A small sub-genre that is not hugely popular and not widely advertised—Colonial Fantasy is a fantasy in which colonialism is a theme and a part of the world-building. So, let's get academic for a moment—what is colonialism? From the Oxford Dictionary: "colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically." Any Fantasy story that incorporates colonialism into its world-building will be political, it will be complex, it will have different sides, and it will have plenty of conflict.
Variable. Magic does not define this sub-genre of Fantasy. Stories may tell an alternate history with the inclusion of magic, at which point magic is very important to the story—but this is not always the case.
High. Colonial stories necessarily deal with big questions and ideas. The clashing of cultures; the struggle for power; the relationships between those in power and those who are subjugated; the effects of colonization on a society; racial and ethnic divides and/or similarities; diversity; slavery; civil rights; political upheaval; the struggles of immigration; imperialism. These are all very grand ideas with very real social implications, which makes Colonial fiction a rich area to tap into thematically. These ideas also shape the world, can provide motivation and backstory for characters, and influence the plot—thus, the ideas are central to the development of a Colonial Fantasy story.
Variable. This characteristic is a bit harder to define in Colonial Fantasy because the sub-genre is defined more by its ideas and world-building than the characters that live in the world. In the interest of developing the thematic ideas of the story, characters can sometimes be a bit more flat or symbols. On the other hand, colonialism can provide depth to the character's development—enrich the psychological makeup of characters. Colonialism, whichever side of it the character is on, will affect the character in potentially life-changing ways—and that can be a significant character arc.
High. Complex relationships, revolutions, trauma, political maneuvering, and more make for great struggles and intense plots.
Moderate-High. The colonization of a nation is rarely done without force. Even in stories where there are not battles and the action is focused more on political maneuvers, the sense of oppression and the threat of violence loom.
Alternate history story of America with magic. This series takes a "what if?" approach to retelling history, with a big of magic blended in.
Takes place in two countries, one the colonizer and one the colonized, one magical and one non-magical. It features an ass-kicking heroine.
This novel is full of intrigue: spies, gods, politics, colonial powers, buried history. The world is wondrous, weird, and surprising.
Colonial Boston politics take center stage in this novel, the first in its series, and revolution is brewing.
A young woman journey's home to India to visit her father on his deathbed. But, she is thrown into a dangerous game with perilous players.
This is OUR favorite colonial fantasy so far. Everyone has secrets in the story that takes place at the edge of an empire. An epic story with epic consequences. This is one of the best recent colonial military fantasy series to come out. The Thousand Names (along with the two sequels) has, with Brian McClellan's A Promise of Blood, helped rejuvinate the Flintlock fantasy genre -- a subgenre where guns and magic co-exist.
Colonialism as a theme, as well as war, xenophobia, and the role of bureaucracy.
A boy, his gods, and the colonial power of England.
By Naomi Novik. This series explores a post-colonial world and both sides have their faults.
This award winning magical realism novel creates a complex world that is literal and magical, that has a history of unrest, and chronicles human experience.