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Classical Fantasy Books

Like Historical Fantasy, Classical Fantasy is focused on specific details and time periods and portrays them in a new and fantastic way. This sub-genre is concerned with the capital 'C' Classics of ancient Greece and Rome—sometimes with that period of history and sometimes with the myths that populate that period, and usually a combination of the two. It is a sub-genre where ancient gods, goddesses, mythic creatures, and heroic deeds come alive.

There are two general settings for Classical Fantasy: either it takes place in ancient Greece or Rome, or it takes place in a modern era. When the story takes place in the historical time period it's more in line with Historical Fantasy, and the historical details become very important to the richness of the story. When the story takes place in a more modern setting, world-building takes less time and there is more emphasis in how the Classical elements relate to the modern world. For example, how does an ancient Greek god survive in a world that doesn't worship him?


Other Features of Classical Fantasy

  • Level of Magic

    Moderate-High. Magic in Classical Fantasy is different than in Epic Fantasy or other traditional sub-genres because the gods and their offspring have powers, but there isn't necessarily a magical system for regular humans to tap into. These magical, godlike powers are important to the story and play a central role in the story development.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Variable. Just as there are many gods and goddesses, many myths, and many interpretations of these stories, so too are the Classical Fantasies. At first, this sub-genre was used for satirical purposes, and often to make philosophical points. Even today, stories within the sub-genre employ feminist ideas. Other stories though, are comedic and fun with less emphasis on ideas.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. This characteristic is dependent on what the author is trying to do with the story. For example, if the story is a way to explore philosophical ideas, characterization is not going to be as important. In other stories though, writers are reinventing ancient gods and goddesses and making them well-developed characters with distinct personalities and complicated relationships.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Moderate-High. The gods are complicated. They have long lives and complicated histories with entangled relationships. Their stories, and the stories of their children, are epic and adventurous filled with tension and plight and romance. The plots of Classical Fantasy are similarly complex and often times ridiculous (but in a fun way). What's both difficult and rewarding about this sub-genre is that it's drawing on stories that have existed for ages. Authors create stories that still surprise readers and offer them new ways to experience old stories.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. With strong personalities and astronomical powers, gods and goddesses have the potential to wreak havoc. There are literally battles for the world at stake within this sub-genre—which can, of course, be pretty violent. On the other hand, stories more focused on the exploration of philosophical ideas are going to spend less time on violent details and more time on intellectual particulars.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

  • Historical Fantasy. Classical Fantasy is a type of Historical Fantasy drawing on ancient Greek and Roman history and mythology.

  • Mythic Fantasy. Drawing on specifically classic myths, Greek and Roman, makes the Classical Fantasy sub-genre also a part of the Mythic Fantasy sub-genre.

  • Legend Retelling Fantasy. Many stories of the Classical Fantasy sub-genre are actually retellings of the ancient myths and legends.

  • Epic Fantasy. Classical literature has some ancient and amazing epic stories that are sometimes retold in Fantasy—the Trojan War, the Iliad, the Aeneid. They don't share all the characteristics with Epic Fantasy, but they definitely share the scope and philosophical significance.

Popular Classical Fantasy Books Books