This week’s Bestselling Fantasy Charts shows that some niches and trends in the eBook world really are immortal.
First off, congratulations to the entire Harry Potter saga, J. R. R. Tolkien’s, The Fall of Gondolin, Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for getting onto the chart and for likely shaping most of the rest on it. It is hard to overestimate how much these books and their authors changed, shaped and created parts of the Fantas and Science Fiction genres. It is entirely possible that most of the trends and niches I am about to describe to you, dear reader, are on the charts because these books put them there.
So, let’s begin with the most obvious first niche on the chart this week. It is probably the most populous, even discounting J. K. Rowling’s works, so it seems appropriate. Magical Boarding Schools, usually featuring children and teenagers getting up to everything from high fantasy high jinx, to trying their very best to stop the end of the world, and presumably exams. Teachers very rarely agree to homework deadlines being put on hold because of near death experiences, for some reason. The main characters are usually young women, and also are usually posed as outsiders. Sometimes this is because they had no idea that the magical world existed and sometimes it is because they are facing prejudice from the people around them. The settings are usually some sort of Magical Realism, though often the Fantasy elements are a lot easier to spot than the realistic ones.
In the books in this genre there are frequent romances, including Bully Romances and Reverse Harems, and the magic levels tend to run on Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy lines. There are lots of supernatural creatures, and a lot of them are the villains and love interests. Sometimes both! Dark Romance is a given, and the heat levels of the books that feature it tend to vary up and down, often depending on whether or not the students are at a Magical High School or University.
Next up is Fairy Tale or Myth Retellings, such as Circe, by Madeline Miller, and The Door in the Hedge, by Robin McKinley. This niche has a lot different styles in it, there are the strict retellings that are hardly retellings at all, there are changed point of view retellings, those that frame the fairy tale or myth in a world of the writer’s making, and many, many more.
Fantasy Romance is a popular sub-genre, though it is often inseparable from Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. They are identifiable by the nearly normal worlds of the settings, magical realism aspects, romance, heroines with greater than normal fighting skills, and usually lots of vampires, werewolves, elves, and godlike immortals.
After these sub-genres and niches have been swept out of the way, what is left is what people who infrequently read Fantasy would likely see as Fantasy. These are books with secondary world settings (i.e. not any flavour of recognisable Earth), lots of magic, and swords are more common than ploughs. Or at least this is how they appear, the actual intricacies of the books tend to be far more intricate. For example, Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames, which plays with the readers expectations of High Fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons style groups, and Band Culture, to write a book that is both a perfect example of Adventure Fantasy, and also a wonderful parody of it.
But there are other examples which stick more closely to the idea of High Fantasy, gods, dragons, evil wizards, they fall to swords and the good guys’ magic. However, these are rarer than people would likely expect in the genre’s bestselling charts. It is clear that this week, at least, Fantasy needs to include one of the niches I have described further up this article, or just be really, startlingly good, to get a good spot on the chart.