Fantasy Patterns

A few weeks ago I was scrolling the list of fantasy audiobooks available at my library, adding ones that looked promising to my wish list. I picked one of those promising titles at random, knowing nothing about the author and having never heard of the book.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes is the first of six titles in her Falling Kingdoms series. The story follows the fortunes of three families in three kingdoms. One king is a blood-thirsty tyrant. Another is a gullible chieftain who considers himself a mystic. The third is a fair and just king. One of the kingdoms is rich and plentiful. Another is slowly dying, and the third is perpetually cold. The protagonists are young people who are in line to inherit the thrones or throne depending on what happens in the wars and intrigues among the three kingdoms. Does any of this sound familiar?

There are definitely some similarities to Game of Thrones, including a body count among some of the viewpoint characters. (Yes, one of the characters I liked died.) It's not a Game of Thrones rip-off, more like Game of Thrones light. Fewer characters and a lot fewer words, for which I'm thankful.

A few decades ago, most fantasy novels followed the quest pattern. The hero took a journey in some grand struggle between good and evil. Sometimes the protagonist was a great warrior, other times an unlikely or unwilling hero. Critics complained about Tolkien and Conan rip-offs. Are those complaints fair? Maybe in some cases, or maybe the quest pattern just makes a great story. Maybe it's the kind of story fantasy readers want. With the popular success of Game of Thrones, we can add a new pattern to the mix: the political intrigue fantasy. We follow characters at the top of the social hierarchy fighting and killing each other for political control. And the fights should include lots of ruthless murders for selfish ends.

What do you think? Will the political intrigue fantasy become the most common pattern or will quests make a come back? Or is there a new pattern emerging?


  1. I do think we'll cycle back round to the quests. All genres tend to have these sort of cycles. I do enjoy political intrigue in fantasy, and while I was reading GoT long before the TV series, I don't require that much politics. What I love about GoT is the characters.

  2. Trends within genres do seem to rise up, dominate for a while, and slowly drift away as another trend within the same genre comes up. Political intrigue in fantasy sounds like fun to read as things can be so complex when politics are involved.

  3. Trends within genres are almost a given. I much prefer it when an author doesn't slavishly follow the trend though - and prefer books which can meld genres too.

  4. Another trend will come along eventually, like a Sharknado. :) There will remain fans of both and some book down the line will make the quest hot again.

  5. I felt betrayed by Game of Thrones and will not read this author anymore. Sad. I like political elements and complication in story but way too much death and trust broke with beloved characters which made me a non fan.

    Agree with what has been said about treads, they come, the go and they rise again.


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