Fantasy – the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things.
Today is all about fantasy, one of my go to genres. The rise of fantasy is not surprising. From the Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, people have always gravitated towards books that make the impossible possible. There are a lot of reasons people gravitate towards fantasy novels and today I want to highlight the qualities I love the most in a fantasy.
One of the reasons I find we turn to fantasy is for that sense of adventure. With fantasy you can always expect a grand journey. The circumstances vary but at the end of the day we can always count on fantasy books to take us on adventure. It gives us something to root for. We see our protagonist at their highest moments and their lowest. We are with them from the beginning to the end, like a fly on a wall. It’s that struggle and hope that festers within an adventure that keeps us hooked.
An adventure is also an escape. We can step into this world and follow the exhilarating rush that comes with an adventure. In fantasy, these adventures are full of surprises and danger and with that we get to see how characters react to each scenario and also wonder how we’d react to those situations. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s addictive. Once you get sucked into an adventure you find that you simply cannot stop and have to see it to the end.
Magic and Mayhem
A key component in most fantasy books. Magic takes a book to a whole new dimension. The effectiveness of magic comes in the way its system is established and when it’s done right it can take the book to a whole new level of epic. There’s a sense of unpredictability that comes with magic. It explores new heights and new limitations. For example, in the Shades of Magic trilogy, magic is an entity of it’s own. Certain characters can harness it’s power or a strand of it but there are limitations. The cause and effect of magic in the Shades of Magic was incredibly thought out. On top of that magic itself becomes the source of conflict for our protagonists. The characterisation of magic in Osaron made it a dangerous foe but that doesn’t mean it was without it’s limitations. Unraveling those secrets about magic and the complexity of such a system brings that otherworldly vibe to the book.
A Different World
Fantasy also gives us an opportunity to step into a new world. One where anything is possible. We could face a world with elemental magic and otherworldly beasts, a world ruled by destruction and chaos, or simply a world within another world. Within these worlds our characters face different circumstances and it’s always interesting to follow the way a character has been shaped by the world they were raised in. How the desire for magic can turn into greed. How the oppressed can become rulers. With a new world comes a new set of rules and with that our characters are forced to adapt to this world to ensure their survival. It’s fascinating and complex and when you come across a universe rich in it’s world building it makes it so much easier to immerse yourself in the book.
Personally the highlight of fantasy books is the way that they explore human nature. Humans are complex creatures. Fantasy books can dazzle us with the adventure and the magic but the way they explore humanity is what keeps them grounded. Take Finnikin of the Rock. This story is about a community of people exiled from their land. Some fled, others remain trapped in their world under the authority of their conqueror. Neighbours sacrificed one another for the sake of their own preservation. With them scattered across the land, we explore that sense of identity. Who are they now that they’ve lost their home? How can they unite after they themselves did horrible things for the sake of survival? How do you find hope? Love? Yes, it’s a fantasy setting and there is magic and wonder, but it’s the characters that steal the show. Exploring the intricacy of human nature in these worlds makes it easier to root for them. We’re invested in these characters and will them to succeed, even those who blur the lines between right and wrong. The allure of the magic, new world and promise of adventure has us indulging in fantasy but it’s the characters that make us stay.
Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo:
Morally complex characters. Non-stop action. Rich world building. Squad goals.
Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab:
Intricate magical system. Cross-dressing pirates. Broody, black-eyed prince. Parallel London’s.
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta:
An exploration of human nature. A search for hope in the hopeless. Stunning romance.
The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
No magic. A world on the brink of war. Forbidden romance. Brains over brawn.
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater:
The search for a dead Welsh King. Incredible character insights and exploration of friendship. The question of fate.
Those are the qualities I love most in a fantasy book.
What do you look for in fantasy?
What are your fantasy book recommendations?