When I think of fantasy novels I usually think of elves and creatures that are not of this world. I think of worlds with rules that differ from ours where magic and dragons are real. Did you know that there happens to be several different genres of Fantasy stories? Below is a list of examples of these genres, their definitions, and some examples of stories or books you can find within these genres.

Fantasy Genres are as follows:
o Swords and sorcery
o Arthurian
o Dark fantasy
o High/epic fantasy
o Mythology
o Fairy tale
o Romantic
o Urban fantasy
o Wuxia/Eastern fantasy

Let us look at Swords and Sorcery.

Swords and Sorcery is a sub genre of Fantasy. It is “generally characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.” (McCullough V, Joseph A. “The Demarcation of Sword and Sorcery”)
This genre is generally fast paced, full of action, and full of supernatural qualities while being set in a mythical world.
An example of the swords and sorcery genre is the currently popular Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin where you have fast paced action mixed with sorcery and a world where dragons exist.

The Arthurian fantasy genre is categorized as stories that are set in the world of King Arthur and Camelot. Popular examples of this sub-genre are The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Dark Fantasy combines elements of fantasy with horror. Stories in this genre have elements of the fantastical mixed with a sense of dread and dark and gloomy atmosphere. Popular literary works in this genre include Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and the stories of  H.P. Lovecraft.

dark fantasy hplovecraft


High/Epic Fantasy is set in a fictional world with rules that differ from those of our own world.

Nikki Gamble distinguishes three subtypes of high fantasy:

  • A setting in which the primary world does not exist That is, the primary is either separated from the setting entirely,, or is separated from it by a great distance in space and/or time.
  • The secondary/parallel world(s) is (are) entered through a portal from the primary world
  • A distinct world-within-a-world is part of the primary world

(Gamble, Nikki; Yates, Sally (2008). Exploring Children’s Literature. SAGE Publications Ltd. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-1-4129-3013-0.)

With this world, the author generally provides maps of the world, history, and Geography.  The setting of this genre is usually epic in nature dealing with a grand struggle of the supernatural and evil. The characters are unworldly and fantastical. Elves, dwarfs, ogres,  monsters, dragons, demons, and magic are only a few of the elements you will find in these epic tales of struggle and adventure.

Some great examples of this genre are The Chronicles or Narnia by T.S. Elliot, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkien

Mythology Goodreads defines mythology as “A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. The main characters in myths are usually gods or supernatural heroes.” (https://www.goodreads.com/genres/mythology)

Some popular examples of this genre are The lightning Thief by Percy Jackson and American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Fairy Tale “is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described)” (Thompson, Stith. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology & Legend, 1972 s.v. “Fairy Tale”) These also include fables and stories of beasts.

Some current popular examples of Fairy Tales are The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Romantic Fantasy is a fantasy story with elements of romance. It can be categorized as a Romantic Fantasy were the romance is the most important element of the story or a Fantasy Romance where the fantasy is the most important element.

A Romantic Fantasy any magical powers the character might have a very simple and non complex. The story focuses on the romance more than that of the fantasy.

A Fantasy Romance is the opposite. There are the elements of romance but the focus is more on the magical abilities of the characters which are more detailed and complex.

Characters in the genre may start off alone, or leave an abusive or treacherous situation only to find themselves with a partner with whom they grow a romantic relationship with during the course of the story.

One of the key features of romantic fantasy involves the focus on relationships, social, political, and romantic. Romantic fantasy has been published by both fantasy lines and romance lines.
Some publishers distinguish between “romantic fantasy” where the romance is most important and “fantasy romance” where the fantasy elements are most important. Others say that “the borderline between fantasy romance and romantic fantasy has essentially ceased to exist, or if it’s still there, it’s moving back and forth constantly” (https://www.goodreads.com/genres/fantasy-romance)

Examples of this genre include The Lost Continent Series by Catherine Asaro and City of Bones (The Immortal Instruments) By Cassandra Clare

Urban Fantasy This genre is set in the real or modern world and is comprised of fantastical, magical, and supernatural elements. The story can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic times. The setting is more times than not in a city of some sort, hence the name “Urban Fantasy”. There usually are mythical and romantic aspects to the story with the main character or protagonist being a vigilante of some sort.

A popular example of this genre is City of Bones (The Immortal Instruments Series) By Cassandra Clare the entire series takes place in the city in modern times.

Wuxia/Eastern fantasy:

Wikipedia best describes this genre as:

  Wuxia, which literally means “martial hero”, is a broad genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists. Although wuxia is traditionally a form of literature, its popularity has caused it to spread to diverse art forms such as Chinese opera, manhua, films, television series and video games. It forms part of popular culture in many Chinese-speaking communities around the world.” Typically, the heroes in wuxia fiction do not serve a lord, wield military power or belong to the aristocratic class. They often originate from the lower social classes of ancient Chinese society. A code of chivalry usually requires wuxia heroes to right wrongs, fight for righteousness, remove an oppressor, redress wrongs and bring retribution for past misdeeds. One can compare the Chinese xia traditions to martial codes from other cultures, such as the Japanese samurai‘s bushido tradition, the chivalry of medieval European knights and the gunslingers of America’s Westerns.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuxia)

An Example of this genre is Listening To The Rain By Albert A. Dalia

These genres comprise most of the Fantasy literature world. When you are writing your fantasy novel, keep in mind what genre you would like your story to be in. Mind you, many books don’t belong to just one genre, some belong to many genres in the fantasy category. The most important thing to remember is, as always, keep writing.

For more pictures of  genres go to http://www.pinterest.com/visadj/