|Photo credit: Lisa Brewster on Flickr|
“So, high fantasy isn’t dead. If you say it is, you’re not looking in the right places. Perhaps the good stuff doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, but it’s out there, changing perspectives and broadening imaginations, reminding us of what it is to be human, and daring girls who love nail polish and boys to dream of something more.” —Sarah J. Maas ("Is High Fantasy Dead? (Um, No.)")What is it?
Royalty, medievalism, magic, sword fights, evil wizards, elves, orcs, trolls, dragons and very little technology are a few of the elements you’ll see when reading high fantasy. In Young Adult, it often means princes and princesses, or young powerful people (whether highly skilled, gifted with magic or otherwise special), lots of action, great pacing and romances. What’s not to like?
Pros/Cons of Writing YA High Fantasy:
- You can do just about anything. Everything should fit in the world you create and make sense for your book, of course, but other than that, the sky’s the limit. Want a dragon made of fire? Go for it. A character who can control lightning? Write it and it’s yours.
- Medievalism is the bomb. Let’s face it, sword fights are often way more fun to watch than shootouts, royalty never gets boring to read or write about (to me) and that low-tech I mentioned before means you have to work around lack of technology obstacles, sometimes with magic, sometimes without.
- Young adults tend to have more independence. This varies, of course, but in medieval times, young adults were often viewed as mini-adults—they have way more responsibilities and pressure on their shoulders than teens today. And that makes for great book fodder.
- World building is tough. To me, this is kind of a pro, too, because world building can be insanely fun. But it can also be a massive headache. You’re building an entire world from nothing, and it can get complicated and exhausting, but it’s also pretty rewarding.
- A lot of it’s been done already. This to me is also in a way a pro—I’m starting to see a call for high fantasy based off non-western European cultures, which I think is fantastic (i.e.: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Prophecy by Ellen Oh). There are so many cultures out there who each had their own medieval-like periods and mythologies that I think could be really interesting in high fantasy. So while it’s a tougher market because we’ve seen a lot of similar high fantasies, I think it also pushes us to try new things, which isn’t such a bad thing after all.
- It’s a tough market. Yeah, well, so is the rest of YA. If you love high fantasy, this shouldn’t deter you.
Reading is important! Really. Whatever genre you’re writing in, you should be pretty well versed in what’s out there.
Note: I’ve read and enjoyed all of these except for the last one—but I’ve heard good things about Finnikin.
For more, check out this Goodreads list of YA Fantasy novels, which includes books that aren't High Fantasy, but Fantasy nonetheless, and this Goodreads list of High Fantasy novels, which includes books that aren't YA.
- Shadow and Bone (The Grisha trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo
- Graceling (Graceling Realm trilogy) by Kristin Cashore
- The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns trilogy) by Rae Carson
- Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini
- Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series) by Sarah J. Maas
- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
- Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles) by Melina Marchetta
Do you enjoy reading or writing YA High fantasy? Share your experience! Also, should I continue this series? Let me know what you think!
- What Makes a Good YA Fantasy (And How to Spot It) by Laura Crockett at QuirkBooks
- YA Common Clichés series: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy by S.E. Sinkhorn at Maybe Genius
- Diversity in Fantasy by Erin Bow at Diversity in YA (tumblr)
- On Eurocentricity in Fantasy Fiction by Cinda Williams Chima at Diversity in YA
- 3 Tips for Writing Watertight Fantasy, Science Fiction & Time Travel Stories by Roz Morris at Nail Your Novel
Thinking about writing YA High Fantasy? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips, recommendations and more. (Click to tweet)
Do you write YA High Fantasy? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae's new So You Want to Write series! (Click to tweet)