Despite the commonly perceived overlap with science fiction, what sets fantasy aside from other subgenres of speculative fiction is its use of magic and/or some other form of the supernatural as a primary theme, setting or plot. Although the fantastic elements included are often impossible in reality, they are coherent within the created world and, to this extent, could be considered to make fantasy a more flexible genre than science fiction. Where the primary focus of science fiction is normally (and unsurprisingly) a scientific one, upon which emphasis is often placed on a plausible, if sometimes complicated, explanation for the goings-on; the fantasy genre tends to appeal to mystical elements that require little or no justification in reality.
There is a popular association between fantasy and medievalism, possibly because the lack of technology allows for a greater influence of the supernatural – as The Lord of the Rings demonstrates. However, many other popular fantasy books are set in worlds less medieval and far more fantastical than Middle Earth; Oz and Wonderland for example, far predate Tolkien’s Middle Earth, yet are considered fantasy classics.
The common influences of mythology, legend and folklore within the fantasy genre are obvious; the focus on heroes and monsters echoes Beowulf, while the epic adventures and great battles are tribute to the works of Homer. Although fantasy is a genre that allows for maximum creativity, one cannot miss the impact of ancient literature on characters, places, races, beasts, weapons, language, values, philosophies and even fantasy storylines themselves.
Mystical, flexible and fundamentally magical, fantasy fiction books can take you to a whole new world, or put a twist on this world to make it infinitely more exciting.