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George R.R. Martin

Decoding Fantasy Fiction: aka "What the hell am I reading?"

This is a problem that actually comes on both sides of the coin so to speak. You’ve got authors who think they are writing an urban fantasy, but they really aren’t (and they just don’t know it) and readers who think they are reading an epic fantasy (but they really aren’t and they just don’t know it) and then the readers who stare at the screen before one clicking after trying to figure out if the genre lists below the book mean anything at all.

Here we go, your one stop shop when deciphering what the hell kind of fantasy are you reading.

CLASSIC FANTASY
A world all it's own with no connection to our own.
A world all it’s own with no connection to our own.

Often referred to as Epic Fantasy. Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Goodkind, George RR Martin, Robin Hobb . . . all these are epic fantasy. A world all its own with no connection to our own. They might have their own religions, political situations, magic systems or even way of cursing (Blood and bloody ashes comes to mind). Classic or epic fantasy tends to run longer too than other kinds of fantasy. Let’s face it, you can’t create a believable world in four hundred pages (well maybe someone can but I haven’t seen it yet).

Expect these to be big, big books.

 

HISTORICAL FANTASY
Think alternate history worlds
Think alternate history worlds

Usually a slight variation on the classic fantasy above. Think alternate history worlds. Books like Naomi Novak’s series about dragons in the Naploeonic wars (its on my TBR list) or Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart series set in an alternate France with a whole new twist on the words, Love as thou Wilt.

URBAN FANTASY
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The characters live in our world, but are surrounded by magic & monsters.

I’ve done a post on this but I will recap. Expect your characters to live in our world, but be surrounded by magic and monsters. These books are often crammed full of action, intrigue, fight scenes and twists at the 80% mark that will have your pulse pounding. I see most of these books topping out at the 350-400 page mark, a perfect read for a long weekend. Look for authors like Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, or me ;)

 

PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Sundered by Shannon Mayer
Sundered: A true love story set in a post-apocalyptic world full of paranormal creatures.

This is a story that’s going to (usually) be set in our world not unlike the urban fantasy above. The difference is there the story will revolve and rely heavily on the romance aspect. Expect sex scenes of varying smexy degrees. Expect billionaire bear shifters, wickedly handsome werewolves, and viciously violent and yet still somehow soft and sweet vampires. You’ll get magic here, you’ll get shifters, and you’ll get a ton of sexy time.

So while it technically IS urban fantasy, you might not see it as such except for glimmers here and there.

Now here’s where things get hard to decipher. An author can blend these together . .. for instance I have an urban fantasy that borders on being a classic fantasy (weird, I know) but I’ve created a an Elemental world within ours that doesn’t touch on the human world.

Having the definitions is nice for sure, and I hope they help, but the reality is, the fantasy world is a big place. One we can all be blessedly lost in from time to time.

I've got a shameful secret to share

My Secret ShameIT’S GETTING HARD TO HOLD MY HEAD UP …

This is like peeking inside someone’s messy bedroom and unmade bed. This is the shame I hide close to my chest. The books I should have read by now but haven’t. In most cases the books I WANT to read, and somehow the time has just slipped away. Mostly, to be fair, because I am writing my own stories. But also to be fair, reading is how authors continue to grow and learn. So, it’s important to my craft that I don’t neglect reading. Yet I have … and now you’ll know why I’ve been keeping it a secret.

 
My list of shame

The Hobbit

1. THE HOBBIT

Oh, I can hear the groaning now. Just watch the movie, right? Well I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, and yet I’ve never tackled The Hobbit. And I felt silly reading it right before the movie came out. So this book is actually on my desk, staring at me. I’ve started it, and I am hoping that I will finish it in not too much time.

2. THE PRINCESS BRIDE

Another one where the movie is great, wonderful, a cult classic . . . but I have heard the book is so much better. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Goldman and The Princess Bride. So there it is. On the list. I have it staring at me. With narrowed eyes as if to tell me to hurry the hell up. As….you….wiiiiiish….

3. THE GAME OF THRONES SERIES

I will be COMPLETELY honest. After being a lover of the Wheel of Time series (that is a monstrous series, 14 books) there is a part of me that cringes at the thought of a big ass ole book/series. I have so little time and I like to feel accomplished. Yes, it’s still on my list . .. but maybe I will wait until Mr. Martin completes the series. Which should allow me a couple more years to procrastinate at least. 

  His Majesty's Dragon

4. TERRY PRATCHETT

Pretty much anything by him is on my TBR list. He’s a master of the fantasy genre and up until now, I haven’t read a thing by him. Shame. Shame on me. Bad author.  

5. NEIL GAIMAN

(Don’t hit me!) I’ve actually bought one of his books, a physical book that stares at me. Mocking me. Damn it, I’m not superwoman, I can’t read for hours every day and still get my own work done. The thing is, I know Gaiman’s good, and he’s not going anywhere. I hope. So I have time, right?

6. THE FINAL TWO BOOKS IN THE DIVERGENT SERIES

Yes, I read the first one. Yes I loved it. But damn it I haven’t gotten to the final two. And no, I’m not going to see the movies until I do!

7. HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON by NAOMI NOVIK 

I actually just downloaded this one to my kindle. Its been on my list for YEARS and every time I see it I think . .. I should grab that, it looks awesome. Now its there, waiting for me a little easier to grab.

There it is, my List of Shame. Honestly, there is more but I can only handle so much confession at once. One step at a time, my friends, one step at a time.

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