“Small” Epic Fantasy

Brightarrow Burning by Isabo KellyMore exciting news from down my way–I’ve contracted the third book in my Fire and Tears fantasy romance series! Book 1, Brightarrow Burning, is out now; Book 2, The Darkness of Glengowyn, is scheduled for release on April 29, 2014. This third book will come out later in 2014.

Thinking about this series made me consider epic fantasy as a genre and what we think of when we consider the books in these worlds. They tend to have far-reaching scope with the fate of nations, nature, and whole populations on the line. But the stories that have always stuck with me were the ones that were, at their heart, stories of individual people. Okay, all fiction should be about people–compelling and interesting characters. But it’s the focus on character that pulls me in. I’m less interested in two-dimensional players in a grand performance. I want to read about the little guys caught up in epic things and forced to places they never expected to go.

Thief's Desire by Isabo KellyI tend to write epic fantasy that way too (though not always). In my first published fantasy romance, Thief’s Desire, a reviewer commented that my two main characters were people who would typically be secondary characters in other stories. (She liked that about the book, by the way.) That being said, the sequel, Destiny’s Seduction, was about grand people saving the world. So I do like that big, sweeping, the-world-is-on-the-line story too. It’s funny because if I know someone’s reading preferences, I can always tell which of those two stories they’ll prefer.

Destiny's Seduction by Isabo KellyAnyway, in my current series, I consider the world “small” in comparison to some other epic fantasies. The stories all take place in a single city which is besieged by a powerful enemy. The one “friend” the city has, a neighboring elven kingdom, decides to remain neutral in the conflict until circumstances change, bringing the elves into the war. Each book follows an individual couples’ journey through the backdrop of this conflict. Their stories are personal, and both big and small in the grand scheme of things, each taking a bite out of the larger happenings.

I have really enjoyed this focus, confining my stories to this one small conflict in what is obviously a much larger world. Not only has this made the stories fun to write, but it also gives me scope to move out into that grander world if I want to, without making it a necessary requirement for readers. They can be satisfied with each story, and each story ending, without needing to know what goes on in other parts of this world.

I will always love a grand and sweeping fiction series with multiple players doing great and terrible things within their world. But sometimes a more confined focus gives me the freedom to explore a single theme with more detailed attention. And that’s fun too.

So do you prefer those grand, far-reaching storylines best, or do you have room in your To Be Read pile for some “smaller” epic stories? Do you still consider them “epic” if they’re more tightly focused?

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2 Responses to “Small” Epic Fantasy

  1. Amy Raby says:

    Yay for small stories! I like the big stories too, the sort where the fate of the world (or at least a nation) is at stake. But there’s a lot to be said for a more intimate story that’s more about the fates of individual people. I like both.

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