5 Subgenres of Fantasy Fiction Explained

Hello Writer Bees!

One of my favorite genres to write and read is fantasy. And the fantasy stories come in a variety of different flavors. Today, I’m breaking down 5 subgenres of fantasy fiction. Grab your wizard hats and let’s dive in, shall we?

Fairy Tales

In my opinion, fairy tales were the cornerstone of fantasy. Folktales full of pixies and mermaids, trickery and wonder. Characters are fanciful as the world around them, from the lost royal to the walking-talking cat. We see you, Puss in Boots. Keep in mind, the general readers of fairy tales are children. That being said, the overall tone is usually kept light and entertaining. At the end of the tale, there is always a moral lesson to be learned. And they all lived happily ever after.

High Fantasy

Also known as epic fantasy, this subgenre lives up to the name. Dungeons and Dragons players and Lord of the Rings fans know this fantasy subgenre too well. With medieval fantasy vibes galore, there’s the ever-classic battle between good versus evil present in these stories. Often times, the plot centers around one hero, who starts off weak but overtime, grows into a mighty warrior. They’ll embark on their quests and explore the world, maybe meeting other races like elves and ogres. In Epic Fantasy, the cast of characters can get quite extensive, so keep character notes handy when writing.

Urban Fantasy

Forget the sparkly forests and towering castles of fairy tales, this fantasy subgenres takes magical elements and throws them into a modern cityscape. Full of grit and noir vibes, the story always takes place in a major city, with bustling streets. Typically, the main character is connected to both the real world and the magical world. And almost any mythical creature can call the city home. Maybe there’s a shapeshifter riding the subway, or a werewolf in the alleyway. Heck, I’d argue that superheroes fall under this fantasy subgenre too. Truly, the possibilities are endless.

Gothic Fantasy

Sometimes referred to as Dark Fantasy, this subgenre is the mix of supernatural and horror elements. Noted for its gloomy, brooding atmosphere, the setting evokes fear and anxiety in its readers. Building up suspense is crucial to constructing the spooky environment. In Gothic Fantasy, ghosts from the pasts haunt the characters, never giving them a night’s rest. This fantasy subgenre is more focused on supernatural elements, like specters, vampires and Frankenstein’s monster. If you’re looking for a good scare, Gothic Fantasy might be the subgenre for you.

Low Fantasy

Similar to urban fantasy, magical events invade on an otherwise ordinary world. In this fantasy subgenre, the supernatural does not exist or isn’t well known in society. When something magical does occur, it’s accepted as natural in the world, like it could happen any day. Disney films like Mary Poppins fit this bill perfectly. This fantasy subgenre proves you don’t need an epic dragon battle to have a good fantasy story. Sometimes all you need is a little sprinkle of whimsy in everyday life.


Interested in learning more about subgenres in fiction? Check out these posts!

What are some of your favorite and least favorite subgenres of fantasy? Talk to me in the comments.

Write with heart.

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

Follow Me on Twitter

11 thoughts on “5 Subgenres of Fantasy Fiction Explained

  1. I love reading Urban Fantasy novels. For me it is the perfect mix of something so magical and mundane that I just love. The book I plan to write one day will in fact be an Urban Fantasy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I would say that to categorize fairy tales as light hearted is a simplification. The original Grimm’s fairy tales are often violent, though it’s true that they’re narrated in a way that minimizes the gruesomeness. And when I was little, I hated Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales because they were sad or creepy or both. But nowadays we like to water our fairy tales down and relegate them to the nursery…when originally they were stories for everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a fan of science fantasy, such as A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Heavy Metal movie of 1981. Frank Herbert’s Dune, which I’m reading now, almost fits into the genre as well. I like the way that the genre combines elements of both fantasy and science fiction and so makes those two genres more varied and interesting. Swords and other archaic weapons are used alongside guns in combat, and people can travel between planets by some mysterious means rather than only in spaceships.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s