What are Fantasy Novels?

M.R. Anglin

A fantasy novel is a genre of literature which features fantastical elements. The stories categorized in this genre often feature mythological creatures and magic. Depending on the type of subgenre the novel is, the setting of the story can be in an alternate universe, the past or even the present. The universal factor in all these stories is, however, the fact that the events that happen in the story could not happen in real life. This drastically separates fantasy from other forms of fiction.

Fantasy novels often contain wizards.
Fantasy novels often contain wizards.

Novels are pieces of fiction that are longer in length than other forms of literature and are written in prose. Thus, they are distinguished from short stories by their length, from poems by their prose, and non-fiction by their fiction. Fantasy novels are differentiated from other forms of literature because of the aspect of fantasy in them. The characters and settings of a fantasy novel usually include an element of magic or the supernatural. In addition, it may also feature a mythical creature such as a dragon, fairy, or elf.

Graphic novels can also be fantasy novels.
Graphic novels can also be fantasy novels.

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Several subgenres of fantasy novels exist, including high fantasy, dark fantasy and comic fantasy. High fantasy is commonly characterized by good fighting against evil. An example of this type of fiction is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Dark fantasy novels usually include elements of horror. Comic fantasy is a form of fantasy that involves humor.

Settings in fantasy novels can vary drastically depending on the subgenre of the novel. High fantasy usually takes place in an alternate world. However, other forms of fantasy can take place in a modern setting, the past, the future or in an alternate dimension. Some forms of fantasy novels take place in medieval times. Another subgenre, urban fantasy, will take place in a contemporary setting—either real or imagined—and feature fantastical events or people.

The fantasy genre is closely related to science fiction. However, they are technically different. While both have to do with events or places that have not and may not exist, science fiction uses science to do this. In other words, in theory, science fiction could happen with the correct technology. Despite the differences, the two genres are commonly placed together—sometimes even lumped into the same category.

Fantasy novels can be children's stories or they can be for more mature readers.
Fantasy novels can be children's stories or they can be for more mature readers.

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Discussion Comments


I love fantasy. It is my favorite genre of book.


I like to seek out new authors. Some of the best selling fantasy novels are not always the best; take Twilight for example, though that is an extreme case.


@Denha, I like romance fantasy novels, but I know what you mean. Some writers seem to lay it on a little thick with the way that the protagonist gets into trouble but, in the end, finds true love with someone both wonderful and unbelievably attractive. I still like reading YA fantasy novels too, though.


I love fantasy writing, and some of my favorite writers, such as Diana Wynne Jones, sometimes manage to to combine high fantasy, comic fantasy, and dark fantasy all in the same books; these are the best fantasy novels, in my opinion. I do love to read young adult, possibly even more than books aimed at adults, just because these stories tend to be faster-moving and more thrilling, while "adult" books tend, for my taste at least, to spend too much time trying to involve romance, sex, and other "grown up" things.

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