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Fantasy fiction is a genre like no other. The normal rules don’t apply. Where else can dragons be tamed, spells be cast and worlds created other than in fantasy fiction? It’s a genre that can include anything your imagination can create, where realities can be suspended and all known laws of physics and nature can be ignored.
It’s a hotly contested debate as to when the fantasy genre was invented, but most people agree that J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of fantasy fiction. He changed the way people thought about fantasy fiction and brought it into the mainstream. His The Lord Of The Rings series was turned into a trilogy of blockbusting films, while The Lord Of The Rings itself is one of the bestselling books of all time, with over 150 million copies sold. His immersive style of richly imagined world-building, epic quests, and personal sacrifice have inspired fantasy fiction authors ever since.
While George R.R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones series draws on much that J.R.R. Tolkien popularised, its violent, dystopian setting and a more wide-ranging character base makes it one of the best dark fantasy book series there is. With an immense cast of characters, all with complex personalities and often deeply flawed, right and wrong or good and bad are no longer so easily defined. In the world of dark fantasy fiction, the brightest light often lurks in the darkest of shadows.
Fans of sci fi fantasy can trace the genre back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the story of a mad scientist who created a monster, while the likes of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells expanded the genre with sci fi fantasy novels such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and The War Of The Worlds. Frank Herbert’s Dune builds on the epic world-building of traditional fantasy and combines it with a futuristic civilisation, while contemporary sci fi fantasy author Adrian Tchaikovsky has taken over the galaxy with his space opera The Final Architecture, and China Mieville explores an alternate universe populated by hybrids in Perdido Street Station.
While some fantasy authors take to the stars, others look to the past, combining real historical settings with a fantasy twist to create historical fantasy novels. In The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, an asteroid strike in 1952 leads to an acceleration of the space programme and the early inclusion of women scientists. But with so much female involvement, Elma begins to wonder why no females are selected to go into space. Could she become the first female astronaut? Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is set in both the 18th and 20th centuries, as Second World War nurse Claire Beauchamp travels through time to the highlands of Scotland. There she falls in love with the dashing Jamie Fraser, making Outlander not only a classic historical fantasy series, but also one of the best romantic fantasy series around.
For a lighter take on the genre, try Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, which lovingly satirises the fantasy genre in a series of books set in a world balanced on the backs of elephants, which themselves are balanced on the backs of turtles. As well as his iconic Discworld series, Terry Pratchett has authored numerous standalone fantasy books for adults, including The Carpet People, The Dark Side Of The Sun, and Good Omens (co-authored by Neil Gaiman), and has also written fantasy books for teens and younger readers.
Dodger is a historical fantasy fiction novel for teens that tells the story of one of Charles Dickens’ greatest characters, with Dickens himself now becoming a character in Dodger’s story. How will Dodger fare when he comes face to face with the likes of Sweeney Todd on the mean streets of Victorian London? For younger readers, the Nomes series - comprising Truckers, Diggers and Wings - is the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy fiction, and follows the lives of tiny, 4-inch tall people who live under the floorboards as they’re forced to confront the possibility of moving Outside.
For young fantasy readers looking for adventure, Holly Black’s The Spiderwick Chronicles sees siblings work together to defeat the evil Mulgarath when they discover that mythical creatures are more real than they ever imagined. Fans of magic, witchcraft and wizardry need look no further than J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular Harry Potter series. Following the adventures of young Harry Potter and his friends at their new school Hogwarts, he quickly realises that all is not well in the wizarding world and that he has a pivotal part to play in making things right again. As he grows older, from pre-teen to young adult, the series takes on a darker edge with more adult themes, making this the perfect series for young adult readers to grow up with. For older fantasy fans on the verge of adulthood, Sarah J. Maas’ Throne Of Glass is a violent and often gory fantasy series that follows the exploits of beautiful teenage assassin Celaena Sardothien as she learns who to trust in the corrupt Kingdom of Adarlan.
Fantasy fiction can be a daunting place to visit at first. The genre contains such a vast range of subgenres within it that it’s hard to tell your manticore from your hippogriff.
But whether you love magic or mythical creatures, sci-fi or steampunk, romance or history, you’ve come to the right place. Fantasy fiction has something for everyone, and with millions of new and used books available at amazing low prices, worldwide shipping and free UK delivery, you can jump in head first and hope that there’s a hobbit there to guide you through some of the best fantasy fiction there is to read. So browse our online bookstore, and for every new or used book you buy from us, we donate one to a reader in need. That’s an awesome decision whatever reality you live in.