Fantasy of Manners is a kind of hybrid sub-genre of traditional Fantasy and the Comedy of Manners form. A Fantasy of Manners story is not necessarily comedic and differs from traditional Fantasy in that the foes are not magical beasts or armies of knights, but rather neighbors and peers. The stories tend to be set in urban environments with elaborate, hierarchical social structures. The society is often usually post-medieval with low technology (or none) and a high level of sophistication (meaning plenty of formality and multi-layered).
Aside from the setting, Fantasy of Manners stories also share a kind of tone: witty and wry. This tone is influenced by such literary giants as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. They also tend to fall in to the capital ‘R’ Romance category.
Low. Magic is present, but often downplayed in this sub-genre.
Moderate. The social aspects of these stories are central to the story and provide the basis for all the action. There is usually some point of the social structure that underlies the action of the story as well as characters’ motivation. Fantasy of Manners, like Comedy of Manners, is self-reflexive through subtext or through irony.
Moderate. Fantasy of Manners stories often employ large casts of characters, though they are not always original characters. The characters do tend to be engaging. What is particular to this sub-genre is that the imagined society becomes a character. The society is revealed and examined much the same way characters are developed.
High. The plot in a Fantasy of Manners story tends to be intricate with several influencers. Disguises and identity swapping are common, as are romantic entanglements.
Low. These are not stories about crushing armies, dueling wizards, or the epic battles of good and evil, so violence is not really a part of most Fantasy of Manners storylines. There is often politically charged violence happening on the edges of the main storyline though.
Urban Fantasy. Urban Fantasies and Fantasy of Manners stories blend characteristics like urban settings and social considerations.
Alternate World Fantasy. Fantasy of Manners stories almost always take place in an alternate world.
Court Intrigue Fantasy. With plenty of twists and intrigue happening in Fantasy of Manners stories, it is a sub-genre easily blended with Court Intrigue.
By Ellen Kushner. A definitive example of the Fantasy of Manners sub-genre. This is a witty novel with plot twists, humor, and interesting characters.
By Mervyn Peake. The first real Fantasy of Manners series and is set in a Byzantium kingdom rife with intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder.
By Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Another definitive example of the sub-genre that is witty and fun, devious and magical.
By Steven Brust. A series of swashbuckling novels set in the fictional world of Dragaera; adventure, intrigue, romance, and war collide.
By Sherwood Smith. A young countess learns a new way of fighting in the royal palace—with wit, words, and secret alliances.
By Jo Walton. Different from other books in the Fantasy of Manners sub-genre in that the characters are dragons. It is a story about the death of a patriarch and love, money, and familial conflict.
By Madeleine Robins. This novel has been described as Austen-noir
By Teresa Edgerton. The first in a two-part series that takes place in a fantastical alternate world, with magic, Regency, intrigue, and multiple perspectives.
By Paula Volsky. A successful novel that merges Fantasy with a historical retelling of the French Revolution.
By Alis A. Rasmussen and Kate Elliott. A story about marriage, a parallel world, matriarchal societies, adventure, and magic.