Books · Epic Fantasy · Fantasy · Writing

What’s Wrong With Epic Fantasy these days?

I might be just someone strange here, but I have been really disliking a lot of books in the epic fantasy genreal although I have been a fan of this genre for a long while. Regardless of whether it is in young adult (although these do fare better) or adult (these just bore me).

I feel as though epic fantasy just doesn’t work with me that much, although I began by it. But I do wonder, is there any inherent reason why it is like this. That’s why I decided on this post.

For me, I prefer characters over worlds. Don’t get me wrong here, I still can enjoy an immersive world. But a well rounded character whom I can understand, relate to and not fall asleep while they are narrating will be a lot better. And will push a world to be great and make me remember them.

And here are some of the reasons I have came to.

#1 The Focus Is On The World

I get it that fantasy is all about the world, but really a relatable well developed character will make the world building seem a lot less of an infofump and make it easier for me to arrive in the world.

If I have to imagine through going over every last word, I will have went to play the thousands of games out there filled with pretty visuals and a world that I often immerse myself in because of how easy it is to do so.

#2 There Is Rarely A Character Arc

If you’re one of those who often throw characters into the world giving them only a few traits to make them different, chances are it won’t be one which will make me feel for them.

Characters in these stories need to feel real, need to have real struggles and real emotions. That way I can understand the weight of any action, and admire them when they make the right choice amid all that has happened to them.

I feel that they aren’t developed holistically, with very few books actually going deep into the consequences and long lasting effects of anything. These are what makes them compelling, making them human is compelling, I rarely care about how versatile or capable they are.

Because they are in another world with different laws and restrictions, the only thing keeping me invested (cool magic only intrigues me) is making them feel real enough that they can be my best friend, or anything like that.

#3 The Execution

Sometimes the execution will kill a book, and in this case for me I just saw so many dig its own hole for it to drop into. The characters often have simplistic motivations that rarely stretches beyond that or is given enough reason as to why it exists, the pacing sometimes is awful, sometimes this genre in YA becomes fantasy-romance or straight up erotica (I’m looking at you Throne of Glass).

It rarely had themes, or a central idea it focuses on. The world often feels tacked on, for novelty, frequently described, the writing can range from lyrically beautiful to horribly bland.

This is where I feel that it just turns me off the most, because the execution took an interesting concept and premise but failed to give it what it needed, a story to tell, development, and good plot and pacing. It isn’t easy, in a genre like epic fantasy where you’re building a world from scratch. But I feel that it needs to go back to one thing: making me care and having a good story to tell.

This has just taken a lot of words for me to look into why I no longer read epic fantasy as much as I used to anymore.

What do you think? Have you faced the same issue as I am now? Please discuss in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Epic Fantasy these days?

  1. I agree with you. A lot of the harder science fiction suffers from the same problem, though with sci-fi it tends to be an over-emphasis of concept rather than world. This is exactly the trouble I am having with “The Lies of Locke Lamora.” Easily some of the best worldbuilding in fantasy, but the book rarely gets beyond this worldbuilding. It even has detrimental effects on the writing–info dumps, over use of titles and descriptors, unnecessary and distracting details, a lack of appreciation for narration as an important component of the story. I think your preference for character-center stories probably comes from reading a lot in other genres, mine comes from my training as a short story writer, a format that is all about character. If you need something different, I can gift you a copy of “In the Valley of Magic” which is constructed of character centered stories. Fantasy and sci-fi writers do not need to ignore their characters! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, especially with historical fiction. A lot tend to be about retellings of famous people, and has given them a rather complete character to work with. Which means not having to create a main character from scratch but working with history. Sure, I’ll definitely like a copy of “In The Valley of Magic”

      Liked by 1 person

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