We have all read the story before. A group of people join together from various walks of life and backgrounds to journey on a quest. They may have to traverse dangerous terrain, fight off bandits, or avoid pursuit by the forces of evil. The setting itself does not matter, only that this band of adventures embarks on a journey seeking something. But a quest does not just have to a physical matter. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a quest as an act or instance of seeking. It does not state that a quest is just about the travel or that what they seek is a physical object. Oftentimes, the point of the quest is not only to accomplish a mission, but to grow as well. While a character remains in one place, they are static. It is only through embarking on or joining the quest that they can change.
While this blog has been, and always will be, a great proponent of fantasy, most of the fantasy novels I have reviewed skew towards variations of high fantasy. Almost all take place in an alternate world; that is, not Earth in the present day or accurate history. For many authors, creating an entirely new world can actually be much easier than trying to base your fantasy in the real world. By creating your own world, you set the rules. Magic works, or does not work, as you see fit. However, even in these fantastical lands, authors are still able to talk about modern issues, usually through coded language and stand-ins. For example, the Na’vi in the film Avatar are used as a stand-in for the many indigenous tribes of North America around the time of European colonization. However, urban fantasy is a different beast altogether. By using the real, modern-day world, such subjects can be tackled head-on, without euphemism or substitution.
Fantasy is one of those genres of fiction that can be set in any world you can imagine. Authors can take as much, or as little, inspiration, from the real world as they like. The only boundary to the world in the book is the writer’s imagination. The setting and world can be as realistic as possible, adhering to real-world physics and the like. Or, an author can go completely wild and show us something with no resemblance to our world. So, why is it that so much fantasy just looks like medieval Europe with the addition of magic or strange creatures? Many, many books are written by cisgender, heterosexual, white men and feature cisgender, heterosexual, white protagonists. There are so many other voices out there, authors of diverse ethnicities, sexualities, and an entire spectrum of genders. Their books deserve to be read too.