Adult Fiction, Behind the Books, Book reviews and recommendations, Educational, Young Adult 16+

Fantasy Series – A Closer Look at the Genre – Part 3

Children, Epic, High, Hard and Dragon Fantasy

By Elaine Patterson, Newbridge Headquarters.

Epic Fantasy

Epic fantasy usually features a world altering quest such as saving the world from a great evil or being destroyed. The focus is on the scale of conflict, with a large cast of characters engaged in a Good vs Evil story. Depending on the series and when it was written, the characters may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The setting is often medieval Europe and the level of violence is high. Depending on the writer and series, there are often several number of sub-plots alongside the main plot, so the books and sometimes the series can be very long. There is a high level of magic, with both the heroes and villains possessing magical powers or objects. 

Related Fantasy Subgenres are High, Quest, Coming of Age, Sword and Sorcery, Heroic, Mythic and Legend fantasy. These books below are examples of this sub-genre.

High Fantasy

High fantasy and epic fantasy are often treated as being the same genre due to their similarity. However, there is a distinction between the two. High fantasy focuses more on the setting and choices made by the protagonist while epic fantasy focuses more on the scale of the conflict and its effect on the world.  This means that high fantasy tends to have fewer characters than epic fantasy and be more character-driven and about the choices the characters make, than plot-driven. Additionally, high fantasy tends to have detailed worlds with their own magical rules and laws. 

High fantasy is related to Epic, Realistic, Coming of Age, Historical, Heroic, Political and Romantic fantasy. The following books are examples of High Fantasy.


Hard Fantasy

This sub-genre is not necessarily violent, but it is difficult to understand, because the worlds are multi-layered and complex with many different characters. In addition, hard fantasy is concerned how and why magic and magical creatures exist and work. Books in this sub-genre have a high level of magic, but it will have a system and rules governing it. Because world-building is very important in hard fantasy there is often a commentary on our world. Characters and plot are well developed, though not always to the same level as the world-building and the level of violence is variable, depending on the series. 

Hard fantasy is related to mundane, epic and most other fantasy sub-genres as hard fantasy is an approach to world-building. The following examples of fall under the category of hard fantasy.

Dragon Fantasy 

Dragons are common in the fantasy genre, but they are seldom featured other than creatures to be ridden or slain and are usually not a major part of the story or important characters. In the dragon subgenre dragons are central to the story or are featured in a major part of the book or as main characters. 

This subgenre is related to epic Fantasy, young adult fantasy and mythic fantasy, since they are mythic, awesome creatures that are difficult to kill. 

There are examples below.

Check out all the examples above on BorrowBox or request them via our library catalogue.


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