Hey gang! Today, the lovely A. E. Howard is
kidnapping borrowing my blog. Say hi!
When Boyce asked me to do a guest post on fantasy and its sub-genres as they relate to my newly published novel, Flight of Blue, I was all, “Sure!” I mean, how hard could THAT be?
Well, as I discovered, not only was my grasp of the whole fantasy genre world a little tenuous, but I wasn’t using a real sub-genre to describe my book. I was calling it an “Adventure Fantasy.” Which, apparently according to “those people” that some call “experts” doesn’t technically exist…although, if enough of us start using it, we could change that, so join with me folks. Adventure Fantasy!
That aside, I was very interested to learn what makes a book fall into what category, and I’m already plotting how my next series can break as many of those rules as possible. I think my characters in Flight of Blue were a bit disappointed in being so easily categorized, and as restless as the group for the next series is, they’re not going to like it one bit. So I’ll have to help ‘em mix it up
So here’s what I discovered:
Flight of Blue is a contemporary, high fantasy written for a juvenile or middle grade audience in that the intended audience is roughly 10-14 year olds.
It’s high or epic fantasy in that it involves a band of heroes on a quest in what starts out as our world, but turns out to be a parallel or alternate version of the world, essentially making it a different or parallel world, depending on how you want to look at it. I had shied away from the “high fantasy” label, not because I don’t like it, I do, but high fantasy is also “epic fantasy.” To me, epic fantasy is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, or George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire or The Lord of the Rings or something along those lines. The worlds are huge, complex and involve a very large cast of characters. They usually have multiple settings at the same time, whereas Flight of Blue is less complex and much, much shorter.
Where Flight of Blue enters squarely into the high fantasy genre, though, is that it lives in the head of one character (check!), who discovers another world or role that they were born to play (check and check!), finds a mentor(s), often a sorcerer (check! plus, a cool bird-girl) who knows more about the role and world then the main character (check!), and has some struggle or fight against evil (uh, duh!). Also, the definition requires an alternate world (check!) and a “high” level of fantasy elements (whereas “low fantasy” has a “low” level of fantasy elements). That seems to plant it pretty firmly in the high fantasy genre.
Which, I might point out, is what my lovely host called it. You were right, Boyce
So, my liberal sprinklings of magic, talking animals (possum sorcerers and magic grasshoppers, oh my!), not to mention a good monster or so, makes it high fantasy for sure. I think.
It’s contemporary fantasy because it’s set in a current time as opposed to a historical time or historical-esque setting. For instance, all of the epic fantasies I mentioned above are set in a more historical-esque setting: little or no technology, horses for transportation, and so forth. This one seems easy when it comes to Flight of Blue. And contemporary fantasy can be either high or low fantasy, as this category only refers to the time setting.
And the easiest and most obvious is that it’s juvenile or middle grade fantasy because I wrote it for 10-14 year olds-ish, and my main characters are 12. So perhaps the nature of books in this age range being somewhat simpler allows it to also fall into the “high fantasy” category without being as complex as some which are definitely epic fantasies.
Check out my nifty Venn Diagram!
Phew! All I can say is, it’s a good thing I didn’t have to have this straight to actually write the thing. It might have scared me off.
I want to look at Boyce’s book for a second, too. Lichgates (Grimoire Trilogy #1) is definitely a high fantasy written for young adults, as the main character is 20. But it definitely falls into the alternate world (check!), main character discovering world/role (check!), finds a mentor (check! and a magic book! Extra check!) who knows more about the world/role etc (check!). Plus, there’s that classic struggle against evil (check!).
I’m actually not sure as to whether “those people” would call it a contemporary fantasy or not, as before Kara finds the portal to the other world, she’s in a contemporary version of our world. Once on the other side, however, it’s much more an epic fantasy world: low on technology, high on magic and mythological creatures (so fun!).
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About A. E. Howard
Once upon a time there was a little girl who read a book and thought, one day, I’ll find another world. Many years later, after a near death experience at a traffic light, she passed a possum dying on the side of the road. She stopped, and with its dying breaths, the possum imparted a tale so wondrously strange, she drove home realizing the new world she’d been searching for was right there all along. So she embarked on a quest of mythic proportions, traveled far and wide to the farthest corners of this world to uncover its secrets. Now she’s bringing the story to you.
Between chasing chickens off the porch and raising her son, A.E. Howard tells tales of the three Realms, and the boy who changed it all.
Flight of Blue
Keeper of the Keys Chronicles, Book 1
A cursed traffic light. A rip in the fabric of the world. A possum sorcerer injured on a quest for revenge.
Kai and Ellie embark on a journey to return the sorcerer to his home. Entangled in events that could destroy the world, Kai must choose whether to accept the role he was born to play, but isn’t sure he wants.
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