Explore the influence of the iconic ‘Final Fantasy’ video game series on contemporary fantasy literature, from world-building to character complexity. Dive into the parallel universes!
Final Fantasy, the video game series that’s been anything but ‘final’, has made a considerable impact not just on the gaming world, but also on the pages of contemporary fantasy literature.
So, how exactly did a bunch of pixelated characters hopping across our screens wield such influence over authors and their hefty tomes?
Chocobos to Giant Hawks?
The first, and possibly most important, aspect is the sheer scope of the worlds Square Enix created.
If you’ve read any of Patrick Rothfuss’s “Kingkiller Chronicle”, you may have noticed his world’s depth, from the currency system to the layout of the University.
Much like the intricate maps and city layouts of Final Fantasy, it seems Rothfuss might’ve spent a wee bit too much time in virtual taverns.
Environmental issues, from the lifeforce-sapping Mako Reactors in FFVII to the Sin-tainted oceans of FFX, run deep.
N.K. Jemisin, in her “Broken Earth” series, paints a world under ecological collapse.
Well, maybe. But who wouldn’t fancy a ride on the Highwind while navigating through a post-apocalyptic Earth?
You thought Cloud’s and Squall’s angst was reserved for teenagers with oversized swords?
The nuanced character development we see, especially in later FF titles, mirrors the emotional depth and complexity found in characters like Kaladin from Brandon Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive.”
Moody hero with hidden depth? Check.
Just as in the games, where a side quest could lead to acquiring that elusive ultimate weapon, authors like Sarah J. Maas in her “Throne of Glass” series often indulge in side plots that are just as compelling as the main narrative.
Sometimes, they even steal the show.
Mixing Technology and Magic
FF has always toyed with the balance between the mystical and the mechanical.
A theme picked up by authors like Brian McClellan in his “Powder Mage” trilogy where gunpowder sits alongside sorcery, lending the stories a similar charm to FF’s technological landscapes brimming with magic.
In the end, while it’s a playful stretch to claim that every modern fantasy author has a hidden stash of FF games under their bed, there’s no denying the influence of this legendary series.
It’s as if the literary realm looked at Final Fantasy and thought, “Well, why should video games have all the fun?”
Explore the evolution of princess protagonists in fantasy literature, from damsels in distress to empowered heroines with depth, agency, and nuance. Dive into their captivating tales.
From magical kingdoms to epic quests, princess protagonists have long captivated readers of fantasy literature.
While early fantasy works often portrayed princesses as damsels in distress or prizes to be won, modern takes on the archetype have brought nuance, depth and agency to these royal heroines.
Let’s explore some of the most influential princess protagonists in contemporary fantasy novels and what makes them so impactful.
A Leader of Legends: Eilonwy in The Chronicles of Prydain
Though Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain often takes a lighthearted tone, the series broaches serious themes of war, death and finding inner strength. At its heart is Princess Eilonwy, a headstrong young girl grappling with her magical gifts and her role in saving the mythical land of Prydain. Far from a passive damsel, Eilonwy shows courage and cleverness from the start, often rescuing the hero rather than waiting to be rescued. Her matter-of-fact personality and dry wit add humor to the epic journey. Eilonwy emerges a wise, powerful leader who chooses duty over love – a subversion of classic princess tropes.
The Girl Who Would Be Queen: Aerin in The Hero and the Crown
Aerin, the heroine of Robin McKinley’s acclaimed novel The Hero and the Crown, is a fascinating study in duality. As the ignored daughter of the king, she is no one’s idea of a princess, much less a future queen. Shy and bookish, she seems an unlikely hero. Yet through grit and ingenuity, Aerin overcomes deadly dragons and becomes a battle-tested warrior. She claims both her magical heritage and her rightful place on the throne, proving that a princess’s power lies within. McKinley crafts a psychologically complex, inspiring character who finds greatness by being wholly herself.
The Princess as Warrior: Angharad in The Green Rider
Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series whisks readers away to an enchanted world on the brink of war. Standing strong against looming darkness is Princess Angharad, heir to the empire. Though a skilled fighter, Angharad’s true power lies in uniting allies toward a common cause. Her keen sense of diplomacy complements her warrior skills, showing that mind and muscle can partner in a strong leader. Angharad must navigate complex family dynamics and political intrigues while staying true to her principles of loyalty and justice. She proves a princess can fight battles both on the battlefield and in the cutthroat royal court.
Princess of Shadow: Elisa in The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns follows Princess Elisa, who must shed her insecurities to embrace her destiny as a prophesized ruler. Marked by a magical stone in her navel, Elisa is blessed – or cursed – with an ancient power, and hunted by dark forces who want to control it. Though born a princess, Elisa begins an unlikely hero, overweight and uncertain. Through painful growth and loss, she taps into her hidden strengths to claim her birthright and stand against evil. Elisa’s transformation inspires readers to look beyond the surface and find the spirit of the warrior princess within.
The Princess and the Commoner: Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones’ fantastical Howl’s Moving Castle stars Sophie, the eldest of three sisters doomed to fail in her fairy tale world. When she’s turned into an old crone by a jealous witch, plucky Sophie refuses to accept her fate. She bargains her way into an apprenticeship with the wizard Howl and finds magic, adventure and even true love. Sophie uses wit and indignation to become a powerful sorceress in her own right, proving that destiny is what you make it. Though a commoner, she ultimately wins over Howl, resolving the tension between princess and peasant that permeates fairy tales.
The Warrior Heir: Princess Cimorene in Dealing with Dragons
In Patricia C. Wrede’s endearing Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Princess Cimorene bucks tradition by running away to become a dragon’s princess. Cimorene’s practicality, competence and no-nonsense attitude make her an untraditional yet beloved heroine. She slays stereotypes of princesses as demure and passive.
The Clever Spy: Princess Irene in The Princess and the Goblin
In George MacDonald’s classic The Princess and the Goblin, young Princess Irene displays courage and wit. When her kingdom is threatened by sinister goblins, Irene devises clever traps and strategies to defeat them. She proves you can fight evil with intelligence just as well as strength.
The Beast Charmer: Beauty in Robin McKinley’s Beauty
Robin McKinley puts a fresh spin on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast in her novel Beauty. As the title character, Beauty must navigate her shifting feelings for the Beast while defending her kingdom from political unrest. Her empathy and inner strength enable her to gently tame the Beast and restore peace.
The Summoner: Aru Shah in Aru Shah and the End of Time
In Roshani Chokshi’s Pandava series, 12-year-old Aru Shah can summon ancient Hindu gods and goddesses. When she accidentally sparks the evil god of time, Aru must undertake a dangerous journey to turn back the clock. Smart and brave, Aru proves you don’t need a crown to be a hero.
The Reluctant Ruler: Sophos in Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series
Sophos is an unlikely king – timid and bookish, he’s more scholar than ruler. Yet in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief books, Sophos displays quiet strength and care for his people. Though he never expected the crown, Sophos grows into a just, compassionate leader.
The Assassin Who Would Be Queen: Celaena Sardothien in Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas’ bestselling Throne of Glass series introduces Celaena Sardothien, a legendary teenage assassin sentenced to toil in the salt mines of Endovier. Offered a chance at freedom if she wins a competition to become the king’s champion, Celaena must summon the strength to once again embrace her deadly talents. Behind her fierce exterior, she hides a painful past and greater destiny as future Queen of Terrasen.
These princess protagonists capture the hearts of fantasy fans by showing courage, intelligence and growth.
While honoured for their royal blood, they rely on their personal strengths—quick wits, martial skill, humility in the face of destiny.
They lead with wisdom and prove girls can be the heroines of their own stories.
Fantasy authors continue to move princess characters to the foreground, making them complex individuals rather than lovely figures in the background.
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.
Explore the rise of epic fantasy across literature, TV, film, video games, and music. Discover how this genre has revolutionized popular culture.
We’re about to embark on a thrilling ride through the expansive realms of epic fantasy.
It’s been said that we’re living in a golden age of this grand genre, and as we venture from literature and video games, to television and film, it’s hard to disagree.
The past decade or so has brought with it a resurgence of epic fantasy that would make even the most hardened orc shed a tear of joy.
This period, brimming with magical creatures, intricate world-building, and complex characters, has heralded a revolution in how we consume and perceive this genre.
No longer confined to dusty tomes enjoyed in candle-lit, wizard-themed bedrooms, epic fantasy has soared on dragon wings, spreading its influence far and wide across popular culture.
Today, it’s as common to hear chatter about the latest dragon-slaying escapade on the commute as it is to discuss the weather.
In this thrilling expedition, we’ll delve into the staggering impact of epic fantasy on our books, TV shows, films, video games, and music.
So, pull up a chair, summon your beverage of choice, and join us as we embark on this fantastical journey.
An Explosion of Fantasy on the Bookshelves
First, let’s pay a visit to the realm of literature. It’s hard to talk about epic fantasy without tipping our hats to the unstoppable force that is Brandon Sanderson.
Sanderson churns out novels with the same speed that a poorly trained wizard casts fireballs (and with far less collateral damage). His “Stormlight Archive” series has given us a world so epic it makes the Himalayas look like a minor inconvenience.
Then we have the fantastical work of N.K. Jemisin and her ‘Broken Earth’ trilogy. Her powerful prose and intricate plotting rocked the literary world. Not only did she bag the prestigious Hugo Award for each book in the trilogy, a first for any author, but she also managed to subtly weave poignant social commentary into her lore. She has, quite literally, redefined the landscape of fantasy.
And, of course, there’s George R. R. Martin. His ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, a veritable ‘War and Peace’ of Westeros, continues to delight and horrify us in equal measure. (Of course, this mention is contingent upon the long-awaited sixth book ‘The Winds of Winter’ ever seeing the light of day. No pressure, George, but the kettle’s been on for a while now).
And Sarah J. Maas burst onto the scene like a unicorn on roller-skates with her ‘Throne of Glass’ and ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series. (I always want to see what A Court of Guns and Roses might look like, but after this year’s Glastonbury performance it might not be the best idea). Maas’s enticing mix of fantasy, romance, and strong female leads has inspired a new generation of readers to pick up the mantle and read past their bedtime.
A New Chapter: Indie Heroes of the Epic Fantasy Realm
If the corporate publishing landscape is akin to a neatly trimmed English garden, then indie publishing is the wild, untamed forest just beyond, rife with the unknown and bursting with possibilities.
With the rise of the digital age, an ever-growing crop of talented wordsmiths have bravely ventured into this wilderness, bestowing upon us a treasure trove of self-published epic fantasies.
Leading the charge is none other than Michael J. Sullivan with his ‘Riyria Revelations’. If you’ve not had the pleasure, Sullivan’s series offers a refreshing brew of classic high fantasy with a generous dash of modern sensibility. His dynamic duo, Royce and Hadrian, steal more than just gold.
Then there’s Anthony Ryan, who exploded onto the scene with ‘Blood Song,’ the first book in the ‘Raven’s Shadow’ series. Ryan’s tale, as gritty as a winter’s day in Grimsby, is proof positive that you don’t need corporate backing to win over fans. His success caught the attention of Penguin Books, who re-published his work, thus transforming this self-published gem into a mainstream marvel.
We mustn’t overlook Will Wight’s ‘Cradle’ series, an ingenious blend of epic fantasy and xianxia (a Chinese genre focusing on cultivation of moral and spiritual virtues). As innovative as a solar-powered teapot, Wight demonstrates the creative liberties of indie publishing, delivering tales unfettered by conventional genre expectations and marketing executives.
Amanda Hocking, the queen of paranormal romance, took a leap into the epic fantasy genre with her ‘Trylle Trilogy.’ Hocking proves that when it comes to indie publishing, not even the sky’s the limit. Why stop at the sky when there are entirely new worlds to explore?
Of course, indie publishing isn’t as easy as a Sunday morning lie-in. It requires the tenacity of a determined terrier and the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson.
These authors aren’t just writing, they’re also acting as their marketers, and, on occasion, therapists.
It’s a challenging path, but as our highlighted authors prove, it can lead to rewards as satisfying as the perfect biscuit dunk.
A Feast for Our Telly Boxes
Shifting our gaze from ink and paper, let’s flick on the telly and cast our eyes towards the fantasy genre’s successful infiltration of the small screen.
Let’s start with the behemoth in the room, or rather, the dragon on the screen. ‘Game of Thrones’ gave fantasy television a jolt stronger than a double espresso on a Monday morning. George R. R. Martin’s deliciously intricate storylines, coupled with HBO’s willingness to shell out more gold coins than Smaug’s treasure hoard, resulted in a series that captivated a global audience and redefined fantasy on television.
Not to be outdone, Netflix threw its hat in the ring with ‘The Witcher,’ based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of novels. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the grizzled Geralt of Rivia became an overnight sensation, as did his catchy tune, ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.’ Who knew monster hunting could have such a rousing soundtrack? The series adeptly balanced monster-of-the-week plots with a grand overarching narrative, and the production value was higher than a gentleman’s top hat.
Amazon, too, is keen on joining this magical melee with its ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel series and the adaptation of Robert Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time’. Between you, me, and the lamppost, these ambitious projects are about as secretive as the Queen’s pudding recipe. Yet, the mere whiff of these beloved epics getting the screen treatment has fans twitching with excitement.
Fantasy TV has indeed proven itself as popular as a dog in a park full of squirrels, much to the delight of book lovers everywhere. The magic of these sprawling epics, replete with dragons, witches, and an alarming number of medieval political squabbles, has found a comfortable new home in our living rooms. Just be sure to keep your remote handy – there are endless worlds to explore, all from the comfort of your favourite armchair. What an age to be a fantasy lover, indeed!
A Silver Screen Spectacle
Just as the heartiest English breakfast isn’t complete without a slather of HP sauce, our tour of the golden age of epic fantasy wouldn’t be whole without a tip of the hat to its cinematic counterparts.
With bated breath, we’ve watched our favourite realms spring to life, one painstakingly rendered CGI dragon at a time.
First off, we must pay our respects to the grand-daddy of them all – ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Peter Jackson’s masterful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga broke records, hearts, and the established notion that “those fantasy tomes are unfilmable, old chap.”
Following in Bilbo’s furry footsteps, the ‘Harry Potter’ series proved that fantasy wasn’t just for us old-timers. J.K. Rowling’s charming blend of magic and quintessentially British boarding school life bewitched a generation, and the movies broadened that spell. Hogwarts, with its shifting staircases and genial ghosts, became as real as Buckingham Palace, just with fewer corgis and more house-elves.
Of course, not every cinematic expedition into fantasy is a skip through the Shire. Take the ‘Eragon’ film, for instance. As the saying goes, “the book was better,” and never have truer words been spoken. The film was about as well-received as a fox in a henhouse, proving that bringing an epic fantasy to life requires more than a few spells and a CGI dragon.
In recent years, Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Hellboy’ films and Duncan Jones’s ‘Warcraft’ have shown us that fantasy films can wear many hats, from dark comedy to high-stakes action. ‘Warcraft,’ though it didn’t charm critics, nevertheless proved a hit with the fans. After all, who could resist the lure of oversized armour and epic griffin flights?
These days, we fantasy buffs are spoilt for choice. Between the magic-infused majesty of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and the whimsical journey of ‘Stardust,’ it’s clear that epic fantasy is alive and well in the cineplex.
Video Games: An Interactive Epic
As we continue our magical mystery tour of the golden age of epic fantasy, it’s only proper we take a side quest into the vibrant realm of video games.
First, we must traverse the snowy landscapes of Bethesda’s ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’. With its stunning open-world design and dragon-shouting (Fus Ro Dah, anyone?), it’s been as big a hit as the Beatles. Players find themselves immersed in a world teeming with lore, dragons, and an alarming number of cheese wheels. Whether you’re bashing trolls or simply enjoying a breathtaking aurora over the mountains, ‘Skyrim’ offers an epic fantasy adventure as expansive as the London Underground, but with fewer delays.
Then there’s ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’, CD Projekt Red’s gloriously gritty adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels. As Geralt of Rivia, players navigate a beautifully crafted world, grappling with beasties and moral conundrums in equal measure. The game’s rich narrative, engaging side quests, and dynamic combat system have been lauded as more satisfying than a perfectly brewed cup of English tea. A tip for the uninitiated: Beware the drowners and always – always – play Gwent.
Let’s not overlook ‘World of Warcraft’, an online universe so compelling, it’s been the cause of many a missed social engagement. Even after several years, its allure remains as potent as a nicely matured Stilton. The intricate lore, the sprawling world, the sense of community — it’s as thrilling as a surprise holiday, but with dragons.
For those with a penchant for intricate strategy, there’s ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’. BioWare’s gem presents a world where player choices shape the narrative. Do you save the village from a marauding horde, or let it burn? It’s like being in your very own epic fantasy novel but without the risk of paper cuts.
Indeed, the appeal of these games extends beyond their fantastic visuals and engaging gameplay. They offer an immersive, interactive experience that’s as close as one can get to actually living in a fantasy realm, without the inconvenience of having to polish one’s own armour.
A Song of Ice and Fire: Epic Fantasy’s Influence on Popular Music
No grand journey through the golden age of epic fantasy would be complete without an exploration of its influence on the music scene.
The modern metal scene has been particularly bewitched by epic fantasy. Bands like Blind Guardian have entire albums dedicated to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, while others, like Burzum and Summoning, delve into the darker aspects of the genre. Their music is as grandiose and dramatic as the tales that inspired them, perfect for those moments when life calls for a bit more oomph.
And, of course, who could forget the hit TV show soundtracks? Ramin Djawadi’s ‘Game of Thrones’ score, haunting and heroic in equal measure, not only enhances the on-screen action but has found a life of its own in popular culture. You can’t swing a direwolf these days without hearing someone humming ‘The Rains of Castamere’ or ‘Light of the Seven.’
Music artists, just like authors, have seized upon the imagery, themes and mythology of epic fantasy to infuse their work with a sense of grandeur and adventure. Be it through lyrics, album artwork, or sonically through the music itself, the influence of epic fantasy reverberates throughout today’s music landscape.
And let’s face it, there’s something utterly epic about belting out a power ballad infused with references to dragon-fire and elven lore.
Beyond the Realms of Fantasy: Epic Fantasy’s Impact on Popular Culture
As our journey through the golden age of epic fantasy draws to a close, it’s time to take a step back and admire the spectacular view.
From the bound pages of a well-worn tome to the digital reaches of a role-playing game, it’s clear that epic fantasy has permeated more than just our bookshelves, TV screens, cinemas, and consoles. It has, in fact, seeped into the very fabric of our popular culture.
The surge of interest in epic fantasy has had a profound impact, like a truly magnificent cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.
Suddenly, it’s no longer the preserve of the niche and the nerdy. The age-old stereotypes associated with fantasy enthusiasts—you know, the image of a bespectacled recluse in a dragon-emblazoned T-shirt—have been banished to the shadowy corners of ignorance.
Nowadays, confessing your love for fantastical realms is as normal as complaining about the weather.
TV series like ‘Game of Thrones’ have transformed fantasy into a hot topic at the water cooler, with office chat just as likely to revolve around the latest dragon sighting as last night’s football match.
Harry Potter, that bespectacled wizard boy, has charmed our language, adding phrases like ‘Muggle’ and ‘Quidditch’ to our lexicon as easily as a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
On the fashion front, elven jewellery and wizarding robes have sashayed from the realms of cosplay into everyday street wear.
Don’t be surprised if your next date shows up sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with a witty Game of Thrones pun or if your local fast-fashion store showcases a line of Witcher-inspired accessories.
Even our food hasn’t escaped the fantasy influence. From Butterbeer to lembas bread, we’ve developed a taste for fictional fare.
Suddenly, hosting a ‘Hobbit’-themed dinner party seems as reasonable as a Sunday roast.
And who among us hasn’t yearned to sample a flagon of ale at The Prancing Pony or indulge in a Witcher-style feast?
What this all boils down to is this: epic fantasy has transformed from a secluded genre into a cultural powerhouse.
It has become a shared language, a social glue that binds us together in our quest for the magical, the mythical, the marvellous.
The golden age of epic fantasy has spun tales that entertain, yes, but it has also fostered communities, sparking connections across borders and cultures. It’s made the world a touch more magical and a whole lot more fun.
So, whether you’re a reader, a viewer, a gamer, a self-published author or simply someone who enjoys wearing a Gandalf-inspired hat, let’s raise a glass (or rather, a goblet) to the golden age of epic fantasy.
Its influence has made our reality a little more fantastical.
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.
Dive into the evolution of the assassin fantasy genre, from ancient folklore to modern literature. Explore classic tales, seminal works, and today’s intricate narratives that mix mystery, action, and moral ambiguity.
Throughout the vast realms of fantasy literature, there exists a subgenre that focuses on the moral ambiguities of being a killer—the assassin fantasy genre.
From the mysterious and silent killers of ancient tales to the morally complex anti-heroes of modern sagas, the portrayal of assassins in literature has evolved significantly over time.
Today, we’ll delve into the evolution of the assassin fantasy genre, exploring its earliest examples and tracing its development into the modern day.
Origins: Shadows in the Pages
The roots of the assassin fantasy genre can be traced back to ancient civilizations and folklore.
Stories of assassins and their deadly skills have captivated audiences across different cultures.
Ancient texts such as “One Thousand and One Nights” (Arabian Nights) contain tales of skilled killers like the legendary Sinbad, whose exploits blurred the line between hero and assassin.
These early examples showcased the mystique and cunning of assassins, establishing the foundation for the genre.
Assassin Fantasy in Classic Literature
The 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the emergence of classic literature that incorporated assassin characters.
One of the most notable works was Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Although not primarily an assassin fantasy, it featured the protagonist Edmond Dantès adopting the persona of the Count to exact his revenge.
Dumas’ novel, with its themes of hidden identities, intricate plots, and morally ambiguous characters, set the stage for future developments in the genre.
Rise of the Modern Assassin Fantasy
The modern era marked a significant shift in the portrayal of assassins.
This transformation can be attributed to groundbreaking works such as Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber, which began in the 1930s.
Leiber’s characters, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, were skilled swordsman-thieves who, at times, were employed as assassins.
This series showcased complex anti-heroes operating in a morally gray world, reflecting the shifting perspectives of readers.
In the 1990s, the assassin fantasy genre experienced a surge in popularity with the publication of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy. Hobb introduced readers to FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal assassin plagued by inner conflicts and external challenges.
Through Fitz’s journey, Hobb delved into themes of loyalty, sacrifice, and the psychological toll of a life bound to shadows and death.
This series ignited a fascination with morally complex assassins and their tormented souls.
The Modern-Day Assassin: A Multifaceted Hero
In contemporary literature, the assassin fantasy genre has evolved to embrace diverse representations of assassins.
Authors like Brent Weeks, with his Night Angel Trilogy, and Jay Kristoff, with the Nevernight Chronicle, have contributed to the genre’s evolution by creating protagonists who are both deadly killers and complex individuals with rich backstories and personal motivations.
These narratives explore the grey areas of morality, offering readers a chance to explore the complexities of the human condition.
Appeal and Enduring Allure
The assassin fantasy genre continues to captivate readers due to several key factors.
First, the enigmatic nature of assassins, shrouded in secrecy and skill, evokes a sense of fascination and curiosity.
Their lethal abilities and the danger they face in their treacherous world create an exhilarating reading experience.
Moreover, the exploration of morally ambiguous characters challenges readers’ perceptions of right and wrong, delving into complex ethical dilemmas.
Furthermore, assassins often navigate treacherous political landscapes, unveiling conspiracies and unveiling hidden truths.
These stories offer a thrilling blend of action, suspense, and intricate plotting, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.
The internal conflicts faced by assassins, as they grapple with their choices and the consequences of their actions, add depth and emotional resonance to the narratives.
10 Essential Assassin Fantasy Reads
“The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie
“The Blade Itself” introduces readers to a gritty and dark world filled with complex characters. Set in a land on the brink of war, the story follows a diverse cast, including Inquisitor Glokta, a former swordsman turned torturer; Logen Ninefingers, a legendary warrior seeking redemption; and Jezal dan Luthar, a self-centered nobleman. Abercrombie’s skillful characterisation and vivid world-building create a compelling narrative that explores themes of power, betrayal, and the blurred lines between heroism and villainy.
“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas
In “Throne of Glass,” Sarah J. Maas presents readers with a tale of an assassin named Celaena Sardothien. Once the most feared assassin in the kingdom, Celaena finds herself imprisoned and offered a chance at freedom by competing in a deadly tournament. As she navigates the treacherous world of court politics and supernatural forces, Celaena’s journey unfolds with intrigue, romance, and surprising alliances. Maas’ writing captivates readers with its blend of action, magic, and a strong-willed protagonist who must confront her past while forging her future.
“The Lies of Locke Lamora” follows the exploits of Locke Lamora, a charming thief and con artist in the city of Camorr. Lynch’s novel combines elements of fantasy, heists, and political intrigue as Locke and his band of fellow thieves get embroiled in a dangerous game with a mysterious antagonist known as the Gray King. The book weaves intricate plots and clever schemes while showcasing a richly detailed city and complex characters. Lynch’s prose is witty, immersive, and filled with twists and turns that keep readers guessing until the very end.
“Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb
“Assassin’s Apprentice” is the first book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, introducing readers to FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who becomes an apprentice to the kingdom’s assassin. Hobb delves deep into Fitz’s coming-of-age story, exploring his struggles with identity, loyalty, and the burdens of his secret heritage. As Fitz learns the art of assassination, he also discovers the high-stakes political landscape and the challenges of being entangled in the kingdom’s intrigues. Hobb’s exquisite prose and introspective narrative style create an emotionally rich and immersive reading experience.
“Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff
“Nevernight” introduces readers to Mia Corvere, a young woman seeking revenge against those who destroyed her family. In a world where three suns never truly set, Mia trains to become an assassin in the Red Church, an institution that worships the goddess of murder. Jay Kristoff’s writing blends dark fantasy, intricate world-building, and poetic prose to create a gripping tale of vengeance, ambition, and the blurred lines between light and shadow. Mia’s journey is filled with political intrigue, deadly trials, and a touch of forbidden romance.
“Graceling” by Kristin Cashore:
In “Graceling,” Kristin Cashore presents a realm where certain individuals are born with Graces—unique and extraordinary talents. The protagonist, Katsa, possesses a killing Grace and is forced to serve as a deadly weapon for her king. However, as she questions her purpose and fights against oppression, Katsa discovers her own agency and embarks on a quest that challenges her beliefs. Cashore’s novel combines elements of adventure, romance, and self-discovery, crafting a compelling narrative that explores themes of power, choice, and the search for personal identity.
“Kushiel’s Dart” by Jacqueline Carey
Set in a richly imagined alternate version of medieval Europe, “Kushiel’s Dart” follows Phèdre nó Delaunay, a courtesan-spy with a unique ability to experience pleasure and pain as one. As she delves into political intrigue and uncovers conspiracies, Phèdre’s journey takes her across continents, unveiling a complex web of power struggles and forbidden desires. Jacqueline Carey’s novel blends elements of romance, politics, and adventure, creating a lush and sensual narrative that explores themes of love, loyalty, and the consequences of choices made.
“The Way of Shadows” by Brent Weeks
“The Way of Shadows” introduces readers to Azoth, a young orphan in a corrupt city who dreams of becoming the world’s greatest assassin. Under the tutelage of master assassin Durzo Blint, Azoth faces trials that test his skills, resilience, and morality. Brent Weeks’ debut novel combines elements of coming-of-age, dark fantasy, and intricate world-building to deliver a tale of secrets, political intrigue, and the high cost of power. The story delves into the shadows of a morally gray world, exploring themes of sacrifice, redemption, and the search for identity.
“Red Sister” by Mark Lawrence
In “Red Sister,” Mark Lawrence presents a world where young girls are trained in the art of combat and assassination within the walls of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. The story follows Nona Grey, a girl with extraordinary abilities, as she navigates a dangerous and divided empire. Lawrence’s novel combines elements of fantasy, mystery, and action, immersing readers in a complex world filled with ancient prophecies, rival factions, and deadly adversaries. The book explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the resilience of the human spirit.
“The Emperor’s Blades” by Brian Staveley
“The Emperor’s Blades” is the first installment of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy. The story follows three siblings—Kaden, Valyn, and Adare—as they face separate challenges in a world torn by war and political turmoil. Kaden trains in a remote monastery, Valyn becomes an elite warrior, and Adare fights for political power. Brian Staveley weaves together a tale of treachery, family loyalty, and the struggle for survival. The book features complex characters, intricate world-building, and a plot that intertwines personal journeys with larger geopolitical conflicts.
The assassin fantasy genre has evolved from ancient tales to modern narratives that explore the complexities of assassins, their moral dilemmas, and their treacherous worlds.
With a rich tapestry of characters and intricate plots, these stories continue to captivate readers by combining elements of mystery, action, and introspection.
Whether you’re drawn to the enigmatic nature of assassins or the exploration of moral ambiguity, the assassin fantasy genre offers a thrilling and thought-provoking reading experience. So, dive into the shadows and steel, and discover the fascinating world of assassins in literature.
Explore the captivating world of fantasy literature and its iconic royal characters. From Aragorn to Joffrey Baratheon, discover the memorable kings and queens that have enthralled readers for generations. Delve into their stories, strengths, and impact in this enchanting blog post.
Fantasy literature is filled with a wide variety of royal characters, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and stories.
From brave warriors to cunning politicians, these kings and queens have captured the imagination of readers for generations.
In this blog post, you’ll find seven of the most memorable and impactful royal characters in fantasy.
From the epic battles of Middle-Earth to the political intrigues of the Seven Kingdoms, these characters have left a lasting impression on readers and continue to be beloved to this day.
So, let’s explore some of fantasy’s most iconic royal characters.
1. Aragorn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”
Aragorn is a true leader, both on the battlefield and in his role as king of Gondor. He is wise, brave, and just, and his love for Arwen adds a romantic element to this classic story.
2. Elphaba from Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked”
As the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” Elphaba is a fierce and independent ruler who fights for the rights of animals and the oppressed.
3. Caspian from C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”
Caspian is a young and inexperienced ruler, but his journey to reclaim his rightful place on the throne of Narnia and his leadership during a great war makes him a noble and brave king.
4. Aelin Ashryver Galathynius from Sarah J. Maas “Throne of Glass”
Aelin is a fiercely loyal young woman who fights for her people, using her powers and her cunning to reclaim her throne and defend her kingdom.
5. King Maven Calore from Victoria Aveyard “Red Queen”
Maven is a complex and conflicted character, torn between his duty to his country and his love for Mare Barrow. His actions throughout the series make him both a villain and a tragic figure.
6. King Leopold from Robin McKinley’s “The Blue Sword”
Leopold is a wise and just king who forms a deep bond with the protagonist, Harry Crewe, as she becomes a powerful leader in her own right.
7. King Joffrey Baratheon from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Though Joffrey is a cruel and sadistic king, his actions and eventual downfall drive much of the action in the series.