6 Telltale Signs You’re Reading an Epic Fantasy Novel


by Kyle Massa

Fantasy is a fantastic genre. And thanks to the brilliance of series like The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, epic fantasy has become one of the most popular flavors of fantasy.

How do you know you’re reading epic fantasy? These six signs should point you in the right direction:


1. There’s a Prologue

I’m starting to think literally no other genre has prologues. Though, to be fair, many epic fantasy novels probably don’t need them, anyway. Prologues are supposed to set the stage for the book, but often they just add a few pounds to an already hefty volume.


2. It’s Part One of a Ten Volume Series

Fantasy authors have a definite obsession with the multi-volume epic. For example: “This is part one of the first trilogy of three interconnected trilogies, all set in the same world.” Even Tolkien would be giving you the stink eye right now.


3. There’s a Map

I think it’s safe to say we can blame J.R.R. for this one, too. They’re not necessary to the story as it is, but whatever—they give authors an excuse to make up names for cities their characters never end up visiting.


4. Quotes Begin Every Chapter

These tend to be passages from books within the book or quotes from people with silly names. Either way, you don’t feel too guilty for skipping them.


5. Peasants

No fantasy story is complete without illiterate peasants, presumably speaking with cockney accents.


6. Every Character is a History Buff

In many epic fantasy novels, characters possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the world—even the peasants. Which is funny, because most people in the real world probably can’t even tell you who the 30th president of the United States was (I definitely cannot). And in fantasy novels, they don’t even have Google.

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!




15 thoughts on “6 Telltale Signs You’re Reading an Epic Fantasy Novel

  1. Um, I agree to an extent. Prologue? Often yes, in fact I had one for my trilogy but I recently took it down; I somehow got the impression it was not helping me to sell the book on Amazon – time will tell on that one.
    Ten volumes? LOL, again, oftentimes but not a necessity 🙂

    Map? Yup, either that OR a prologue. Many people claim they need to set the scene in their minds. Personally I’m not sure it’s necessary but it’s certainly a criticism I have received for NOT having one.

    Quotes begin every chapter – eh, not my experience really.

    Peasants – LOL – I know what you mean.

    Every character is a history buff. Again, not sure about that one.

    Most of my epic fantasy reading has been from the classics and while I agree with some of those points, I think perhaps they are truer for the more modern epic fantasy novels.

    Just a thought.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. In the fantasy novels I’ve read, it has a good 5 out of 6 of these at least. Never read Lord of the rings or game of thrones, but since those are huge in pop culture anyway I understand where you are coming from. All of the books I have are fantasy or paranormal romance (I swear that is what it says on the bindings and websites). I love them. Reading writing everything. I think these are still good points even if not all of them apply to one book/series. They are always the best to read.


  3. Always set in a northern hemisphere. Always have northern flora and fauna. Northerners are always the goodies, southerners from warmer climes are never to be trusted. Sigh.


  4. Always have bitter rivals who end up friends.

    Always have their own language no one speaks but everyone understands.

    Despite all the heroes/warriors/powerful beings in the story, the kingdom/world/race is saved by common, simple folk who may or may not be powerful beings themselves… and they’re not aware of this until a climactic scene.



  5. I feel like most epic fantasies I’ve read feature a character who grows up in a rural environment, until some magical mentor, who has several lifetimes on the character, comes along to recruit them into the story, which values this humble character for their good nature and incorruptible morals.

    Liked by 1 person

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