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New and Updated in NoveList: Fantasy Fiction

Post by Leslie Gardner
Posted March 09, 2015 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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Fantasy is one of my favorite genres. While reading these books, I can visit other worlds and take journeys with heroes, thieves, and assassins. I recently led a team at NoveList to review our usage of fantasy fiction and to identify new subgenres that will help guide readers to books they will love. Over several months we researched fantasy trends, defined subgenres, and applied what we learned to our collection.

Whether you like classic epic fantasy like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or contemporary fantasy like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Witchlight we now have these two new subgenres. Epic fantasy is known for its detailed, other-worldly setting, multitude of characters, and long, complex stories that unfold gradually, while contemporary fantasy features recognizable contemporary settings that incorporate elements of magic.

Likewise, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series joins Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels as sword and sorcery.  Popular titles in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series are now labeled military fantasy. If you’re wondering how we decided to split these up, sword and sorcery is reserved for books with a few individual heroes like Robert E. Howard’s character Conan, whereas military fantasy is for companies or squadrons like in the Warhammer novels. The aforementioned new subgenres are for adult books only.

New subgenres on the juvenile side include high fantasy for titles like those in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series and low fantasy like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. High fantasy focuses on other realms, quests and the triumph of good over evil, while low fantasy takes place in more realistic settings, but features magical or fantastical incidents.

If you’re looking for puns, zany plot twists, or just general silliness, give humorous fantasy a try. This subgenre is used at both adult and juvenile reading levels, and includes books like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon, or Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Smedry adventures.

Be sure to try these new headings to locate audiobooks, too. I enjoyed both versions of Neil Gaiman’s contemporary fantasy Neverwhere. The unabridged version is read by the author, and the abridged full cast performance includes James McAvoy as Richard Mayhew and Natalie Dormer as Door.

Do you have any favorite fantasy subgenres we are missing?  Please let me know.


Want a quick way to find books by genre? Try a Genre search in NoveList -- just type "GN" followed by the name of the genre (surrounded by quotation marks if it's a phrase). For example: GN "epic fantasy"

Leslie Gardner is a Senior Cataloger at NoveList.