Monday, April 11, 2016

The Problem I've Been Having with My FAVORITE GENRE Lately

Anybody who reads my blog semi regularly knows that when it comes to YA genres, I think fantasy is the cream of the crop. It's the crown jewel of genres to me. It's my favorite thing to read, and I never get tired of i. It has elements of all the other genres: it's got a plot like a thriller, it can be creepy as horror, it should have feels like a contemp, cool old timey bits like a historical, and (if you really want to make Gillian very very happy) it should bring the swoons like a romance novel. PLUS MAGIC.

I love the tropes. I love the epicness. I love the inventiveness. I love being immersed in a whole entirely different and entirely better but also with much higher and more dangerous stakes. I love dragons and wizards and warriors and beasts and queens and I LOVE FANTASY.

So...why have so many fantasies been letting me down lately?

Is it something I said? WAS I TOO NEEDY??

Okay, I know what the problem is. It's because the rest of the world is fiiiiinally catching up with me and liking the things I like (#fantasyhipster). The publishing world has realized fantasy is the BEE'S KNEES, so it's all over the place. WHICH, YAY! Never stop! Write me all the fantasy! (I don't think it will stop, btw. Not like dystopian. We hardcore fantasy readers, raised on Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley and other bad ass fantasy ladies of yore, aren't going anywhere.)

But it also means were are getting a loooooot of fantasy...and a lot doesn't feel new.

It's so tricky, because obviously, like any genre, fantasy has tropes. I'll never tire of secret princesses, girls in disguise, or dragon riders. I just won't. But after reading high fantasy for twenty years, i think I expect these things to come with some kind of twist, you know? Or for the world-building to feel full and rich? And for the author to feel like just as much as a HIGH FANTASY PERSON as me and my other high fantasy-reading blogger friends? Instead, sometimes it feels like a romance that's just kinda plopped into a made up land and doesn't really DIG into the things that make me love the genre. Or it doesn't push the envelope in the way i'm hoping. Sometimes, they just feel kinda...rote.

This post comes from a convo I had with Kristen of My Friends are Fiction and Bekka from Pretty Deadly Reviews at how high fantasy has been so hit or miss lately, with some TERRIFIC HITS and a few flopping flops for us. The genre is getting so crowded, which in some ways is a great thing because we fantasy lovers have so many options, but it also makes it feel like not as many books are trying to break the fantasy mold.

But then there's the argument that these books will be GREAT for fantasy newbs! Which I've actually seen be the case. The book Kristen, Bekka, and I were specifically discussing is one that Kristen (a fantasy lover) personally didn't feel was bringing anything remotely new to the table, and felt like a ton of books she'd read before, only minus the ***magic***. Whereas I know of another blogger, who vastly prefers contemporaries, loved the book, saying it's one of the few fantasies she was able to get into and understand.

Oh, look. I've written another discussion post where I'm unable to come to any conclusion at all! Except that I like when fantasy books twist their tropes. I love this genre because it's so VAST, and anything is possible, and I love when fantasy authors stretch it as wide as it can go. (Or at least clearly show me they've read a TON of YA fantasy and know what's out there already.)

What about you? Are you a fantasy lover or a contemporary lover? Have you run into these problems? What about in other genres? I know this has very much been the case with paranormal and dystopian for me!


  1. FANTASY IS MY FAVE! And yet, saying that, I realise I don't actually read masses of YA fantasy ...? I think because I read a fair bit of adult fiction and classics and not altogether overly much YA, which then has to be divided between contemps and fantasy ... so, what I'm saying is, I've still not finished Throne of Glass or Wolves of Mercy Falls (which is paranormal but still) or Game of Thrones (which isn't YA, but, well, this comment stopped making sense a while ago I think). Therefore I'm not sure how much I can bring to this discussion.

    Therefore I don't know why I'm writing such a long comment?

    Anyway. My number 1 problem is a lack of worldbuilding depth. I really like to be able to FEEL the world (as in Harry Potter, LotR, Game of Thrones) and be immersed in it. I do not like when the fantasy is just kinda a backdrop for smouldering teen boys in period costume (which they routinely remove).

    Anyway, I too am struggling to reach a conclusion. But still! Great post.

  2. Lovely postt! I've always been a contemporary reader with a little bit of fantasy now and then but recently it's been all fantasy fantasy, I need fantasy! "It has elements of all the other genres" this is exactly why I have come to love this genre lately! I can totally understand what you mean by some recently published fantasies being very generic, for example although I loved the Red Queen and I know a lot of other people loved it too but there was also a lot of people that didn't enjoy it because it was very generic which I can totally see why! I think the reason I enjoyed it was because I hadn't read a lot of fantasies so it didn't seem generic to me? I don't know, anywaysss lovely post! :)

  3. I really agree. There are so many great genres out there, and authors write these potentially awesome stories and just mess up by not knowing their genre well enough. Immerse yourself in books AND REVIEWS of the genre you're writing in. You'll know all the clich├ęs and pet peeves, but also all the classics and favorites.
    I'm so often afraid that I'm growing tired of my favorite genres, but then I pick something up that's actually done right.

  4. I love fantasy as well and have been feeling very much of this this year. I've been so disappointed by several YA fantasy books and the ones I've read this year and loved were written at least a year ago. So yes, the genre is becoming more crowded, which is both a good and bad thing. For me, I find it just means I can't trust the hype anymore and need to look a little deeper than just the most popular books that are trying to appeal to more than just fantasy lovers. Because nothing pisses me off more when reading a fantasy book than if it just feels like a romance (which I absolutely love as its own genre) with a little bit of magic or other element in there. If I'm reading fantasy, it needs to be a fantasy, with a swoony romance that fits in. I love this post and am so glad you said it because I've been wondering if I was the only one feeling this way!

  5. I've been noticing the same exact thing. Fantasy is my jam and I'm so happy to see more of it. But then I feel like when Pokemon was the big thing and suddenly a lot of knock offs were coming out and it sort of became over saturated. There's still amazing gems out there though, I think it's just a bit harder picking and choosing now. So many books, so little time!



    (Did I trick you?)

    Probs not. Whatever. I'm feeling punchy so.

    Yessssss I love your delineation of why fantasy is the best: it's all of the things wrapped up in a shiny box made of dragons.

    Living dragons. Bc dead dragons are sad. They're okay being a box sometimes. IDK WHATEVER LEAVE MY METAPHOR ALONE.

    The not new thing is how I felt about Tell Me Three Things, which was fun, but it was also a book I've read before for the most part.

    Desperately want to know what book you guys were talking about.

    And which books kinda disappointed you. TELL ME ALL THE THINGS.

    I haven't super noticed a change to the amount/quality of fantasy, but I think maybe because I've been reading a lot of other genres? I do know that some of the fad-hoppers have turned to fantasy, so you're probably totally right. I've just been sort of out of the loop lately (and just reading Tessa Dare for all of time).

  7. You're not alone! I'm a huge fantasy fan too, but I've always been incredibly picky, so it almost looks like I'm not into fantasy...? If that makes sense. If I'm hooked in the first 50 pages, I will keep going!

    Sometimes when the market is over-saturated, it's overwhelming and makes it difficult to find the good stuff. Needle in a haystack time! Before, it was super easy because there was nothing else (and what was there was already fantastic), but now it's everywhere.

    I kinda blame shows like GAME OF THRONES. Here's this great series (okay, I'm not a fan of the series, but I read book 1 and can't deny that it's excellent writing and worldbuilding and character development) that started in the 80s, and now the average person (who watches the SHOW, not having read the books) believes themselves to be fantasy fans and they only go searching for THAT SERIES. Well, great, now they're reading and that's awesome, but publishers see that too, and so now every new fantasy that comes out tries to attract those GOT fans specifically with blurbs and title comparisons saying "it's like Game of Thrones meets x" or "Any George RR Martin fan would love x." This feels like one big rambling rant, but what I'm trying to say is: I think the market is oversaturated in an effort to get people who are into certain kinds of subgenres/TV shows/etc to read it. And that makes it harder for the good quality stuff to break through.

    I'll close with a recommendation. Have you read STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN yet?

  8. I over saturated myself with fantasy last year and felt much the same. Right now, I have only a couple of fantasy series that I'm committed to and allowing myself to try some of the new stuff that doesn't feel so cliche. The long lost princess trope has to go though. I love it, but sometimes I wish they had a heroine who could be powerful without being royal or something. Or honestly, I'd like to see a high fantasy where there wasn't a monarchy. Don't know if there is one of those.

    I sort of want to visit some older books in the genre. And when I say old, I mean something that wasn't released in the past decade. I'm thinking maybe 90's or some late 80's fare and compare it with newer stuff. I loved Tamora Pierce's stuff when I was younger, and I'm interested in rereading it with the perspective of the books that are out in YA today.

  9. I always hear Harry's voice with that gif :D I agree with so much of what you said. I think a lot of the books that have been misses could work for readers who don't read as much fantasy, or as much YA in general. Part of the problem with reading so much is that you find genres and tropes that you love, that really work for you, which is awesome!! But then it's glaringly obvious when said tropes AREN'T working, or are done poorly. I mean, this isn't always true (sometimes books are just bad) but I think it's a contributing factor. It's a lot easier for me to tell these days when I'm really into a trope done well. And sometimes it's not the book itself; I DNFed The Great Hunt bc I had to return it to the library and was getting a bit bored. But I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had come out even 3 years ago. It's not "new" enough or fresh enough. This happens to me with contemp a lot too. I am VERY forgiving when I read contemp because all I really want is a super flirty, smart rom com in book form. I don't mind most cliches, if they are done well. And I've DNFed and 2 starred more than ever this year because it's more and more obvious when it's not done well. Okay I'm just repeating myself now. But anyway! I still have a couple popular series to catch up on because I was getting burnt out. Love your post as always, you are the bestttttt.

  10. I don't think Fantasy is any less crowded with mediocrity than other genres- it's just easier to spot because there's a stock standard Tolkien-esque baseline for the environment. Always gonna have to separate the wheat from the chaff, ya know?

  11. Gorgeous post Gillian :D Thank you for sharing about all of this. <3 Hugs. Fantasy is also my favorite genre :D But yeeeeeesss. I have also been having issue with a lot of new fantasy books :( Sobs. Some of them are just so not good, lol. Like.. I had to DNF The Crown's Game :( Sobs. But.. I did love And I Darken :D So good. I hope you will read more amazing fantasy books soon. <3


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