Fantasy isn’t just about epic quests or magical kingdoms or ancient races of mythic creatures. It’s also about using fantastical elements to illustrate larger themes of the human experience or as a metaphor for real world issues or philosophies. So while there are plenty of epic fantasies that do tickle the brain, they often overshadow the more unassuming works of the genre that pack a powerful and lyrical punch. Here are three literary fantasies that will appeal to both genre fans and those that just love a well-written tale steeped in sentences that will make your toes curl in delight!
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
A happy couple with the goal of having a large family finds their fifth child, a son, to be something other than human. Is he a goblin? A monster? Or a genetic throwback to Neanderthal man? This is a dark and quite disturbing look at parenthood, familial politics and society. What makes this book so powerful is the squeamishness it induces by exploring uncomfortable areas of the human psyche. If you’re looking for a short, literary dark fantasy/horror book you can’t do much better than this one. For fans of Hemingway and Carver.
Od Magic by Patricia McKillip
Brenden Vetch, a young gardener, has more than just a green thumb—his very essence is imbued with a powerful magic that actually allows him to communicate with plants. However, this is a rich, heady tale is about more than magic. It’s also a sweet little romance that pulls together varies threads of illusion, love and power to create a powerful tapestry that is typical of McKillip. For fans of Austen and Steinbeck
The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington
A historical fantasy about two men and young woman thrown together in a daring plot to claim a large fortune from the bottom of a flooded valley. However, these three are no heroes. They are complex and twisted characters with a capacity for good that is often overshadowed by their own violent tendencies. Imagine a Connie Willis novel written by Chuck Palahniuk. If you’ve never read a book by this author before get ready for a coarse, violent and engrossing ride. For fans of Cormac McCarthy and Francis O’Connor.