onions.
The harpies, with their shrill cries and chaotic nature, can be found in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
In these stories, they’ve been repurposed as punishment for those who overstay their welcome in the underworld.
It’s like being told to move along by a terrifying, shrieking bird-woman.
Our bull-headed friend, the Minotaur, also makes an appearance in the Percy Jackson series, where he’s quite miffed about being beaten by a young lad with a piece of string all those years ago.
And finally, trolls. They’ve found a new home under J.R.R. Tolkien’s bridges and within J.K. Rowling’s magical world.
Now it’s time to dive into into the ocean’s depths, exploring the mysteries and myths of sea monsters. From the mighty Kraken to the enchanting merfolk and deadly sirens, we’ll traverse the tumultuous tides of ancient legends to the calmer seas of modern fantasy.
First on our maritime itinerary is the colossal Kraken.
This legendary sea monster, hailing from Norse sagas, was reputedly large enough to envelop entire ships with its giant tentacles.
Next, we have the merfolk.
These aquatic creatures with the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish are prevalent in folklore from all over the world.
They might seem inviting, but their whimsical nature hides a propensity for causing shipwrecks.
Lastly, we’ll listen for the captivating call of the sirens.
These Greek mythological creatures, often confused with mermaids, were said to lure sailors to their doom with their irresistible songs.
Now, let’s surface into the realm of modern fantasy, where these sea monsters continue to make waves.
The terrifying Kraken appears in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, proving that even demigods should be wary of what lurks beneath the ocean’s surface.
Merfolk, in all their alluring mystique, have swam into the hearts of modern readers in stories like Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch. These aren’t your Disney princesses, mind you. They’ve got more bite than you’d expect from fishfolk.
And who can forget the sirens? Their enchanting melodies have echoed through the pages of countless fantasy novels, including the Watersong series by Amanda Hocking.
Next, we’re lifting the lid on the coffin of undead mythology, from the spectral ghosts to bloodthirsty vampires and shambling zombies.
These timeless terrors have been chilling our spines from ancient legends to modern fantasy, so grab a garlic necklace, and let’s dig into the details!
First up, we have our friendly neighbourhood apparitions, the ghosts.
From Ancient Egypt to Shakespearean England, these ethereal beings have been haunting our narratives, often sticking around due to some unfinished business.
Next, let’s sink our teeth into vampires.
These undead aristocrats, originating from Eastern European folklore, are famed for their penchant for a liquid diet—type O, please, hold the garlic.
Lastly, we’ve got the ever-persistent zombies.
With roots in Haitian folklore, these undead folk don’t let a little thing like mortality get in the way of a good walk.
Ghosts float through many of our favourite stories.
From the mournful spirits in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series to the helpful ghosts of Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, they’re as much a part of the scenery as the cobwebs in an old house.
Vampires, with their impressive canines and nocturnal habits, have swooped into the likes of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.
For some unfathomable reason, there’s something tantalising about a brooding, eternally young fellow who only comes out at night.
And let’s not forget the zombies, those steady if somewhat slow, pursuers of the living.
In novels like World War Z by Max Brooks, they serve as a stark reminder that the slow and steady can indeed win the race, especially if the race is to devour brains.
As the old saying goes, “Here be dragons!” But what are dragons, really?
Not the scaly blighters who keep nicking the BBQ sausages off your grill.
No, we’re talking about the fire-breathing, gold-hoarding, riddle-spouting creatures that have haunted the nightmares and fantasies of many a culture around the world.
Dragons are fascinating creatures.
They’re the Beyoncés of the mythological world—everyone’s heard of them, and they come with a full range of talents.
Breath of fire? Check.
Shapeshifting, telepathy, riddles? All present and correct.
They’re multi-talented, to say the least, and it’s not difficult to see why they’ve captivated the imaginations of authors and readers alike in the realm of high fantasy.
One of the main reasons we’re so drawn to dragons, I suspect, is because they’re wildly different depending on who you ask.
In much of Western mythology, dragons are usually the baddies.
They’re the embodiment of chaos and destruction, a menace that needs to be sorted out by our brave knight in shining armour.
St. George and the Dragon, anyone?
Meanwhile, some Eastern mythologies give us a different perspective.
Here, dragons are often benevolent, symbols of wisdom and power, the kind of being you wouldn’t mind having around for a cuppa and a chat.
They’re associated with water, agriculture, and the heavens, embodying harmony rather than chaos.
So, one dragon’s fiery chaos is another dragon’s spot of tea.
This diversity offers authors a fantastic toolbox when they’re crafting their high fantasy novels.
Whether a dragon is a fearsome antagonist, a wise ally, or an intriguing mixture of the two, it’s the dragon’s character that adds depth and colour to a tale.
It’s the one creature where the sky isn’t just the limit—it’s a mere starting point.
But these mythological fire-breathers didn’t simply pop up overnight.
Dragons have been slithering around in the imaginations of humans for millennia.
From their ominous roles in ancient religious texts to the great epics of early literature, let’s set our time machine back a bit and explore some of these beastly origin stories.
The Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, introduces us to the rather marvellous Tiamat, a chaos sea-dragon.
She’s one of the earliest dragon-esque beings in mythology.
With her, we’re in serious trouble. I mean, she’s the embodiment of chaos. Nice lass, I’m sure, but not one for a quiet pint down at the local.
Fast forward to ancient Greece and we encounter a plethora of dragon-like creatures.
There’s the Hydra, a water serpent with nine heads, slain by our friendly neighbourhood demigod, Hercules.
And let’s not forget about Python, a dragon-serpent slain by the god Apollo, which even had a prophecy-telling gig at the Oracle of Delphi.
Over in the Bible, we have the well-known serpent from the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, often interpreted as a dragon in early Christian art and literature.
And don’t get me started on Revelation, where dragons and serpents are all the rage, particularly one “great red dragon” with seven heads.
Even the ancient Chinese had a spot for dragons, who were often considered as deities associated with water and weather.
These dragons were vastly different from their Western counterparts – they were symbols of power and luck, rather than monstrous beasts.
They even had a Dragon King, who was in charge of rain and water. So, if you had a water leak, you knew who to blame.
Whether they were feared or revered, dragons have been an integral part of cultural lore across the world, shaping tales and myths for thousands of years.
Even today, in our high fantasy novels, we see echoes of these ancient dragon tales, reminding us of our enduring fascination with these legendary beasts.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey, or monomyth, is a common template found in many stories from cultures around the world.
Proposed by Joseph Campbell, it illustrates the cyclical journey undertaken by the protagonist—the hero—in a transformative adventure.
From the trials and tribulations of Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey to the adventures of Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon, the hero’s journey is a tried and true formula that continues to capture the imaginations of readers the world over.
After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
The Hero’s Journey in The Lord of the Rings
The Ordinary World: This is the hero’s regular life before the story begins. For Frodo Baggins, the hero of our tale, this is his peaceful existence in the Shire.
Call to Adventure: The hero is presented with a challenge or quest. In Frodo’s case, this comes when he inherits the One Ring from Bilbo and learns of its dark history from Gandalf.
Refusal of the Call: Often, the hero will initially refuse the call due to fear or uncertainty. While Frodo is anxious about the dangerous journey, he understands the necessity and takes up the mission.
Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who provides guidance or training. Gandalf serves as Frodo’s mentor, imparting knowledge about Middle-Earth, the Ring, and the dangerous quest ahead.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero leaves their ordinary world and embarks on their quest. Frodo, accompanied by his friends, leaves the Shire to take the Ring to Rivendell.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces a series of challenges while making friends and encountering foes. Frodo and his companions – the Fellowship of the Ring – encounter numerous obstacles, from Orcs to the treacherous Gollum.
Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches the goal. For Frodo, this is his arduous journey towards Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.
The Ordeal: This is a major challenge that the hero must overcome, usually facing death or severe danger. Frodo faces many ordeals, notably the climactic struggle at Mount Doom, where he battles the influence of the Ring and Gollum’s treachery.
Reward (Seizing the Sword): After overcoming the ordeal, the hero receives a reward or accomplishes their goal. Frodo’s reward is the destruction of the Ring, leading to the defeat of Sauron and the liberation of Middle-earth.
The Road Back: The hero must return to their ordinary world. Here, Frodo and his companions return to the Shire.
Resurrection: This is the final test, where the hero must face the consequences of their journey. For Frodo, this is the scouring of the Shire, where he and his companions defend their home one last time.
Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world but is transformed by their journey. Frodo, forever changed by his journey, ultimately decides to leave Middle-earth with the elves, passing on his story (the ‘elixir’) to Sam to continue in the Shire.
Ten High Fantasy Books Inspired by Mythology and Folklore
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Blending elements of American folklore, Norse mythology, and modern-day life, Gaiman’s tale follows ex-convict Shadow Moon as he becomes embroiled in a war between the old gods and the new.
Circe by Madeline Miller
This enchanting novel tells the story of Circe, the daughter of the Titan Helios and the nymph Perse, who is banished to a remote island where she hones her witchcraft and encounters legendary figures from Greek mythology.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Drawing upon European folklore and mythology, Beagle’s novel tells the story of a unicorn who sets out on a journey to discover why she is the last of her kind, encountering a cast of colorful characters along the way. The novel is known for its beautiful prose and poignant exploration of themes such as love, loss, and mortality.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Set in medieval Russia, Arden’s novel draws upon Russian folklore and Slavic mythology to tell the story of a young girl named Vasilisa who must protect her village from dark forces.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
In this epic fantasy tale, Rothfuss draws inspiration from various mythologies and folklores to create a richly detailed world filled with magic, music, and adventure.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
In this beautifully crafted series, Jemisin weaves together elements of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern mythology to create a captivating tale of gods, mortals, and the power struggles that bind them.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s classic series is set in a world of magic and dragons, drawing inspiration from various folklores and myths, including Norse, Celtic, and Taoist traditions. The story follows the wizard Ged as he journeys through the islands of Earthsea, confronting ancient evils and learning the true meaning of power and wisdom. The series is known for its vivid world-building, complex characters, and exploration of themes such as balance, identity, and the power of language.
The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence
This dark, gritty series follows the rise of a ruthless prince named Jorg Ancrath as he battles demons, both internal and external, in a world shaped by ancient myths and legends.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
A love letter to storytelling, Morgenstern’s novel draws inspiration from a wide array of mythologies and folklores to create a mesmerizing tale of a hidden, magical world beneath the surface of our own.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
In this standalone epic fantasy, Shannon weaves together elements from Eastern and Western mythologies, creating a world filled with dragons, magic, and complex political intrigue.
Each of these stories offers a unique perspective on the timeless themes and archetypal characters that have captivated readers for centuries. Happy reading!
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Discover the enchanting world of fantasy author Jeffrey L. Kohanek and his captivating series, Fate of Wizardoms. Explore his writing process, world-building techniques, and immersive storytelling. Join the adventure today!
Jeffrey L. Kohanek has enthralled readers with his fast-paced fantasy series, Fate of Wizardoms.
In this interview, Jeffrey takes us behind the scenes of his writing process, the inspiration for his world-building, and what readers can expect from his work.
So grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and let’s dive into the mind of Jeffrey L. Kohanek.
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
As a kid, comic books sparked my imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. My tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination.
Since middle school, I have exclusively read fantasy fiction, the total titles approaching 1,000 novels. The authors who have come before me helped to form the stories I tell, but what inspired me the most were the magic systems, something which I enjoy greatly and ensure said magic permeates the worlds I create.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
Worldbuilding includes many aspects: geography, politics, climate, magic, culture, gods, religion, mythos, and more.
I often begin with a map, which helps to ground the story in a sense of reality while defining topography, climate, borders, city locations, and more. Gods, religion, and magic are also early aspects I define and all of those things combine to influence the politics, culture, and the mythos that exists in each nation across my fantasy world.
Can you walk us through your writing process?
I try to write every day and set a weekly goal of 10,000 words minimum and 12,000 as the target.
Drafting takes six to eight weeks depending on the breadth of the story. After completing a first draft, I dive into revisions, which is my favorite part of writing.
Two rounds of revisions with technical edits performed in between leaves me with a novel ready for editing. My editor gives it two passes, I incorporate the necessary edits, and then my books go to my proofing team of four people. They are the typo hunters.
When that is done, I send to my ARC/review team and the book releases a few weeks later. By then, I am nearly finished drafting the next book.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
I often research odd medieval professions to add depth to my stories.
One of those was a tanner, which is a nasty, dirty job held by the father of the protagonist in my very first novel. Tanners use urine, lime and other odiferous chemicals to treat and clean hides. Hence, they also live on the downwind side and on the outskirts of a city. Who wants to live near a tanner?
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
My books are written for pure entertainment, but my favorite scenes are the ones that cause readers to laugh out loud. I find that fantasy tales are often too serious, dark, and gritty, so the laughter helps to balance the tense moments. That is what I want readers to remember from my books.
If you could have any magical ability, what would it be?
I love magic that can transform a regular person into something super human, even if just for a short time. It is sort of like a superhero in a fantasy world, which I find to be fun.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
I love many of my characters, but I have a secret crush on a wizardess named Narine. While she was a bit pretentious and spoiled when I first introduced her, she grew up nicely, has a good heart, and is feisty for a former princess. I would happily be trapped on a deserted island with her.
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
This depends on your age and interest. If you are under fifteen or prefer coming-of-age elements with teen protagonists, check out my Runes of Issalia series.
If you are an adult and enjoy more complex stories featuring adult characters who deal with adult topics, start with Fate of Wizardoms.
If you enjoy either series, there are follow-up series set in the same world, leaving the reader plenty to enjoy.
About the author:
I love fantasy, adventure, and magic. More than that, I adore my readers.
My books are written to entertain — fantasy adventures filled with compelling characters, spectacular magic, thrilling action, constant intrigue, and a sense of discovery. I equate them to the “Marvel Movie” version of fiction, intended to be a fun escape.
I would love to have you join me and my quirky characters for one outrageous adventure after another. With 24 novels and more than two million published words to my name, my author journey has just begun.
Embark on an epic fantasy adventure with the Ravenglass Chronicles. Discover the definitive reading order for this immersive series inspired by the tarot’s major arcana. Magic, intrigue, and unforgettable characters await.
For fans of epic fantasy, the Ravenglass Chronicles, with its intricate storylines and unforgettable characters, offers a deeply immersive experience.
Each book in the series is inspired by the tarot’s major arcana, weaving a rich tapestry of magic, intrigue, and adventure.
To help you navigate this enchanting world, here is the definitive reading order for the Ravenglass Chronicles.
Book 0 (prequel) – The Fool
Book 1 – The Magician
Book 2 – The High Priestess
Book 3 – The Empress
Book 4 – The Emperor
Book 5 – The Hierophant
Book 6 – The Lovers
Book 7 – The Chariot
Book 8 – Strength
Book 9 – The Hermit
Book 10 – Wheel of Fortune
Book 11 – Justice
Book 12 – The Hanged Man
Book 13 – Death
Book 14 – Temperance
Book 15 – The Devil
Book 16 – The Tower
Book 17 – The Star
Book 18 – The Moon
Book 19 – The Sun
Book 20 – Judgement
Book 21 – The World
You can read The Fool for free as part of your Ravenglass Universe starter library.
Uncover the role of religion and spirituality in epic fantasy as we explore gods, prophecies, religious figures, and the intertwining of magic. Discover the divine influence in fantasy worlds.
Today, we’re going to dive into the mysterious and often misunderstood world of religion and spirituality in epic fantasy.
Let’s start with the obvious—gods. These celestial beings are omnipotent, all-knowing, and all-powerful—or so they would have you believe. In many fantasy worlds, gods play a crucial role in shaping the fate of mortals, often meddling in their affairs and causing all sorts of chaos.
But, let’s take a step back and think about this. If you had the power to control the lives of countless mortals, wouldn’t you be tempted to use that power for your own amusement? I mean, it’s like having a giant sandbox and all the toys, what’s not to love? So, maybe the gods in fantasy worlds are just a bunch of bored, cosmic pranksters.
Next up, we have prophecy. Prophecies are often a key component of fantasy, foretelling the arrival of a chosen one who will save the world from certain doom. But let’s think about this for a moment. If you knew your destiny was to save the world, wouldn’t you just avoid the world altogether? I mean, talk about pressure.
Religious figures also play a prominent role in many fantasy worlds, serving as spiritual leaders and guiding forces for their followers. But let’s be honest, how many of these religious figures are just in it for the power and prestige? After all, who wouldn’t want to be the head of a massive religious organisation, with thousands of adoring followers and the ability to shape the lives of entire communities?
Finally, we have magic. Magic is often intertwined with religion and spirituality in fantasy, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, magic is just a way of manipulating the supernatural, and what’s more supernatural than the divine? But, if you had the power to control magic, wouldn’t you use it to create your own religion and become a powerful religious leader? It worked for L. Ron Hubbard.
So, religion and spirituality play a critical role in many epic fantasy worlds. Maybe the gods are just bored, the chosen one is just trying to avoid the spotlight, religious figures are just in it for the power, and magic is just a great excuse to start your own religious cult.
Would you like a free Ravenglass Universe starter library?
You will get a free novel, two novellas, plus short stories and all the latest news in the Ravenglass Universe.
Discover why fantasy readers can’t resist the allure of thieves in this thrilling blog post. Explore the thrill of heists, wit and charm, anti-hero archetypes, redemption journeys, and the captivating fantasy element. Get ready for an adventure you won’t forget.
Thief characters are a staple in the fantasy genre. From daring heists to cunning schemes, stories about thieves offer a unique blend of action, suspense, and wit.
But what is it about thieves that fantasy readers find so appealing? Let’s explore.
The Thrill of the Heist:
Stories about thieves often involve daring heists, and the excitement of watching the characters plan and execute their schemes is hard to resist. The tension and suspense of a well-executed heist can be incredibly engaging, especially when the stakes are high.
The Wit and Charm of the Thief:
Thief characters are often charismatic, quick-witted, and smart, which makes them a joy to read about. Whether they’re charming their way out of a sticky situation or coming up with a clever plan, these characters are always one step ahead of their opponents.
The Anti-Hero Archetype:
Thief characters often fall into the category of anti-heroes, which means they possess both good and bad qualities. This makes them complex and multi-dimensional.
The Idea of Redemption:
Many thief characters are struggling with their own moral dilemmas and are looking for redemption. This makes them relatable, and readers can connect with their struggles and journeys towards a better life.
The Fantasy Element:
Fantasy novels often take place in fantastical worlds, and the addition of thieves adds a unique twist to the traditional crime story. The use of magic, mythical creatures, and other elements of the fantastical world make the story even more engaging and thrilling.
If you love fantasy with thieves, you can get my novel Birth of Assassins for free as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library.