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Tag: sub-genres

Old Favorite, New Genre: Exploring Fantasy Sub-genres Through Robin McKinley’s Work

photo by flickr user RC Designer

Although I like to read a wide range of books, I always take a while to get into something new— which makes me a regular re-reader of old favorite books and authors. It’s always nice for me when an author I love writes a new series or in a new style, because it makes me more likely to try it out– and in the case of genres, once I find one book I like, I’m likely to try others. I’m naturally a fantasy or historical fiction reader, but Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series got me to like mysteries, enough that I tried Ian Rankin and grande dame Agatha Cristie.

Of course, the big genres like fantasy have sprouted a whole bunch of sub-genres, and there are tons of fantasy sub-genres that I haven’t fully explored. Luckily, one of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley, has written in a wide variety of fantasy sub-genres. Even better, she’s got a new book, Shadows, just out two weeks ago that will hopefully entice me to give another go to what she refers to on her blog as her “alt modern” style.

Here’s my guide to exploring fantasy sub-genres through the works of Robin McKinley:

Discovering Your “Brand” of Fantasy

fantasyHave you ever picked up a fantasy book and loved it, then tried to follow-up with another, only to find that it’s just not working for you? Have your friends ever complained that they just couldn’t get into fantasy, but when you ask, they’ve only tried one or two books before giving up on the whole genre? If you answered yes to either question, you or someone you know may need to discover their “brand” of fantasy!

Fantasy is a huge genre, divided into many distinct and varied sub-genres. While some readers may love to delve into any type of fantasy, others may find themselves loving one book, then being utterly bored or bewildered by the next. Some readers may even be amazed to discover that they are reading a fantasy because the fantastic elements might be so subtle within the novel.

For example, one reader could love Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones but be unable to finish Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. Another could love Eragon but immediately dislike Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Yet another could love Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, but be put off by Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

So how would a reader discover what fantasies they do like?

A Mystery for Every Reader

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I know I do … but what makes a great mystery? I think that every reader finds that something just a little different goes into their perfect mystery. When I started wondering why mysteries can differ so much, I came up with a pretty interesting fact: Did you know that there are more than eighteen different mystery sub-genres? Eighteen! (For more specified sub-genre definitions, check out the Writer’s Digest sub-genre descriptions.)

So. What makes your perfect mystery? An ace murder detective? A startling disappearance? A hard-boiled private eye? A chef having to prove their innocence after a poisoning? There seems to be a mystery style out there for every reader. With such a wide variety of mystery sub-genres, narrowing down which mysteries are right for you can be a real challenge.