Romantic Fantasy vs ‘Pure’ Fantasy–Another Semantic Debate (& Win New Fiona McIntosh Novel!)

Today, the big Holiday Heap of books continues with another givewaway. Read on…

Sheesh. Everyone wants to talk semantics this week.

Today, the list of fantasy books coming out in December is over at the Fiction Affliction columns on Tor.com–The list of releases is below. If any of them strike your fancy, head over to Fiction Affliction and check out the full descriptions.

But here’s the deal. I call them “Epic Fantasy” just to differentiate them from “Urban Fantasy” or “Science Fiction.” Genres overlap, and any label is by definition inaccurate. So folks are quibbling over what constitutes “Epic Fantasy.” The presence of romance as  part of some of these books is the sticking point.

Does fantasy to you always mean only sword-and-sorcery stories? To me, it’s a novel set in an imaginary world that involves a quest. It might or might not have romantic elements. Then again, I am not a big fan of this genre, so my definition might be way off base. Is it?

(And God forbid a fan of “fantasy” should run across a stray kiss or two. How unmanly is that?)

So, here’s my fantasy release list for December. If you think it’s too romantic, take a number!

King’s Wrath, by Fiona McIntosh. (Nov. 30, Eos)

The barbarian King Loethar may have gained his throne through brutality and bloodshed, but he has ruled Penraven with unexpected wisdom. Now his innumerable past sins threaten his reign—as Valisars who escaped slaughter prepare to rise up. Loyalties shift and new alliances are formed as the truth of history begins to emerge. King-in-exile Leonel hungers for revenge against the man he considers the usurper of his throne. Yet Leo is unaware of another who wields the enchantment he covets—the once-charming “halfwit” brother Piven, now a powerful youth whose exceptional cunning is matched only by his ruthless desire for the throne. But the efforts of all three to hold or gain control of Penraven may well be in vain, for the true inheritor of the Valisar Legacy is being called home . . . to claim her crown. To win a copy of King’s Wrath, simply comment below. As always,  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, +1 for Tweet or Retweet.

Other December releases:
Beneath the Thirteen Moons, by Kathryne Kennedy (Dec. 1, Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Smuggler Mahri Zin and the Prince of Sea Forest plunge through the dangerous waters of a watery world. Romance alert, folks.
The Castings Trilogy, by Pamela Freeman (Dec. 2, Orbit)
  The Domains are governed by the Warlords but there are wilder elements in the landscape that cannot be controlled. All three books in one volume.
Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey (Dec. 7, DAW)
Sixteen original stories set in the Valdemar universe, including a new novella from Mercedes Lackey.
Songs of the Wolf (Tales of the Holtlands), by R.F. Long (Dec. 7, Samhain)
Elite Fey’na warrior Shan is driven by hatred for the Lord of River Holt, the human who killed his sister. Then he meets Jeren, who’s desperate to escape her brother before his misuse of magic consumes his sanity. Romance alert.
Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier (Dec. 7, Roc)
The young seer Sibeal is visiting an island of elite warriors before making her final pledge as a druid. She and Felix, a survivor of a Viking shipwreck, go on a perilous mission through rough waters and  sea creatures. Possible romance alert.
Catacombs: A Tale of the Barque Cats, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Dec. 7, Del Rey)
Plague refugees visit Pshaw-Ra’s home planet of Mau, where godlike cats are worshiped by human slaves—and hunted down by a mysterious enemy.
The Bards of Bone Plain, by Patricia A. McKillip (Dec. 7, Ace)
Scholar Phelan Cle unearths a disk marked with ancient runes, with disastrous results.
Hawkmoon: The Runestaff, by Michael Moorcock (Dec. 7, Tor)
The final book in this epic fantasy chronicling the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon, an incarnation of Moorcock’s famed Eternal Champion.
The Iron Palace, by Morgan Howell (Dec. 28, Del Rey)
Armed with a dark magic he barely understands, Froan sets out to claim his destiny.
Guild Wars: Edge of Destiny, by J. Robert King (Dec. 28, Pocket Star)
The age of mortals may soon be over. This is a time for heroes. While the races of Tyria stand apart, six heroic individuals will come together to fight for their people. Will it be enough?
Elric Swords and Roses, by Michael Moorcock (Dec. 28, Del Rey)
The sixth and final omnibus edition of author Michael Moorcock’s most famous creation, with a foreword by Tad Williams.
The Dark Griffin (The Fallen Moon), by K.J. Taylor (Dec. 28, Ace)
Being chosen as a griffin’s companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can’t escape his Northerner slave origins.

How do you define fantasy? Does the presence of a romantic element kick it out of the fantasy category and consign it to the aisle with contemporary bodice-rippers?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate’s Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man’s Curse; Black Diamond).

12 thoughts on “Romantic Fantasy vs ‘Pure’ Fantasy–Another Semantic Debate (& Win New Fiona McIntosh Novel!)

  1. lol Considering that I write fantasy romances, I don’t think a few kisses will have me through the book across the room. 😉

    blog and twitter follower.

  2. I always kind of though of knights and wizards with fantasy, but then the whole concept of Urban Fantasy seems to have more vampires and shape shifters (because knights and wizards don’t live in urban areas?). Obviously not my call!

  3. Thanks for the comments!
    @SandyG…I know. I think of those massive Robert Jordan WoT books, or Lord of the Rings when I think fantasy.

    @Nicole–I love the cover of this one, too. The simple graphic with the clean background–very unique for the fantasy genre (whatever it is).

    @Teri Anne…Man, I hate to do this to you, but wait till my urban fantasy series starts up next year…wizards in New Orleans. I might have to come up with some knights. Hm..Actually, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series (now on Book 13 or 14) is a wizard in Chicago–great series, too! AND there’s a Knight in there! Woot!

  4. Well, to spread further confusion on the road to clarity, “romance” originally meant precisely what “fantasy” does now. The late Middle Ages stories of Arthurian superheroes were called “romances”, but today would surely be “fantasies”.

    Only silly, shallow people waste much time battling over niceties in criteria for whether something is in a category such as”romance” or “fantasy”. Well, I suppose editors, agents and marketing types who are looking to position a book do too, but note that’s all about which shelf a book goes on in the store. If we are not to judge a book by a cover, how much worse to judge it by the shelf it’s put on!

    Now from a literary standpoint, you could classify a story by the nature of the myth it embodies. A romance story embodies the myth of the frustration and fulfillment of erotic love, as in the tale of Cupid and Psyche. Many fantasies of the epic variety embody the Quest Myth. And there’s a whole list of mythic patterns that don’t have their own bin at Barnes and Noble (e.g. creation myths or rebirth myths).

    But of course that doesn’t mean much to most readers. The bin is all about a promise the bookmonger is making to his clientele: If you loved Lord of the Rings, you’ll love this too! As readers we often want to have our cake and eat it too. We want a book that captures what we loved about some other book, *including the novelty of it*. In truth if the author is any good, we’ll get something of what we’re looking for from this particular bin, and then something unexpected.

    Any really good book can exist without a bin to put it in.

    That’s why like the “furniture theory” of book classification. It captures something about a story that can be safely put into a pigeonhole. If you walk into a room with Art Deco furnishings, it’s an Art Deco room. It might also serve as a parlor, or a boudoir, or an execution chamber, but there is no doubt that it is an Art Deco room, and of interest to fans of that style of decoration.

  5. Hi Suzanne 🙂
    I classify in my mind all the separate genres as “Fiction”. I love Fiction in all its diversity. So Fantasy for me is any book with a fantastical element from PR, UF, YA UF, (old school Fantasy like Lord of the Rings), Steampunk, etc.
    🙂
    All the best,
    RKCharron

  6. These are such good questions — I still struggle with where my own works fall. I think of fantasy as LOTR, which has more action in it. As long as the romance is a by-line and not the main point, and the main point includes a quest or killing dragons or something, I think that’s pure fantasy.

    Your blog looks great Suzanne — lots of work goes into it, and my hat is off to you!!

  7. I don’t think a romantic element means it isn’t fantasy. It depends on how much of the story is devoted to the romantic elements and whether that is the primary aspect of the story.