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Thursday, March 10, 2011

What is epic fantasy and why do I write it?

I thought I'd start the day with a small blog post on the type of books I (mostly) write - Epic Fantasy. Just what is it? Wikipedia describes epic fantasy as a sub-genre of fantasy and involves a story that takes place in a parallel world to our own. There may or may not be elements that are the same as our world. A good example would be Lord Of The Rings. Sometimes there are ways to travel from the 'real' world to the 'fantasy' world. Think C.S. Lewis' Narnia books.

My Southern Lands series is based on a world of fantasy. That is to say the world is real in that it follows strict rules, but it does not correspond entirely to the world in which we live. The Southern Lands are mostly inhabited by humans and they live in about medieval times, but the world is also inhabited by other lifeforms, some dark and some friendly. There is also an element of magic that also exists.

But, and here's the important thing, anyone that writes about magic has to understand its boundaries and who exactly possesses what magic. You cannot rewrite the rules half-way through the book. The reader would notice! You also can't suddenly introduce a magic that has not been mentioned in the previous 200 pages just to get a character out of danger. If a parallel world is to be believable then the reader needs to understand the rules of the world and to see they are being followed.

I write epic fantasy novels. Why? Quite simply because I enjoy reading them. As a child I read the C.S. Lewis Narnia books and the J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nowadays I read books by other authors (I love Robin Hobb - see opposite), but for the most part this is the genre I stick to when reading. I guess it's a sort of escape, but I like to think of it as a way to open your mind to other possibilities. The brain is a remarkable piece of evolution, something that has amazing capacity to imagine and digest information. Well written epic fantasy pushes our brains to the edges of their reasoning. It makes them question all sorts of things. Could other worlds exist and support the sorts of things that happen in these stories? I'd love to believe they could. Millions of readers must agree, judging by the popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I put my heart and soul into my epic fantasy books and I hope one day my Xannu books may be up there somewhere just below the classics.

Xannu - The Prophecy by Paul Dorset. $0.99 from
Living out a mundane school life is not the norm for Terry West. After digging up some rune coins near a roman road he has been living in another world inhabited by warlocks, seductresses, priests and prophecy. There Terry is a soldier, Teern Truthbringer, who is tasked with finding the Xannu. Battling un-earthly creatures & witnessing powerful magic are all in a day's work. But some want him dead...  *** READ 20% FOR FREE ***

Xannu - The Healing by Paul Dorset. $3.99 from
Continuing on from The Prophecy, this book follows the journeys of two groups of travelers who are both trying to heal their charges. Back in England, Terry West is distraught after the loss of his best friend. But as Teern Truthbringer the soldier, Terry is busy battling un-earthly creatures & witnessing powerful magic on a daily basis. But is he prepared for the perilous journey he has to take to heal his charge; the Xannu.   *** READ 20% FOR FREE ***


  1. This is one of the best descriptions I've seen on epic fantasy. I have honestly seen people give a blank look and say, "It's fantasy" in a "duh" tone of voice when asked how to describe it.

  2. You're talking about the kind of fantasy I enjoy, High Fantasy, with an alternative world and well-defined magics. Brandon Sanderson has also explained that if you use magic to solve problems, it has to be well defined and consistent.

    In some stories the magic is more mysterious, more mystical. Is it called soft magic then? I forget the nomenclature.

    Best wishes on your writing.

  3. It is funny how Fantasy is junctioning more and more flavors (shall we say) of itself. But what is really funny, is the fact that we've already slain ourselves for even trying to contain "fantasy" inside a category.
    When I was young(er) I had a bit of a fantasy-crisis, wondering what level of fantasy I wanted to write, and how real-world-seeming it would be.
    I personally would not define "epic fantasy" the way it is portrayed popularly. And I personally think that such a phrase will trick the more english-savey patrons of this world as time slugs its feet because the rest of us, or some of us, college and other individuals have actually grown up around a different fantasy environment.
    But in any regard, fantasy as a whole is indeed a gift-- a tool purposely endowed to man to push his boudaries to further grasp the universe.
    The world needs peeps like us.
    nice post.

  4. Does epic fantasy have to be set in world different from our own? What if we took the original meaning of the word "epic":long and heroic in nature. I remember a high-school English teacher describing the ancient Greek epics as following a complete cycle: the hero begins in an elevated position, falls to the depths, as in Odysseus entering Hades, and returns to a high position.
    I have written what I consider and epic fantasy, incorporating fantastic elements like magic and dragons, but set in a rigorously researched real time and place in history, on our world. So, does that meet the criteria?

  5. Epic or high fantasy? Are they easily confused? I have been trying to place my books into such a category and I always feel uncertain of how to categorize them.

    The Dream Makers will be at least 6 books (or two very separate trilogies, based on mythological creatures that do inhabit our world, and are responsible for the Dreams we have each night. We just don't know about them yet...
    Our worlds will cross with theirs, magic is involved but only from a human point of view - we just don't understand the powers involved so we label it as magic.
    It's fantasy, but type???

    Nice post John and good to see you are reading some of the quality lit from your compatriots!!!

    PS The Farseer Trilogy is one of my favourite reads too. I must read you!

  6. Hello mates, its great article about cultureand completely explained, keep it up all the time.

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