For this post I am going to take you back to the dark ages. The days before the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Travelling into the city to the largest bookshop was a wonderful adventure. The beautiful old two-storey building was filled from top to bottom with books. There was only one section that sparked my interest. It consisted of an area less than one side of a bookshelf. Yes, you heard right. Part of the last row was filled with science-fiction. In that tiny space young adult fantasy was placed side by side with fantasy. Gasp! Yes, this is where I found the first edition of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Wedged near the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The children’s section was far away at the other end of the shop. It was here, tucked neatly away. That the first Harry Potter book appeared.
Growth of Fantasy
Much has changed since then. My last visit to the city revealed walls covered with bookshelves for fantasy. That’s not all, there were two whole bookshelves in a dedication Young Adult section. That’s right, the genre had grown. Not only had it expanded, but it had merged with other genres. Forming all sorts of hybrids and niches. No longer could I be assured of the beloved fantasy tropes. That were eagerly anticipated. Hiding away in the depths of these beautiful covers was a terrible secret. Some of the fantasy tropes were missing.
On the Search for Fantasy
For my part, I look for keywords. That will lead to disappointment or an underwhelming experience. The truth is, in the last few years it has become impossible to tell a hybrid from a fantasy. The cover and blurb look the same. Relying on the key words ‘fantasy’ and ‘epic fantasy’. It’s only the reviews that give the game away. So, there I am in the middle of the shop searching the interwebs for author names. Hoping for a sign in the reviews that the book I am about to buy is a hybrid. I must confess to being caught out. When the reviews repeat the same keywords ‘fantasy’ and ‘epic fantasy’.
When the Cover Says ‘Fantasy’
You can imagine the disappointment that happened next. As I settled down on the couch with my comfy blanket and hot chocolate. Dreaming of taking over the world and fighting worthy villains. The excited anticipation of adventure, magic and danger. Reading through 100 pages and waiting for the story to begin. Making it to 200 pages and still waiting. More than halfway and I was aware of the loss of an entire set of fantasy tropes. I love fantasy, but there is something I cherish even more… Honesty. When a beautiful book with a brilliant blurb promises fantasy that is what I long for.