Not too long ago, I thought that literary categories were fairly simple. You had your fiction, and then you had your non-fiction…
But naturally, it’s not that simple at all. There are so many different types of fantasy alone that going through them all made my head swim. Of course, it does depend a little on just how picky you want to be. I’ve noticed on several websites that some of the listed categories could easily be merged or were mostly the same, save for a couple of small differences.
This list is by no means complete, neither am I saying that the examples I’ve picked are the only popular ones, but they are the ones I’ve come across most frequently. If you’d like more examples, keep scrolling! There are three links near the bottom 🙂
This is definitely the kind I read most often. In High/Epic Fantasy novels, magic is a known part of the lives of many people. There are rules regarding magic, specific natural laws that determine how exactly magic works, and the typical struggle between good and evil is also a very common theme. Fantasy novels of this category are best when they come with a world map and rich, well thought out history. Anything that makes a made-up world more believable is a good thing! Also, dragons. Although dragons aren’t necessary, but they are often a part of it.
Sometimes people differentiate between the two or only list one, but more often the two are seen as the same.
It’s easily my favourite genre; or it used to be – over the past year my reading interests have spread out considerably! I blame Goodreads.
If Twilight or Dracula come to mind, you’re in the right place. Vampire fantasy has changed a lot in recent years. Do you remember when meeting a vampire was not a good thing, or a hot romantic encounter, even? When they were terrifying creatures of the night who needed a stake through their twisted little hearts? When they were more likely to kill you than go shopping for dresses and flowers with you? Well, those classics still count, of course, but the genre itself has drifted more towards the other extreme recently.
I think it’s fair to say that these days, there’s something for everyone in this genre. There’s horror, but there’s also romance and an increase in teen literature.
Unlike Vampire Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy isn’t limited to one type of humanoid creature. If we’re being perfectly honest, Twilight leans more into this category since there’s werewolves, too, but if you’re like me and you don’t care about Twilight you’ll likely forget about that quite often, like I did here. Oops.
In this genre, every kind of being is fair game. You’ve got vampires, werewolves, fairies, mermaids, witches, zombies, and any other fantastical creature you can imagine (not necessarily all in the same book). Often ideas are borrowed from folklore and take place in an urban setting – although the latter is not a necessity.
Urban Fantasy is also often called Contemporary Fantasy, so don’t let the two different terms confuse you. A magical world usually hides behind the world we know, such as in Harry Potter or in A Darker Shade of Magic. When it’s not hiding it’s integrated into an urban, more ‘normal’ setting. Sometimes the magical aspect is accepted as a part of life, but like every other story there needs to be conflict, and in this genre that conflict often comes from the two sides not getting along.
Dark Fantasy has a horror element to it, and is sometimes rightly referred to as Horror Fantasy. It’s similar to Paranormal Fantasy in that there’s demons, vampires, werewolves and all those other magical beings we love, minus the teenage infatuation. It’s more Dracula than Twilight.
I’m not a huge horror fan myself (my paranoid mind isn’t cut out for it) so I can’t think of any great examples, but feel free to add some in the comments.
It’s important to remember that often, genres cross over into each other. It’s difficult to stay true to just the one category without leaning even a little into a different one. Harry Potter is a great example for that – it takes place in an urban setting, like London, but it has its own set rules for magic, too. (also dragons)
I hope these five examples have given you a better overview of all the possible genres out there. Fantasy is a vast, vast category, and I hope that this has given you a good idea of just how vast it really is. Don’t be like me. Don’t think that you have your fiction, and then you have your non-fiction – because there is so much more to it than that!
For a more complete list, take a look at any of these:
What’s your favourite fantasy genre, and what’s your favourite fantasy novel? Let’s have a chat and talk about books!
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