Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Written by Tiahna Osorio
Have you ever wondered where to start when it comes to fantasy books? It's challenging to decipher if you're more into adult fantasy or YA fantasy, the kind of pacing you want and if fantasy is even the genre for you. First of all, you need to know the basics to determine what's most appealing to you.
Fantasy is described as "...a genre of literature that features magical and supernatural elements that do not exist in the real world." It's perfect for escapism, and therefore a great destresser, though it tends to be a bit more convoluted than your average romance. You have to pay attention to the way things are described, and usually, plot points can be pretty complex. If you're thinking of getting into fantasy, it's vital to ask yourself if you have the time to dedicate yourself to extensive plot points. Do you enjoy learning about unique worlds, or do you find them repetitive and instead prefer to stay in the real world? It's important to ask yourself if you even want to put up with explanations. After all, real-world stories require little explanation. Fantasy is unique because it consists of so many different possibilities.
Fantasy can be complicated: it introduces different worlds, many characters, and things unique to the world (such as magic systems) that need proper explanations. Many people tend to walk away from books that don't get to the point or have a drawn-out beginning, or simply books that give no proper explanations. An excellent example of this is The Lies of Locke Lamore. It has a good concept, but it starts slow and maintains that slow pace throughout through constant over-explanation. Over-explanation is something to watch out for in books. It’s when concepts are constantly being added to or explained in a manner that goes further in depth than is required. An example of a well-paced book that doesn’t go overboard explanation wise is The Knife of Never Letting Go. It introduces characters, motives, and plot points at breakneck speed. It doesn't however do this in a way that leaves out proper explanation or set up. While books don’t always need breakneck action scene after action scene. It is important to maintain that level of flow that isn’t constantly interrupted by exposition. Fast pacing is a common attribute of the YA genre.
YA is defined as "a category of fiction written for readers from 12 to 18 years of age. While the genre is targeted at adolescents, approximately half of YA readers are adults. The subject matter and genres of YA correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist." Essentially, the most highlighted quality of the YA genre is that it centers around a young adult. There are sub genres within YA because of how broad a spectrum it is. One of those being known as YA fantasy. Though there is room for variety within these guidelines, there tend to be common trends between YA fantasy books. They commonly deal with things such as romantic relationships, miscommunication, betrayal, and redemption. They tend to have a younger feel to them as well, through writing style and humor. YA fantasy is very prevalent in the literature world nowadays, and many good books can be found in the genre. For example the books Six of Crows and The Cruel Prince.
The biggest decider on whether to continue on with a fantasy book, is normally how well written the characters are. The concept can only take a book so far, and at some point the roller coaster ride of the story is handed off to the characters. It’s up to whether they are likable, realistic, and interesting. A good example of a book with a semi-decent plot that really shines through with character development and exploration is the previously mentioned Six of Crows. It really does have a cool concept, but it’s not really a story that’s core lies in the main issue. Rather it focuses on the individual struggles of the characters, and their relationships. This is what kept people around for the story. In order to find a good fantasy book it really relies on whether or not you can connect with the characters, and less about how cool the magic system is.
To conclude, the best fantasy books have the best characters, pacing, and a lot lie within the YA fantasy genre. It’s important to read fantasy books to determine what you like best in all these regards, because good pacing can be really subjective for many people, and well written likable characters can be considered poorly written by others. It’s really about finding what fits you.