Sub-genre of the Week: Epic Fantasy
Last week, I discussed Social Science Fiction. This week, I’m going to tackle Epic Fantasy, and perhaps disambiguate it a bit from high fantasy, which when looked at closely, can be usefully considered as separate genres.
Epic Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy involving a large scope, a big cast, and often morally gray characters. It is mainly but not always a form of secondary-world fiction.
Epic fantasy has a long history, closely intertwined with high fantasy. It has become increasingly popular since the 90s, beginning with the Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire.
Common Tropes and Conventions
Large casts, wide scope, multiple perspective characters, and high stakes. And, of course, they almost always come in series.
Epic fantasy often crosses over with high fantasy. In fact, many of the big hits are both. However, it is distinguished by it’s lack of black-and-white conflict and commonly wider scope, as well as a less mythic and more gritty tone. It occasionally crosses over with portal fantasy, dark fantasy, and historical fantasy. It shares many tropes with Sword & Sorcery, but is distinguished by the more-than-personal stakes and large cast.
Epic fantasy is immensely popular in visual media, including manga, anime, and movies. Game of Thrones is the latest in a line of popular epic fantasy appearances on the small and big screen.
As with any well-established genre, epic fantasy isn’t going anywhere soon. It will no doubt continue to be popular and receive at least a couple debuts every year.
Goodreads list of Epic Fantasy
Next week: Dystopian!