This is a continuation of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.
What is Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy?
This is what most people associate with the term fantasy. Epic fantasy is often used interchangeably with high fantasy, but occasionally used to describe a separate sub-genre. I won’t go into the differences.
Characteristics of Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy
- Set in a pre-industrial secondary world where magic is real.
- The scale of the novel is grand: takes place over a long period of time, and involves multiple settings.
- The stakes are high: failure of the protagonist will result in the death of a nation, the end of the world, or the triumph of evil over good.
- The enemy is evil incarnate. There is no moral gray area.
Literary Example: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Here I’d like to propose a secondary definition:
Epic fantasy can also refer to a multi-volume continuing fantasy series. These series are by nature epic in scope: use multiple points of view, contain complex storylines, take place over long time spans. For example, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time or George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice.
As always, please feel free to add to the discussion!