Fantasy Frenzy: old literary genre reaching new heights?

While it is agreed upon that all literature is used as a form of escapism, it can undoubtedly be said that the fantasy genre achieves this feat in a way that none other is able to. Sweeping us away with tales of roaring dragons and magical fairies and an endless assortment of superhuman characters and laws, fantasy authors transport us to a fundamentally different world. A world where the sky is the limit, and your imagination can run free, in a place that defies the laws of nature. Therefore, this genre has a long tradition, due to its unique ability to fulfil a reader’s need to escape, and let go of any pre-existing concerns about our daily lives.

Across the decades, the fantasy genre has captured the hearts of generations, and has permeated the cultural world. Its roots can be traced back to early oral tradition. Travelers told fictional stories of magical monsters from ancient mythology and old folktales. The popularity of these tales led them to be written down, and they became part of literary tradition. Claiming the title of the ‘undisputed father of modern fantasy’, however, is J. R. R. Tolkien, whose series, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was the first high fantasy,  Countless authors, from George R. R. Martin to Stephen King have been inspired by his incredible world-building and storytelling, which allowed his high fantasy tale to burst into the world of popular culture and media.

The modern fantasy novel is reaching new heights of popularity in society today, as is evident when we look to J K Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series, one of the most popular children series, which continuously tops charts, and has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide. Another author who has fascinated readers in more recent years is the new sensation Sarah J Maas, with her fantasy series ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ and ‘Throne of Glass’, among others. She has gathered a dedicated following, since her works rose to popularity on social media platforms, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when people switched off from the outside world and onto the digital world instead. Yet another example of the popularity of this literary genre is the frenzy that accompanied the release of Rebecca Yarros’ new book, ‘Iron Flame’. This book follows on from the first novel in the series ‘Fourth Wing’, which was released earlier this year and has been heralded a Best Book of the Year 2023, by Indigo, as well as Barnes & Noble. With this great success, Yarros’ next book in the series was sure to be a sensation. This was made evident when, earlier this month, both Barnes & Noble, in New York, and Waterstones, in Leeds, held midnight releases for this book, which is only done for incredibly highly anticipated reads.

With such a vast and ever-growing landscape of fictional fantasy worlds to delve into, it will be interesting to see where this genre takes us next, and which authors will take on the challenge of living up to the greats that have come before them.  

Featured image: Cederic Vandenberghe via Unsplash

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