Ah the romance of men swinging from chandeliers brandishing a sword and cracking wise. Lots of energy and adventure make these stories entertaining—you will smile and laugh as the hero buckles and swashes his way across the page. Swashbuckling Fantasy is an adventure story that often involves a fight of good and evil. The world contains dangers that must be fought back by brave heroes. Those who are downtrodden are defended. Women are loved. Loyalty is rewarded.
The stories of this sub-genre have brave and capable heroes, but they are also not alone. There is usually a group of heroes who adventure together. The mantra of the Three Musketeers: “all for one and one for all” is especially meaningful in this sense. Some stories will feature a band of unlikely heroes and others will feature a group of friends, but all band together on their adventure.
Variable. Swashbuckling Fantasy was established during the Enlightenment and the values of that period generally disapproved of the supernatural, so stories written during this period or reflecting this period tend not to have magic. Other stories will include magic, but magic is not the focus—it's a feature of the world or a plot device.
Moderate. Swashbuckling heroes will fight for what's right and in Swashbuckling Fantasy that can mean going up against the country's rulers (but the hero is still a patriot). Significantly, Swashbuckling stories can have a deeply political message. Sometimes the political message can be mitigated by the lighthearted nature of the narrative.
Moderate. The swashbuckling hero is not a new character, but we do all know who he is (and it is almost always a guy). He is a hero, he has conviction, he tends to be chauvinistic, he is quippy, he is brave, he is loyal, he outwits and outshines his opponents. He also has a sense of vulnerability.
Moderate. Like any adventure story plot is the key to moving the story forward. Lots of action sequences and plenty of fun to follow. However, the plots of Swashbuckling tales tend not to be super complex. True, some of these stories will incorporate a bit of intrigue, but not nearly at the same level as, say, the Court Intrigue sub-genre—readers won't be getting lost in these storylines.
High. Sword fights aplenty! But, these fights are by no means gory and can be a bit cheeky and unrealistic in a fun sort of way. Swinging across the deck of a pirate ship brandishing a sword and taking out six villains with ease—high energy, a bit fun, violent.
By Alexandre Dumas. A thrilling and action-packed story featuring characters that most people know today. Not to mention plenty of violence, sex, corruption, general mayhem and destruction, tragedy, love, comedy, plot twists, and of course a female villain.
By William Goldman. A cult classic both on the page and in film, this story is full of romance, sword fights, comedy, true love, miracles, pirates, princesses, wild beasts, and a good dash of wit. An entertaining read worth every moment.
By Robert Louis Stevenson. A classic story and one of the most popular pirate stories ever (many Swashbuckling Fantasies feature pirates). A rip-roaring adventure that is also a coming-of-age story.
By Paul Feval Jr. The Years Between Series. A collection of stories that fill in a twenty year gap in the lives of the original Musketeers. Also called the D'Artagnan against Cyrano series.
By Rafael Sabatini. Follows the story of an admiral who commands a fleet of pirate ships.
By Misty Massey. A feisty young woman is the protagonist of this swashbuckling sea adventure. Romance, adventure, and some secret magical abilities keep this story moving forward.
By Tim Powers. The basis for the Pirates of the Caribbean film and is a blend of magic, pirates, action, and some interesting characters.
By Saladin Ahmed. This debut novel promises a good start to a new series. The novel is an example of the Sword and Sorcery kind of swashbuckling action. With a reluctant hero who was ready to hang up his hunter's garb and a team of magicians, his warrior apprentice, and a shape-changing avenger, this story is full of dangerous action.
By Dave Berry. A YA prequeal to the classic story of Peter Pan featuring a fast-paced adventure. Magical green starstuff, flying crocodile, talking porpoise, rogues, mermaids, and more make up the adventure that awaits you onboard the Never Land.
By Joe Abercrombie. The first book in The First Law series. A dark, dark book filled with graphic violence, blood, and tragedy, but with a some light-hearted and comic moments. Swordplay and action sequences are brisk and cinematic. The story is complex and features a dashing officer, an infamous barbarian, a crippled torturer, and a wizard.