Today’s discussion post is all about fantasy tropes. In my last discussion post, I talked about some of the tropes I love in detail. I’ll touch on those briefly in this post, but the focus of this one is more about those I am less keen on.
To stress, these are all very common tropes in fantasy and whether I like or dislike them is entirely my preference. We’re all entitled to have differences of opinion. If you feel differently about any of these then I would love to hear why in the comments!
Tropes I Enjoy
Realistic magic systems
The main thing I love about realistic magic systems is that they ground a narrative. You’ll see in an opposite in the below section a little later, but when magic has rules, it can be easily understood by readers and not exploited. I’m not going to say much here because that will spoil my point below.
Reluctant Hero / Non-altruistic characters
Who doesn’t love a morally grey character? It seems it’s a bit of a trend at the moment, but I have enjoyed this since time began. Why do you think I love A Game of Thrones so much? I don’t think there is a single character who is purely good hearted and doesn’t do something wrong. Okay, well maybe Hodor… but that’s only because he lacks the wits to do so and he was surrounded by people who looked after him. Can you imagine what he could have been persuaded to do in Ramsey Bolton’s custody?
A Game of Thrones also fits nicely in this section. I really enjoy the medieval setting we see in a lot of fantasy. Saying that, I have branched out to read some Eastern inspired fantasy in the last 12-18 months and enjoyed that too. It just seems there is less of it in the market right now. I do intend to read more.
Back to medieval. It’s a setting I am well familiar with based on local history. I can look at castles and remnants of structures all around me and imagine the events of these books. I suppose it has that sense of grounding. Plus, I like the inevitable politics that come with such settings. It’s funny – I love it in books but couldn’t give a fig about real life politics…
Tropes I Don’t Like (at least not all the time)
My main issue with some fantasy tropes is not in the trope itself, but more how often it is used. When you read a lot of fantasy, you can quickly become bored if you find yourself reading the same thing over and over again! I found this as a teenager; I burned out when reading fantasy on repeat for exactly this reason.
Here are some of the tropes that I think are overused: –
Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time… even down to Harry Potter – The Chosen One is one of the most used tropes in the genre going. It makes for a very congested market and if you end up reading a lot of this, it can feel repetitive.
I enjoyed both Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. I want to read The Wheel of Time. Books that use this trope aren’t bad, and if they have something unique or well done about them, they stand out against the sea of other books trying to copy them and not quite hitting the mark.
It’s for this reason that I deliberately curtail the amount of fantasy I read. If I read it all the time like I used to as a teenager, I would quickly become bored.
Good vs Evil
Another overused trope, and one that I find a little simplistic, is the good vs evil plotline. For the same reasons as I mentioned above, its overuse makes it boring when read time and again.
Not only that, but the vast majority of people don’t sit on either end of this polarity, so I don’t find the trope all that reflective of reality. Remember A Game of Thrones and all that moral grey-ness? That’s my cup of tea any day of the week!
There are great books out there that have quests as the integral plot device. Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series are easy examples that come to mind.
But again, these are just a handful of great books in a dense marketplace and can easily feel repetitive if read with other books featuring small variation in between. There’s not much more to say here that I haven’t already…
Magic systems for plot convenience
The polar opposite to one of the tropes I love is magic systems used to cover up or make for an easy solution to a difficult situation.
For me, it’s a sloppy way for an author to resolve a problem they don’t want to consider too much. That may not even be their intention, but it comes across that way. I like plot lines and conflicts to be explored and resolved in a careful and considered way. If a character suddenly discovers they can use magic to do something they never even anticipated at a make or break point (and there are absolutely no hints in the lead up) then I’m just going to expect that the author devised it to get rid of a problem.
Those are my thoughts on my favourite and least favoured fantasy tropes! What are your thoughts? I’m especially interested to hear if your opinion differs to mine, so let’s have a chat in the comments.