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Fantasy of Manners

What is Fantasy of Manners?

Fantasy of Manners is a kind of hybrid sub-genre of traditional Fantasy and the Comedy of Manners form. A Fantasy of Manners story is not necessarily comedic and differs from traditional Fantasy in that the foes are not magical beasts or armies of knights, but rather neighbors and peers. The stories tend to be set in urban environments with elaborate, hierarchical social structures. The society is often usually post-medieval with low technology (or none) and a high level of sophistication (meaning plenty of formality and multi-layered).


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Aside from the setting, Fantasy of Manners stories also share a kind of tone: witty and wry. This tone is influenced by such literary giants as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. They also tend to fall in to the capital ‘R’ Romance category.

 

Characteristics of Fantasy of Manners

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  • Level of Magic

    Low. Magic is present, but often downplayed in this sub-genre.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

    Moderate. The social aspects of these stories are central to the story and provide the basis for all the action. There is usually some point of the social structure that underlies the action of the story as well as characters’ motivation. Fantasy of Manners, like Comedy of Manners, is self-reflexive through subtext or through irony. 

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate. Fantasy of Manners stories often employ large casts of characters, though they are not always original characters. The characters do tend to be engaging. What is particular to this sub-genre is that the imagined society becomes a character. The society is revealed and examined much the same way characters are developed.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. The plot in a Fantasy of Manners story tends to be intricate with several influencers. Disguises and identity swapping are common, as are romantic entanglements.

  • Level of Violence

    Low. These are not stories about crushing armies, dueling wizards, or the epic battles of good and evil, so violence is not really a part of most Fantasy of Manners storylines. There is often politically charged violence happening on the edges of the main storyline though.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Urban Fantasy. Urban Fantasies and Fantasy of Manners stories blend characteristics like urban settings and social considerations.

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    Alternate World Fantasy. Fantasy of Manners stories almost always take place in an alternate world.

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    Court Intrigue Fantasy. With plenty of twists and intrigue happening in Fantasy of Manners stories, it is a sub-genre easily blended with Court Intrigue.

Fantasy of Manners Isn’t For You If...

If you dislike stories that revolve around social intrigue. These are not stories of grand wizard fights and epic battles of good versus evil; indeed many traditional fantasy elements are downplayed in this sub-genre.

Popular Fantasy of Manners Books

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