What Is a Fantasy Book?
Every fantasy book has unreal, magical or mythical elements that can coexist with reality, or exist in universes completely different from ours. Some adventures take place in a future where impossible things exist for current science, others in magical realms, for example.
There are also those that are references to our real past. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings, for example, has many traces of characters and places from Medieval Europe. In The Ice and Fire Chronicles, George R R Martin was inspired by the map of the United Kingdom and the War of the Roses, which took place in the 15th century.
However, be aware that fantasy books do not have to fit into just one genre, many have 2 or 3 literary subgenres. For example, a book can be dark fantasy and supernatural horror at the same time, and is excellent for those who like horror. The important thing is to explore all the possibilities and enter the world of imagination.
How to Choose the Best Fantasy Books
To choose a good fantasy book it is essential to know a little more about the author, to check what the sub-genres of the work are, and also to consider the possibility of starting a multi-book saga. Understand it better in the following topics.
Select Book by Subgenre
A fantasy can take place in strange medieval worlds or even Rio de Janeiro, for example! It can also have elements of science fiction, adventure, and horror. With so many different settings and atmospheres, it is important to know the subgenres of fantasy so as not to make a mistake when choosing a book.
High Fantasy: A Deep Dive into the World of the Imagination
Based on myths, legends, fairy tales and pagan religions, high fantasy takes place in a world with rules that are different from the real world, where things happen that could not possibly happen in reality. The problems to be solved are grandiose and involve the fate of many characters, or even the world.
Many books have elements of historical fantasy. In most of them there is the hero, the mentor and the enemy with supernatural powers. The main theme is the classic battles of good against evil, as in The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien and The Battle of the Apocalypse by Eduardo Epohr.
Sword and Sorcery: For Those Who Enjoy Quests and Combat
In English called Sword and Sorcery, sword and sorcery fantasy involves heroes on personal quests, sword fights, and magic. It is basically an adventure with magical elements. The great precursor of this genre was Alexandre Dumas with his Cloak and Sword novels.
In this sub-genre, things do not happen on an epic scale, where the hero saves the world and involves whole peoples, tribes and wars. In Sword and Sorcery the hero goes on an intimate journey of revenge, rescue or knowledge, which involves his personal history.
Fantasy with Science Fiction Elements: For Those Who Are Not Proficient in Scientific Concepts
The themes are similar: space travel, time travel, other universes, other species of humanoids, dystopias. However, fantasy is not science fiction because the science is missing. For example, in Kindred by Octavia E Butler and The Time Machine by H G Wells, time travel occurs.
However Wells makes use of a machine, while Butler does not explain how this travel happens. Scientifically, the construction of a time machine is unlikely, but not impossible. Other types of time travel, on the other hand, are impossible and therefore fanciful.
Urban Fantasy: For Those Who Like to Bring Magic into Everyday Life
Low fantasy, or urban fantasy, takes place in the real world, where fantastic people and beings live among us incognito or hide in secondary worlds using magic and portals. The books in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter saga fit into this fantasy of contemporary urban settings.
When there are many elements from the real-world past, low fantasy can be called historical fantasy, as in The Avalon Cycle by Marion Bradley. Many of these books also fit into high fantasy. They are myths that conjure up impossible situations, but which would have been feasible in Earth’s past.
Dark Fantasy: For Those Who Like Suspense and Terror
Dark fantasy mixes horror and fantastic literature. So many of the books in this subgenre can also be called supernatural horror books. Fantasies with gothic elements are also classified here. The Sixteen Moons saga and the Twilight saga are good examples of this genre.
In fantasy, series of books involving the same characters are common. It is important to read a book already knowing that it is part of something bigger because the story will not end in that volume. Imagine buying The War of Thrones and arriving at that open ending thinking it is the end of the story!
Many times the name of the book does not tell you which volume of the series it is: the 5th Harry Potter book, for example, is called The Order of the Phoenix, not Harry Potter 5. Pay attention to this so you don’t get lost! Always start reading a saga from the first volume.
Also check if all the books have already been written. You can start reading a saga that is not yet finished and the author will take a while to release the next book. Be prepared to wait! Fans of The Ice and Fire Chronicles by George R R Martin know this feeling well.
Start reading fantasy by famous authors. Among the authors that stand out are Tolkien, George R R Martin, J K Rowling, and Neil Gaiman. Even Octavia Butler and Haruki Murakami have written fantasy books! And in Brazil, the big names currently are Décio Gomes, Affonso Solano and Eduardo Spohr.
Reading already established authors you can be sure that the book is good! The only question is whether you will like this kind of literature. Even if you don’t like Sixteen Moons, try reading War of Thrones, for example. They are books of very different sub-genres, probably one of them will please you.
When choosing a fantasy book, check which sub-genre it belongs to to see if it will appeal to your taste. Also check if it is part of a saga, to always start with the first volume, and read famous authors. It is no wonder that Tolkien and J.K. Rowling have sold millions of copies.
Ready to start your next adventure? It’s always good to add a little fantasy to our daily lives!