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Fantasy is a much broader genre than many people think. We tend to focus on either the big epic fantasies or the romantic paranormal fantasies when think of fantasy.
But there is so much more than that. Today, I am going to talk about a few of the less well known fantasy subgenres that I enjoy. And give you some examples to read. Some will be traditionally published and some will be written by independent authors like me.
The first is what I like to call Fantasy Police Procedurals. And I’ll add it’s related subgenre of fantasy mysteries. In any fantasy world there are people who solve crimes and keep the peace. Some authors choose to write about these people. Now, because this is fantasy, there will be elements not found in a cosy mystery or a police thriller. Things like magic, elves, dragons. And generally those things make solving the crime more complicated not easier.
So let’s get talking about one of my favorite series, Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. Kaylin Nera is not high up in the Hawks (the city of Elantra's multispecies police force); she’s a private. And her partner Severn Handred is a corporal. They both grew up poor in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. Now they work for the Hawks patrolling streets and solving mostly petty crimes. Except Kaylin has an unusual magic that sometimes leads her to more difficult problems including those that could destroy everything she holds dear. The relationship between Kaylin and Severn is complicated; among other things, he loves her which she has never even noticed. And as children on the dangerous streets of Nightshade, he did something that she has found difficult to forgive. There are plenty of nonhumans around and conflicts between and within different groups are the basis of many of the problems Kaylin encounters.
Another interesting take on police work in fantasy is The Case Files of Henri Davenforth by Honor Raconteur. This is a gaslight fantasy, a world similar to the turn of the twentieth century on Earth. But we are not on Earth, and magic is a large part of this world. It’s also a portal fantasy, so one of our main characters is from Earth, FBI agent Jamie Edwards. She's been pulled to this world by an evil mage and has been changed enough that she can't return home, if anyone even knew where home was. And she misses the technology she had at home. How horrible to be thrust into a world with no cell phones, no television, no computers, no strawberries! Cars have only recently been invented, and thirty miles an hour is considered to be extremely fast. Still, a girl has to earn a living even in a strange place, and she’s trained to solve crimes. So she becomes a detective. Along the way she meets a magical examiner (like a medical examiner only using magic) by the name of Henri Davenforth. Henri is pedantic, a foodie, and entirely gentlemanly. But he is impressed by her different take on solving crimes and soon they are partners. Together they solve crimes involving magic and ones where Jamie’s highly trained technological skills (like understanding fingerprints) can be of help.
Then there is Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Maradaine Constabulary series. It's part of an overall larger series that follows several different groups of people in a city called Maradaine. The constabulary is their police force, and they too must solve magical crimes as well as the more ordinary ones. Satrine Rainey lied her way into a position as a detective when her husband was disabled solving a crime and she needed the money to keep the family going. She has the skills she needs especially since she was a spy for Druth Intelligence before her marriage. Her deception earns her the nickname Tricky and does not make her popular with her fellows when it is found out, but her skills keep her on the force. Her partner is also not popular, but for different reasons. He has earned the nickname Jinx because he has gone through many partners. He is an untrained mage, and mages are never police officers. But Minox Welling was a police officer before he developed magic powers, and he’s from a family of police officers. It’s the only job he wants to have. He developed magic so late none of the mages will train him, anyway. So his magic is somewhat out of control which creates problems for Tricky and Jinx as they attempt to solve crimes.
The Incidental Inquisitors series by Schneider and Anderle is another take on crime solving. The two main characters are an elf named Esselliar VorKluvaith (usually called Vor because well frankly his name is a mouthful) and a Dwarf named Doughas Ruiridh. They are inquisitors trying to deal with a society in flux as humans are getting ready to immigrate to the Quadras where the other races live. Doughas is married with children and all he wants is to be able to retire and take over his father’s butcher shop. He also has a taste for cars. Vor is one of the less popular elves (having pissed off more senior elves) and he has trouble managing his money and is forever broke. The crimes they take on are usually somewhat political in nature. And sometimes, family gets in the way. the Quadras is an interesting city with quarters for elves, dwarfs, ogres and goblins. The integration of humans is opposed by everyone, but no one group can stop it either. Although they certainly try. And of course there is the usual corruption, murder, thievery, etc, to solve when not trying to keep the city from going up in flames.
Another interesting subgenre of fantasy is what is called Weird West. This is a fantasy take on the American frontier of the 1800s. Essentially this genre is westerns with magic. Always a fun combination.
Laura Ann Gilman has created a wonderful universe called The Devil’s West. The western part of the country is “ruled” by a man known only as The Devil. Isobel turns sixteen in the first book and is old enough to decide for herself what she wants to do with her life. She chooses to contract with The Devil and becomes his Left Hand. The one who wanders through his territory, finding and solving problems, helping keep the territory safe. But Isobel is young and inexperienced on the road and badly needs training. So The Devil asks Gabriel to ride circuit with her and mentor her. At first, Gabriel has to show her everything such as how to camp and how to handle crossroads which have magical problems associated with them. They meet Native Americans and mages (mages are very bad news), run into sickness, and all manner of other problems. Izzy learns quickly though, and soon she is using the power of being the Left Hand of the Devil to help the communities they go through. One of the things I like best about this series is that Gabriel and Izzy do not fall in love, and there is no chemistry between them. He is there to help her learn her job (and not entirely pleased to have been talked into it by The Devil) and that is it. They are not even friends as such, simply travel companions.
Another wonderful example of Weird West is the Frontier Magic series by Patricia Wrede. Eff is the thirteenth child and is thought to be unlucky as a result. Her twin Lan is the seventh son of the seventh son and is considered to be lucky and powerful. But Eff’s reputation for bringing bad luck makes her family head to the frontier where she might be considered more acceptable. Her father takes a job as a professor of Magic at a university at the edge of populated territory. From there, she ends up crossing the Great Barrier to the really wild places and goes on a scientific collection journey with a group of people. Can her own magic overcome her bad luck reputation? Can she become accepted for herself and maybe even fall in love? Read the series and find out.
In case you are wondering about the title picture, it is my newest book, The Butler which is a part of a duology. The sequel ,The Duchess, is on schedule to be published May1 and is currently up for pre-order. Not fitting either of the subgenres I talked about above, it is a romantic fantasy.
A magical butler, the illegitimate daughter of a duke. What could go wrong?
Edmund Blake’s Duke was dying. So Edmund was on a mission to bring back Duke Harold’s illegitimate daughter to become the Duchess. He finds Ilene working as a barmaid in her mother’s inn in Edoran.
Pursued by Witchhunters, attacked by the minions of the only other possible heir and the criminals he owes money to, can Ilene and Edmund make it safely to the Duchy? Will his household magic be enough to save them? And can he teach Ilene enough about how Albi nobles behave for her to be accepted in society? Downton Abbey meets My Fair Lady in this fantasy of magic, manners, and forbidden love.
It’s a fun series with a unique magic system. Grab a copy, I think you will enjoy it.
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