6 Telltale Signs You’re Reading an Epic Fantasy Novel

Fantasy is a fantastic genre. And thanks to the brilliance of series like The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, epic fantasy has become one of the most popular flavors of fantasy.

How do you know you’re reading epic fantasy? These six signs should point you in the right direction:

1. There’s a Prologue

I’m starting to think literally no other genre has prologues. Though, to be fair, many epic fantasy novels probably don’t need them, anyway. Prologues are supposed to set the stage for the book, but often they just add a few pounds to an already hefty volume.

2. It’s Part One of a Ten Volume Series

Fantasy authors have a definite obsession with the multi-volume epic. For example: “This is part one of the first trilogy of three interconnected trilogies, all set in the same world.” Even Tolkien would be giving you the stink eye right now.

3. There’s a Map

I think it’s safe to say we can blame J.R.R. for this one, too. They’re not necessary to the story as it is, but whatever—they give authors an excuse to make up names for cities their characters never end up visiting.

4. Quotes Begin Every Chapter

These tend to be passages from books within the book or quotes from people with silly names. Either way, you don’t feel too guilty for skipping them.

5. Peasants

No fantasy story is complete without illiterate peasants, presumably speaking with cockney accents.

6. Every Character is a History Buff

In many epic fantasy novels, characters possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the world—even the peasants. Which is funny, because most people in the real world probably can’t even tell you who the 30th president of the United States was (I definitely cannot). And in fantasy novels, they don’t even have Google.

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “6 Telltale Signs You’re Reading an Epic Fantasy Novel

  1. YES. We can blame Tolkien for a lot of epic fantasy norms now haha. And I didn’t even think about the peasants-somehow-knowing-everything-about-the-world bit!

  2. When I was a kid, I translated the Dwarfish runes along the edge of the map on the inside cover of The Hobbit. I can still write in them… So I would add, you know it’s an epic fantasy novel when it has its own made up languages and/or lettering.

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