The fantasy genre is full of countless amazing stories, worlds, and supernatural beings. There are endless stories to write and endless authors to tell them. Due to the size of the fantasy genre, it can be helpful to break it down into smaller sub-genres. These sub-genres get smaller and more niche the further you go, so it can be helpful in finding a novel that suits your interests.
American fantasy is a fairly small sub-genre of fantasy, but it is one that is full of exciting adventures. If you are familiar with the cowboy fantasy genre, then you are probably already familiar with the American fantasy genre. If American fantasy sounds like something that interests you, keep reading to learn more about it and get a few suggestions of novels for you to start on.
What is American Fantasy
As a genre, American fantasy is not the most popular. When we think of “fantasy” in general, we often first think of medieval Europe. Knights, kings, and dragons are popular elements of traditional fantasy. These elements do not have to exist in a fantasy novel, it just so happens that they often do.
When you look at the history of America, there are no knights or medieval wars. The history of America is rather short in comparison with much of the rest of the world. Fantasy authors don’t often set their stories in America or similar worlds for this reason.
That is not to say that fantasy shouldn’t exist in America. Just the opposite. There is so much opportunity for American fantasy that has yet to be explored.
Common characters in an American fantasy novel are pilgrims, Native Americans, and pioneers. These are some of the oldest historical figures in America. While an American fantasy does not necessarily have to be historical fantasy, they often are.
The Wild West is a common setting for an American fantasy, but these novels could take place in any number of locations. They don’t even have to be real locations. Many American fantasies take place in fictional worlds that have a resemblance to or take inspiration from America.
American fantasy is an underrated genre to me. It is definitely one worth exploring if you enjoy westerns and epic fantasy.
Examples of American Fantasy
Just because a genre is smaller or less popular than others does not mean it isn’t full of great stories. The American fantasy genre has so much to offer and there are so many amazing stories out there.
If you are having a hard time choosing your first American fantasy novel, take a look at the recommendations below. Each of these novels or series portrays American fantasy in a different way. They are all so different yet they are all part of the same genre.
The Dark Tower is a series of eight novels by Steven King. Though King is generally a horror or thriller author, he takes inspiration from many different genres and uses them throughout his many novels. The Dark Tower series takes themes from many different genres including sci-fi, western, dark fantasy, and horror. There are many Western and American ideas and themes throughout this series.
The Dark Tower series focuses on a man, Roland Deschain, as he journeys to find the Dark Tower. The Dark Tower is the central point of every universe. The world in which the story takes place incorporates elements of the Wild West with a world of magic. There are inexplicable things happening in Roland’s world, and he is on a mission to solve these problems.
Fans of King will note that there is much less suspense and horror in this series than in many of his other novels, but many of the classic King elements remain. The fantastic elements combined with the Wild West setting make this series a great example of American fantasy.
American Gods is a 2001 novel by Neil Gaiman. Though Gaiman himself is not American, his book definitely fits into the American fantasy genre. This novel follows a man named Shadow, who was recently released from prison. He takes a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious man with whom he travels the country.
Throughout their travels, Shadow meets a leprechaun, brings people back from the dead, is abducted by gods, and so much more. This novel is full of mythology, fantasy, and mystery, all with an Americana vibe to it. This action-packed novel is definitely a page-turner and one you will want to pick up if you are looking for a fascinating and unique American fantasy.
Thirteenth Child is the first novel in a trilogy by Patricia Wrede. This trilogy is set during the frontier era of the US, and there are definitely American influences and themes throughout. This series could be considered historical fantasy because it does use a lot of historical elements to progress the story. However, some criticize this trilogy because it is missing any mention of Native Americans in any of the novels.
The book series follows a young girl, Eff, who is the thirteenth child in her family. Unfortunately, being the thirteenth child means only bad things for her family and their community. Her twin brother, on the other hand, is the seventh son of a seventh son, which means good luck and great fortune for their family. Eff’s father gets a job teaching magic at a school on the frontier.
The bulk of the trilogy details the events and mishaps of the family as they live on the border of the magical frontier and the beasts of the wild.
If you are willing to look past the historical inaccuracies of this trilogy, it is a captivating and interesting story with likable characters. The magic throughout the trilogy is a well-thought-out and unique magic system. In short, Thirteenth Child is a great read if you’re looking for an American fantasy.
I hope this article has helped clarify what this genre is all about and given you some ideas of books to read in this subgenre.
And if you want to read more about unique fantasy subgenres on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction-literature-related topic!