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On Display at Odum: Fantasy

Second Floor Display

Fantasy Genre Group Recommendations

Let These Fantasy Books Take You On A Journey with Selected Fantasy Titles and Book Covers

About the Genre

Fantasy Genre Overview:

Fantasy stories are differentiated from other genres by the existence of magic, or more generally, by the rejection of realism and what is possible in the natural world. The setting of fantasy novels is often an imagined past or present, rarely the future. Popular authors in fantasy include: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Tamora Pierce, Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett and Peter S. Beagle.

Common Themes/Tropes:

The Chosen One:

Often, the protagonist of fantasy novels is in some way marked, chosen, or prophesied to confront the evil threatening the town/country/world.

The Hero’s Journey:

The scholar Joseph Campbell created the model of “The Hero’s Journey” back in 1949: while stories exist in many other shapes as well, this model does encapsulate a very common (especially in Western cultures) story structure. It includes 17 steps, starting with the hero’s “Call to Adventure” and then moving into an unfamiliar world, mastering new skills or aspects of themself despite hardship, and ultimately returning to the familiar world a changed person.

Good vs. Evil:

Fantasy conflicts have a tendency to pit “the good guys” against “the bad guys,” especially in epic fantasy and superhero fiction. This can be played straight, in cases where it’s very clear which side is which, or complicated by morally gray decisions from the “good” side or redeeming qualities from the “bad” side.

Court Intrigue: 

Whether characters end up at a fae court or a more typical court run by royalty, they may have to navigate a complicated political landscape with unfamiliar rules in order to succeed in their quest/journey. Someone is always plotting something!

Common Subgenres:

Epic Fantasy:

Also called “High Fantasy,” this is fantasy with a truly epic scope. Usually features a large cast of characters, expansive worldbuilding, and high stakes (often the fate of humanity or the world). May include fantasy races (elves, orcs, dwarves, etc.) and supernatural beings. The setting is almost never contemporary.

Fairy-tale Retellings:

These stories re-imagine well-known (or sometimes obscure!) fables and fairy-tales, usually with a twist. Sometimes these will stick closely to the original fable, and sometimes the fable or its characters are more of a jumping-off point for the author to explore a loosely-related story.

Urban Fantasy:

Urban fantasy takes place in the real world in, as the name suggests, urban settings. These are usually but not always set in the present-day, and often deal with the issues that would arise from magic or supernatural beings existing in the real world. Sometimes the fantastical element is openly integrated into normal peoples’ everyday lives, and sometimes it is part of a secret world that most people don’t know about.

Portal Fantasy:

These stories involve traveling to a magical world which is separate from – but connected to – the real, ordinary world. This subgenre often explores ideas around coming-of-age.

Superhero fiction:

This type of fantasy is characterized by characters with larger than life superpowers. This subgenre often centers on conflict between “superheroes” and “supervillains.” It is more likely to be fast-paced and action-packed compared to other fantasy subgenres, though these stories still often ask interesting questions about the responsibilities of power.

Contact us

These lists and genre information are brought to you by the students in our genre literature class in the Master in Library and Information Science program. Thank you for sending in such good books, materials, and information. I hope you had a good time with this project!

If any material listed is problematic or you would like to suggest future recommendations and themes please contact Crystal Miller at! They would love feedback, or just to talk about books!