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Political Fantasy

What is Political Fantasy?

“Politics” and “Fantasy” might at first seem an unlikely combination for a good read. But think about it: any fantasy world has one or more societies; and politics is the organizing force of society. Rather than relegate the political landscape to a prop position in the story, this form gives it center stage. Think Hamlet, except that something is rotten in the state of....Xenthera?

The protagonist is typically a naïve outsider who stumbles into the treacherous machinations of the political elite. Upon discovering a threat to the society he/she has pledged to uphold (whether ardently or reluctantly), the hero must take stock of their true character and push past boundaries to defeat those who would treat citizens as pawns in some evil game.

With all the back-room deals, public posturing, secret sins and who-knows-what-else we see in our own real-world politics every day, this sub-genre has a rich vein to mine while exploring what might happen in an entirely different world, given human nature and how it determines how any group of people will organize and interact.

Politics is often a heavy part of epic/high fantasy too, so you might classify many epic fantasy series as political fantasies too.

 

Common Political Fantasy Characteristics

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  • Level of Magic

    Political behavior is interesting because it follows from motivations and incentives that are recognizable to all humans. Threats, bribes, and blackmail are forms of magic that are more likely to pop up in this sub-genre than incantations or secret cloaks.

  • Level of Characterization

    Great variety in these features: there could be many characters; there could be few.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Comparatively complex with many twists and sub-plots.

  • Level of Violence

    Sex and violence are a staple of the political thriller, and so they are in this sub-genre as well.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Realistic and Historic Fantasy are close relatives, as this sub-genre de-emphasizes magic in favor of believable behavior in an alternate world. Epic High Fantasy is also related due to the fact that we're not talking New York or Los Angeles here.

Political Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

The physical appeals more than the cerebral. Political manipulations can get very twisty and subplotty, so if you like your fantasy straightforward, you might give this a pass. This is a minor sub-genre appealing mainly to adults.

Popular Political Fantasy Books

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