High fantasy is one of the more well-read fantasy sub-genres.
But for the last decade, urban, epic, and steampunk have grown in readership and especially for first-time fantasy readers. Therefore, this article is a primer list for people who have not read high fantasy but might want to start with some of the seminal novels of the sub-genre.
First, a definition of high fantasy and an important distinction with epic fantasy. When The Sword of Shannara published in 1977, many considered it epic fantasy. But since that time, the sub-genre has split and evolved. High fantasy tends to be focused on a lone protagonist who makes his/her way through a secondary world on a Hero’s Journey and who is pulled into a larger battle with a main antagonist. Epic fantasy is similar but features a much larger cast of characters with multiple points of view telling the story. I will write more about epic fantasy in two weeks time.
Looking at it now, I consider The Sword of Shannara as high fantasy. Where does the new high fantasy reader start now? Well, I have some wonderful recommendations below.
What high fantasy books would you recommend people start with?