Waking up one morning, you realize things are not how you left them the night before. You knew you went to sleep in your bed and now you are in a vast grassy field. Your house is nowhere to be seen. Looking up, you can’t help but notice the Earth and Moon in the sky. Yeah, this ain’t Kansas, Toto.
Think that’s cool?
How about waking up with a sword pointed at your throat by a centaur in battle armor, demanding if you’re a spy from the rebel forces of Sitora? Magic is second nature to those who have the ability, yet chivalry has not died as well. No modern conveniences like cell phones or microwaves or even plumbing. No vampires, but you might see a hobbit or two.
Yeah, definitely not Kansas.
These are very simplistic and not very imaginative examples (by this writer) of High Fantasy, a subcategory of the Fantasy world. A straightforward definition of high fantasy comes from Wikipedia. “High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, entirely fictional (“Secondary”) world, rather than the real (“Primary”) world. The secondary world will normally be internally consistent but its rules are in some way different from those of the primary world.”
Take a look at Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study series. It’s set in the country of Ixia which is divided into subareas such as M-5. States, if you will. This country is completely militaristic in nature, having people dress specifically and wear identifying colors and marks. However, the neighboring country of Sitia is colorful, vibrant and full of those with the gift of magic. This is obviously not planet Earth, but some of the laws are consistant with our own. In Snyder’s case, there is no access to the real or “primary” world, for her world is the real one. Good thing she includes maps in each novel.
For the most famous example of high fantasy, one only needs to look at J. R. Tolken’s Lord of the Rings series. Set in Middle Earth, we have a plethora of fascinating creatures and languages and cultures. There is also no mention of Scotland Yard or Piccadilly Circle of London. These don’t exist in Tolken’s world.
Still not convinced? Try a series that involves children walking into another world full of magical and mythological creatures, such as a talking beaver and centaurs. Yeah, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia is a perfect example as well. You don’t have to be born into this other world. Just go to your nearest wardrobe.
All of these novels can be found at any bookstore. While Tolken would be in the Sci-Fi Fantasy section, Lewis can be located in the Young Adult section. Snyder can be found in both, though Barnes & Noble sometimes has her books in the Romance section.