You can’t step anywhere in the YA community without tripping over a fantasy book.
They are everywhere. They are vast and strong. They have fandoms with many many eyes. Like when I think of the Big Name YA Authors™ my mind goes straight to ones like Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Leigh Bardugo, Maggie Stiefvater…and what do they write? Ohhhh ✨fantasy✨
And I’m totally not ignoring the power YA contemporaries here (I mean THUG, Love Simon, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before!!), but I do think the books most likely to be super hyped in YA circles tend to be fantasy.
I am not sad about this.
Look, fantasy has been my lifeblood since I was very small and listening to my mum read Narnia over and over again. (Until she QUIT on me and I had to buy the audiobooks to appease my need for magic). I can’t help but believe slightly in supernatural things 👀 and then directly crave and wish that there were more in the world. Do coincidences exist, or is that MAGIC. I ask you.
But after a life time (LIFE time, I say, I am very very old now, nearly 901) of reading fantasy books, I have developed a lot of pickity opinions and preferences.
So I thought I’d list very specific fantasy tropes that I love vs dislike!
None of these are “good vs bad” tropes, just ones that light up my eyes with glossy delight vs ones that make me DIE QUIETLY on the inside. And yep, we skipped past “dislike” and went straight to DEATH. There is only drama here, please don’t expect differently. 😌
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→ Long tedious roadtrips
I write this, hilariously, as I just finished reading a fantasy roadtrip that I adored. LOL, way to undermine myself. But that’s an exception. Forget that. Generally I am very very very old and very very very tired of fantasy roadtrips. Get to the quest already. There is nearly nothing to be gained by two people on horseback for miles. Even if they bicker (a win) or talk about potatoes (another win), it’s just a trope that I am weary of before it even starts.
→ No World Building
I actually feel like (although not always obviously!) YA fantasy is so scared of info-dumping that they do the opposite and…give you no information at all.
“Look at this world, isn’t it NICE!! No, we are closed to questions at this time, move along now!!”
Dude, I want to know things. Immerse me in the world. Drown me in it. I get too frustrated reading books where my top question is WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. Nobody knows.
→ Everyone is related To someone Important
“Here is an orphan!!!” the author says proudly, holding up their precious character like Simba towards the sun.
Me: “uh huh, yep. So she’s royalty.”
The Chosen One trope is fine, shh, it is. It’s just when we blink and every character seems related and estranged from someone important. I recently read a fantasy where the love interest turned out to be a bastard prince, the main character was child of THE most powerful person in the series, and all the secondary characters had epic relative connections too. And I’m like !!!! HOW. My imagination will accept flying cars, yes! But not everyone being related to a king, no!
→ Marriages (arranged, forced, pursued etc etc)
There are too many marriage tropes in YA right now and I’m crying. I’ve always hated weddings. I remember being like 8 years old at a wedding and rolling my eyes.
The reason I read YA is because I want to read about kids being epic. Kids. Epic. Neither of those words should be attached to marriage!!! Go kiss a tree first!!! You’re too young!!!
Plus marriage-centric YA books are almost always focused on the girl. If a YA fantasy is about a boy, it is much rarer for marriage to be a plot point. No, the boys get an adventure straight up. I smell s e x i s m in this crisp morning air.
→ That one POV nobody likes
Okay I’m being salty!! 😂But do you find this in books with multiple narrators?! There’s always that ONE person who you feel like could be tossed into the sea and the book would be just fine without their perspective? Because I always have one. I just feel like there is delicious and glorious strength in limited perspectives. Not EVERYONE has to narrate. Pls now.
* EDIT: I need to come back and clarify (after receiving some derisive comments about YA) that I am, in no way, saying that “all YA books do this”. They don’t. Ever. I love YA and this post isn’t snarking at it! I’m just saying which tropes work for me vs which don’t. Not every roadtrip book is tedious. Not every YA fantasy book doesn’t have world building. This is not a post of generalisations.
→ When it’s dark dark properly daaaaark
Oh leave me with the villain origin stories and the morally grey heroes who aren’t quite heroes if you turn your head a little to the left and squint. These are my life bloods and my hearts. Why? Because of the complexities. The world so rarely fits into black-and-white boxes of “good vs evil”. I like it when you can almost understand the villain’s perspective, their methods are just problematic. I just want books that take on darkness realistically.
It doesn’t have to be graphic! But I want the realism? I don’t want books that cagily say a character was tortured in the dungeons, but it’s okay, the next day he’s fine!!! Realism doesn’t have to be describing the torture: but show the repercussions, mental and physical too.
Nothing wins me over faster than laughing properly hard at an epic witty comeback or a perfect one-liner. OH. I live for these. I also love it when the comedic is the main character?! Sassy best friends are great, but c’mon, let the ridiculous one also narrate sometimes. I want the sassy princesses. I do not care if it is cliche. I want them all.
→ When it’s not 500 pages long
Look. Just…just think of me as someone with very small arms whose wrists break off if forced to hold a 500pg hardcover. They scare me. People are out there this Halloween season being spooked by clowns with bloody chainsaws (not that big of a deal, c’mon), and I’m over here backing away from a 500pg novel while crying and throwing salt. (LOL joke’s on you, I don’t throw salt. But I’d eat extra salty potato chips to help myself out.)
I just think you can have an epic fantasy adventure, do some decent world building, befriend a dragon and kill a prince (don’t tell me it’s the other way around; I refuse it) all in 400pgs. I was also reading a fantasy lately where they spent half of it in a tower. A single tower. I started eating the brick walls too.
→ When the magic is properly fantastic
I’m a bit over elemental magic (although it can be fine!!!). What I crave are magic systems that make me stop and go, “OH.” The ones that just fully capture my imagination so I can’t stop thinking about them.
Like The Brilliant Death where the magicians could turn themselves and objects into other things. Or A Curse So Dark And Lonely where they were cursed to live through the same 3 months, again and again. King of Scars where a boy turns into a mindless monster as a part-time occupation between being king. Or The Last Namsara where telling stories out loud in the desert could summon a dragon because they are addicted to stories. (I MEAN SAME.)
I’m deliciously inspired just typing this.
→ Clever twisty plots
If it gets too complicated, I might get lost, so this is a hit-or-miss request from me. But, OH, things like Six of Crows and Caraval — where the plot is a game within a game, all Slytherin intentions, beautiful and vicious. I crave those. This is what I want instead of girls getting out of arranged marriages and long roadtrips. Give me TRICKS and GLAMOUR.
The Slytherin is here and wants cunning wiles. 😌🙌🏻
| what do you think? |
tell me the things you look for in fantasy, vs the things that turn you off? do we share any of the same?!