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Post Apocalyptic Fantasy: A Genre Guide (2022 Edition)

You may have already heard about post-apocalyptic fantasy. It is an incredibly popular genre and it seems to only be increasing in popularity. All types of media can feature epic post-apocalyptic worlds, but there is something unique about reading it in a novel. This is an exciting genre, so keep reading to learn all about the excitement that it entails. 

What Does Post-Apocalyptic Mean?

Perhaps you have heard the term, post-apocalyptic, but you aren’t quite sure what it means. A post-apocalyptic world exists after a catastrophically devastating event takes place. In many instances, it is a natural disaster that destroys a civilization, but it could be a man-made event, as well. 

Post-apocalyptic worlds are different from dystopian worlds in that dystopian worlds are more well established than post-apocalyptic worlds. A dystopian world may have been post-apocalyptic at one time, but it has been rebuilt and established as a new society. A post-apocalyptic world is much more fragile and precarious. It could collapse again at any moment. There is often no form of leadership or government in a post-apocalyptic world, and that also means that there are no laws or consequences, either. 

Post-apocalyptic worlds have been depicted in media for many years, but they seem to have gained popularity over the last 20 or so years. There have been countless novels, tv shows, movies, video games, and so on that depict a post-apocalyptic world. 

Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy 

Post-apocalyptic fantasy is also an incredibly popular genre with readers of all ages. These novels are almost always dark and bleak by their nature, but many of them offer moments of hope, lightness, and romance. It is a genre that can easily become dark fantasy, or it can be much lighter depending on how the author wants to depict the world. 

Post-apocalyptic fantasy seems to be better received when it takes place in a world that is familiar to the reader. For this reason, we often see post-apocalyptic fantasy take place in real cities that we know today. This gives the story a much more realistic feeling and grounds the reader in the world. Even when the story does not take place in a real city, it is common for the setting to be modeled after the real world. Take The Hunger Games for example. Though it is never explicitly stated, it is common for readers to infer that it takes place in North America, with the Capital located somewhere near present-day Denver. 

Post-apocalyptic fantasy has very few rules. The story, of course, must take place sometimes after a catastrophic event, but there are no rules as to what that event must be. There are also no rules as to what the world looks like after the catastrophic event. It could be completely desolate with only a handful of survivors, or it could create a city full of superhumans. Whatever the case may be, post-apocalyptic fantasy is full of magic and supernatural occurrences. 

Examples of Post Apocalyptic Fantasy 

post apocalyptic fantasy fanart

Post-apocalyptic fantasy is not a new genre, though it does seem to be gaining more and more popularity as time goes on. And not every post-apocalyptic novel is also fantasy, but it is quite common for the two genres to overlap. The novels and series below depict a wide variety of post-apocalyptic worlds and storylines. Each has its own set of rules and its own unique characters. And each of these series has something unique to explore within its pages. 

Mistborn 

The Mistborn Saga is a series of post-apocalyptic fantasy novels by Brandon Sanderson. Though there are three novels in the main series, there are several sequel series, spinoffs, and prequels. This series is incredibly popular, and with good reason. There are many genres that make appearances in this series including high fantasy and science fiction, alongside post-apocalyptic fantasy. This series is based on the premise “what if the whole world were a dead, blasted wasteland?”. If that doesn’t hook you, I’m not sure what will. 

The Mistborn Saga is set in a post-apocalyptic world that has become a total wasteland. The main character, Kelsier finds that he has supernatural powers and he seeks to overthrow the Lord Ruler. He recruits the elite who also have supernatural powers. This group of criminals faces many challenges and obstacles as they work to restore their lands. 

There is so much more to this series that it is impossible to summarize here. There is strong character development, intriguing plot lines, twists and turns, and magic. It doesn’t get any better than The Mistborn Saga for post-apocalyptic fantasy. It is an excellent series that is unlike many other in the fantasy genre as a whole.

Dying Earth 

Dying Earth is a series of novels by Jack Vance. Though the four novels are technically a series, many people consider them a collection of loosely connected novels. They do not follow the same storylines or characters, so they have a bit of a disconnected feel to them. That said, this does not make them any less enjoyable. 

This series takes place in the distant future on Earth. Most civilizations have crumbled and the world is infested with monsters and dark magic. Evil and sorcery abound and the earth continues to die. This novel is full of adventures, wars, and surprising twists. In this post-apocalyptic world, you cannot trust anyone. 

Dying Earth is an older series and it is interesting to see how the typical post-apocalyptic world has changed and transformed over the last 50 years. There are so many different depictions of a post-apocalyptic world in literature and media, but they each have their own merits and things that make them interesting. This series is no different. For a bit of a different take on post-apocalyptic fantasy, you may want to try out Dying Earth. 

Change

The Change series is a duology by Steven R. Boyett. The first is titled Ariel and has a publication date of 1983. The second novel in the series, Elegy Beach has a publication date of 2009. The 26 years between the publication of these novels is reflected in the storyline of the series and makes for a very interesting twist in the second book. This series has a bit of a science-fiction feel, but the magic and supernatural creatures that exist in the world definitely make it a fantasy. 

This series takes place just after a change occurred in the world. Electronic devices and cars stopped working, people disappeared, and magic took over. With cities completely abandoned and no technology to speak of, the remaining people have to figure out how to live in this new and frightening world. The main character, Pete, survives the change and befriends a unicorn. The two of them journey across the United States to confront a sorcerer, and they face many other supernatural beings on their journey. 

Science fiction, urban fantasy, and post-apocalyptic fantasy all come together in this fascinating series full of supernatural beings and magic. This series is a great post-apocalyptic fantasy with a completely different feel than the other novels above. It has a unique spin on what counts as an “apocalypse.”

Conclusion

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!

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