Epic Fantasy Outdated?

I recently stumbled across a web site which dismissed the epic fantasy genre as outdated in the young adult literary world. My first instinct? Roll my eyes and dismiss the site without a second thought—this being a common reaction among epic fantasy lovers when someone scorns our beloved genre.

But then I realized all this eye-rolling, dismissing, and grouchy withdrawal only adds to the problem. Instead of complaining about offensive comments, fans of epic fantasy should meet these challenges head-on (that’s what our favorite literary protagonists do, right?) If we don’t champion this genre as an important literary tradition, how will the wider world understand its importance?

In light of that, here are my top five reasons why epic fantasy is relevant and important to YA literature.

  1. Timeless conflict. The themes of a mighty struggle and good vs. evil can apply to anyone’s life. All teens have problems which feel world-shattering, and the hero quest often speaks to that in a way realistic stories can’t. I do respect and support novels which deal with today’s big issues—drugs, bullying, abuse, sexual harassment, pregnancy—but a literary world devoted exclusively to issue-specific problems would be a narrow world indeed.
  2. Unfamiliar territory. Epic fantasy focuses on worlds foreign to the reader. The settings are strange, the rules unpredictable, the people bizarre. And this is exactly how teens feel about the transition to adulthood. They can relate! Consider how many epic fantasy protagonists begin the story in the real world, familiar to the reader, before making that bewildering jump into a new place and time.
  3. Wide Readership. Epic fantasy readers tend to stay lifelong fans. Adults who loved it as teens continue to pick up teen books in that genre. Teens who develop a taste for it devour any volume within their reach. Epic fantasy isn’t the newest trend, but it has a large audience.
  4. Saving the world. The young adult years bring insecurity and low self-esteem, but readers of YA fantasy journey along with brave heroes who determine the fate of the entire world. It connects readers to the place within themselves which needs to feel important and capable.
  5. Childlike imagination. It’s never good to completely lose your inner child. Epic fantasy draws us back to those most basic childhood daydreams—the prince/princess riding a horse, going on a great journey and bringing home treasure. In a world saturated with hectic schedules and big life decisions, everyone needs a break to return to those simple dreams. Quite frankly, it keeps us sane.

I welcome other voices to this discussion. Any important points I have missed on this list?



Welcome to the Rachel Heston Davis blog, home of all my musings on writing and life (life being the experiences of a 25-year-old woman still finding her way in the world). Allow me a quick introduction.

I reside in southern Illinois, which is, for my money, the best place on earth to live (but I’m a little biased–I grew up here). I have one awesome husband, two loving families, many friends, one consuming passion for writing, one house, two cars, a few hobbies, and two pet rats. Yes, I said rats.

My passion is writing. I have a novel-in-progress, a YA epic fantasy with the working title Flynn. Young orphan Flynn is asked to take her parents’ place as military leader against a terrible enemy, but doubts her own abilities and fears that the prince of her kingdom may just be using her to save his own skin.

My graphic series, tentatively titled On Campus, is about neurotic small-town girl Lex Kendal, who enters college against her will and must face life changes and her own obsessive nature with the help of an unlikely band of friends including an angsty tomboy, a womanizing matchmaker who won’t date, a man obsessed with cereal, and a self-proclaimed ex-Fed turned college student.

Other, shorter works include my novella Grace, about a pair of sisters who realize that their family’s quirks are not as harmless as they seem; 24 Rolls of Charmin which details the chilling terror of being discovered TPing in Midwest suburbia; and a short devotional in progress about the nature of community in the Christian life.

My faith in Christ is the biggest factor in my life, and though this worldview influences everything I write (as is the case with all authors, no matter their worldview), most of my work is not overtly Christian.

I am interested in books, movies, plays, novellas, graphic novels and anything else as long as it has a good story behind it. I’m particularly attracted to YA literature.

Besides my faith, my loved ones, and my work, my other all-consuming occupation is trying to figure out who I am. I don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of white middle-class Bible belt church-raised 25-year-old female, so I devote a lot of time to just being Rachel instead.

I’m glad to have you at my blog and hope you’ll visit again to listen to me rant and muse about things.