Favorite Fantasy Tropes

February Fantasy Month Banner

Last year we talked a bit about tropes and why I think they are necessary. This year, I was asked to delve into which tropes are my favorites. Ready? Let’s go on an adventure!

Good vs. Evil

I love an epic struggle between light and dark, good and evil. I like it to be obvious which is which, and I don’t want the evil to be apologized for or defended. Like it says in this quote from one of my favorite books:

“You know,” she began, “Hank and Abe’s folks haven’t taught them right from wrong. You can’t quite hold them accountable for all they get into…” her excuse was feeble though her intention was generous.

Jeff’s reaction was immediate. “Aw, Mom. You don’t need to be taught it’s wrong to wring the necks of your neighbor’s chickens and clunk a few dozen of their eggs with a borrowed pipe wrench.” 

~He Whistles for the Cricket, Gwen Walker

Evil and darkness are too often downplayed and excused in the real world as it is, I definitely don’t want it excused in my fiction. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be “gray” areas, and it definitely doesn’t mean evil characters cannot be redeemed, I also love me a good redemption story. It’s one of the reasons I love Boromir and Edmund Pevensie so much. Their stories are compelling because I can more easily see myself and my own fallen-humanness in their characters. But redemption and excusing are two very different things.


Give me a good epic quest any day. A journey to discover a new homeland. A search for an ancient relic. A race to destroy the ring of power. I will take all the quests all the time! I love following along with my characters and rooting for them through their struggles, aching with them in their failures, and cheering them on through every trial. There is very little quite so character-building as throwing someone into a quest he or she is woefully unprepared for, and I love watching my favorite characters grow in the discomfort of those situations.

Chosen Ones/Prophecies

Okay okay, hate me if you like, but I really do like the “chosen one” trope. I’d love to see it turned on its head a little bit more here and there… it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a 16-year old farmboy, you know. But I enjoy the whole struggle against/with destiny and the clever twists and turns authors are forced to make in their stories to truly OWN this trope and make it unique. I also love the whole “prophecy” thing… especially if it’s kind of vague and doesn’t just spoil the whole plot of the story right up front or anything and leaves room for a few twists and turns along the way.

The Secret Heir

Much like the chosen one trope, I just love the whole idea of someone suddenly finding out they are the heir to the throne. I also love a subverted version of this where the character knows they are the heir and has the proper training, but are in hiding/their position is kept a secret from the reader and/or other characters until later in the story when it is revealed.

Portal Fantasy

I love it when a story starts in our world and then heads off into a secret, magical realm and modern, ordinary, everyday people like me get to cross that barrier and have adventures. It isn’t done nearly often enough.


I don’t know if these are really “tropes” or just elements that are sure to catch my eye and make me pick up a book if I see them on a cover/title/mentioned in the blurb… but if a fantasy story contains dragons of any kind (I prefer sentient dragons who can talk… but I’m not opposed to the ones who are beasts and wreak havoc, or are trained as pets, either)! And magic. Fantasy without magic has a much harder time appealing to me. If I want something without magic, I’ll pick a different genre.

I’m sure there are other tropes I love that I’m leaving off, but these are the main ones that sprang to mind when I considered the question.

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite fantasy tropes? Do you particularly love or hate any of the ones I listed? Did I leave off any obvious ones and you’d like to know how I feel about them? Let me know in the comments!

~ jenelle

Second Son Read Along: Chapter 23

Second Son Read Along

Whew! This read-along has been a lot of fun. It’s been too long since I read this book and I’ve been enjoying getting to go back and revisit these characters and this story. Thanks for coming on the ride with me!

It’s been a while since we check on how Seamas is doing… let’s go peek in at how things are faring in Llycaelon, shall we?


This… was quite possibly the most painful section of writing I’ve ever had to do. Seamas’ daughter was quite the surprise for me. I knew he had a son, after all, we meet him in King’s Warrior, but I had no idea there had been a daughter. And as the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place, I almost refused to write the words that the story demanded of me.

But it is important to note that this… this is the moment, the event, that sends Seamas – who has been teetering on the edge for years now – plummeting from his precarious perch. He’s been happy, these past few years. He is king, he has a loving wife, the general well-being of the country is good… but there is blood on his hands… and he cannot outrun its cries for justice forever. And Seamas, deep in his heart of hearts, recognizes that truth.


Back in Aom-igh, Brant has spent time under the tutelage of Calyssia, learning the lore of Aom-igh. At last, she lets him in on the greatest secret of his adopted homeland: the entrance to the underground realm of the myth-folk that she guards from prying eyes.

However, once he has learned this secret, Calyssia informs him that it is time for him to leave. At first, Brant protests, but then he realizes that she is not kicking him out of the Pearl Cove, but rather that he has an inherent need to leave, to return to the world and see what is happening in it. And he would like to check in on his old friend and see how Arnaud has been faring as king.

Zara and Arnaud

I think I’ve gotten better at writing romance since working on Stone Curse… but hopefully you found this whole interchange cute and fun anyway.

The state of the kingdom

A lot is going on in this chapter! While things are going well in Arnaud’s personal life, troubling times and events are plaguing his kingdom, and he is struggling to come up with a way to address them.

While in some ways the story is beginning to wind down, in other ways we are also ramping up to a final climax. Because while many story-lines only start here in Second Son and end in King’s Warrior, I also wanted to make sure that this book could stand by itself and not feel like the ending left too many loose ends.

And in the midst of all this, Brant meets someone who catches his eye… and perhaps his heart?

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you think of Arnaud’s plan?
2. Open discussion: general reactions to anything in this chapter. Predictions on things to come in the last few chapters?

~ jenelle

Second Son Read Along: Chapter 22

Second Son Read Along

How’s it going? I hope that the slower pace is helping and not hindering your enjoyment of the story. I am really enjoying going through this and discussing it with y’all! Thanks to everyone who has read along and left comments or answered questions. Remember, if you have any questions about anything with regards to the book please feel free to ask!

On his own again

Here we find out that Brant stayed with Euphie and Barr for a couple of seasons and now that the weather is warming up he is back on the road and on his own again. The old restlessness has him in its clutches and he is suddenly uneasy, remembering that he has enemies who wish  him dead. Of course, they have no way of finding him, but that doesn’t make him any less itchy to get back out on the road.

Along the way, Brant picks up the hobby of cartography, as well as odd jobs here and there. Rumors of a sorceress attract his attention and he decides to go investigate… because this is his friend’s kingdom, after all, and if the sorceress means trouble for Arnaud, Brant will endeavor to stop her. Eventually, his travels lead him to an old forest. The forest speaks to him, much as the one on Emnolae did, though this time we are privy to both sides of the conversation, and points him on towards his goal.

I’ve always loved forests. We had one in our back yard when I was little, though eventually it got turned into a subdivision. But there was also a nice big forest in the park across the street, and I spent many happy hours as a child using dead branches to build forts with my brothers and friends. There’s just something magical about forests. So of course they had to feature in my stories. I don’t know that I had the talent to truly capture the essence of that wonder, that deep, dark magical nature of old trees and the song the wind plays through their branches, a song that… if you listen hard enough… you can ALMOST catch the words to. But I tried. I think my love of forests kind of began when my dad read me The Hobbit and I delved into Mirkwood with Bilbo and the dwarves. I know Mirkwood was a twisted and evil forest… but there was just something about it that called to me. Whenever we went hiking in the woods, we always pretended we were in Mirkwood.

But when he finds the sorceress, she is not what he expected. It is, in fact, Calyssia, and for the first time in years, Brant pours out his closely-guarded story to another living being. In return, Calyssia offers him a place in her cove and to teach him what she can… but she warns him not to get too comfortable, hinting that his restless nature will not allow him to settle down just yet.

Back at the palace…

Arnaud seems to have managed to find a fairly good balance in his daily life and is at peace with the whole business of being the king.

But of course… there’s the small matter of that girl he danced with on the night of his coronation. And I think it’s about time for him to find out her name… don’t you? On his solitary rides through the forest near the palace, he’s heard the lovely voice of a young woman singing multiple times, but he’s never managed to actually find her (probably because he never thought to look up into the trees), but today he is determined to find her, and he eventually does.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you enjoy being in a forest?

2. What did you think of the story of Rahnieal and the inclusion of the actual song lyrics here?

3. Anything you particularly enjoyed about this chapter?

~ jenelle

Classic Fantasy Books Everyone Should Read

February Fantasy Month Banner

This month is really flying by, isn’t it? Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Readers! Honestly, I’ve never been all that into Valentine’s Day. It seems to me, that I shouldn’t need a special day to tell my loved ones that I love them.

However, Valentine’s Day does provide a great opportunity to chat about something ELSE I love… Fantasy Books! And not just any fantasy books. Today I’m talking about CLASSIC fantasy books that I think everyone should read.

Now, how do we define “classic”? Well, generally a classic is something that has stood the test of time and has been judged of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. So… that means we’re going to take a look at older books today. But, because fantasy is a newer genre in general, we also have to take the “test of time” monicker with a grain of salt.

Also, this is MY list of classic fantasy books that I think everyone should read. So it’s only going to have books on it that I 1) actually enjoyed reading and even re-reading, and 2) think that most people who enjoy the fantasy genre would enjoy. I can’t speak for people who don’t like fantasy… I don’t understand their tastes. Also, I’m excluding children’s books because I’m planning a post revolving around them later this month… so don’t go shouting at me about that, I didn’t forget about them!

The Lord of the Rings

Right here leading the charge we have the ultimate classic fantasy… The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. In many ways, this is where the genre we know as “fantasy” today really started. (Sure, fairy tales and mythology existed long before this, but Tolkien is the first one who took those stories and turned them into something new).

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces seems to be one of C.S. Lewis’ lesser-well-known novels, but it is my favorite of his. Based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche, Lewis turns this ancient tale on its head and uses it to point us to the truth about love and redemption in a powerful way. I think even non-fantasy fans would enjoy this one.

The Sword of Shannara

I already talked a little bit about this author last week, so it should come as no surprise that I’m putting The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks on this list. An epic quest, a mysterious magical mentor, a dark lord plotting to destroy the world, a legendary weapon, and the hope of the realm resting on one unsuspecting young man… this story is as classically epic fantasy as it gets!

The Pendragon Cycle

The legend of King Arthur is a deep well from which springs so much modern fantasy. While I have read parts of Le Morte d’Arthur, I’ve never read the whole thing, nor is it something I am putting high on my priority list – in spite of my love of all things King Arthur. However, I cannot recommend Stephen R. Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle highly enough. Particularly the first book: Taliesin. I love the beautiful way that Lawhead weaves this story, staying true to the legend while also making it wholly his own in extremely unique and interesting ways. And my favorite part of this series is that in his version, there is no Guinevere/Lancelot infidelity garbage.

The Belgariad

If you’re looking for an epic saga of classic fantasy, you really can’t go wrong with The Belgariad by David Eddings. Starting with Pawn of Prophecy, this series follows the quest of young Garion and a group of mentors who band around him to seek to recover a stolen object of ancient power. Along the way, Garion learns that he is not who he always believed himself to be, and that his heritage is far more than he ever dreamed. He also learns that his guardians are more than they seem.

The Princess Bride

I mean, it says it on the cover “A Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure”! So that’s really all that needs to be said. I love this book for its cleverness, for its hilarity, for its entertainment value, for the adventures, and for the story-within-a-story device which is one of my all-time favorite storytelling techniques. I also love that even though I saw the movie first, I really can’t ever quite decide whether I like the book or the movie better… they’re both favorites. Fencing, fighting, torture, true love, revenge, fire swamps, and Rodents Of Unusual Size… I mean… what more could you want in a story?


I would be remiss indeed if I left off Beauty by Robin McKinley. I read this one when I was in jr. high, and it was the first real fairy tale retelling I’d ever read. I already loved fairy tales, but I often found them lacking in… character development, I guess. This was the first time I’d read a fairy tale that sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go. I devoured the book in an afternoon, then re-read it immediately the next day. To this day it remains one of my favorite retellings in general, and one of my favorite versions of Beauty and the Beast.

The Death Gate Cycle

This one is further down on the list simply because you really have to commit to reading all 7 books, and that’s a bit more to ask, even of a dedicated reader. But if you want high fantasy, extremely unique world-building, an ending that you won’t see coming, and a tale with the golden heart of redemption at its core… then this is the series for you. The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman was one of the first fantasy series I ever read. I did a more in-depth discussion of this series a couple of years ago, you can read it HERE.

This ends my section of “classic fantasy I’d recommend to EVERYONE.” However, there are a few more I’d like to highlight as perhaps honorable mentions. I can’t recommend these widely to “everyone” because of more mature/adult themes, but they do fit the criteria of classics that I enjoyed and I realize that some of my adult readers might be able to handle these.

The Eye of the World

I don’t usually recommend The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan here on the blog. The reason for this is that although books 1-3 are very clean, book 4 and beyond are NOT. Unfortunately in book 4, various characters start sleeping together thus making this a seriesI cannot recommend as being “family friendly” and that is my brand – which I work very hard to protect.

However. If I’m recommending classic fantasy books that everyone should read. I do and can recommend The Eye of the World, the first book in the series. Like I said, books 1-3 are very clean, but please be forewarned about books 4 and beyond. Partially just because this series is so very iconic, and partially because the complexity of the story and the characters are absolutely incredible. The series has issues (books 5 – 10 could have easily been condensed into 2 novels and I don’t think the story would have suffered from it) but as far as an author handling an absolutely massive cast and juggling hundreds of subplots without dropping any of his batons… it is a wonder of the classic fantasy world.


Dracula by Bram Stoker was on my summer reading list my Jr year of high school. I generally greatly dislike reading books when they are assigned reading (a little bit of rebel lives in me) but I was absolutely blown away by how much I loved this book in spite of “having” to read it. The style is very different – as the book is written as if it were a series of notes/letters/journal entries… and at first I thought this would make it super boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This book swallowed me whole.

It is terrifying, though. And pretty dark. So I would recommend this only for older readers or those not sensitive to darker/scarier themes.

The Oath

And finally on my list, The Oath by Frank Peretti. That’s still my favorite cover art of all time.

This one is super dark, okay? That’s part of the reason it’s so far down on the list. It also includes instances of infidelity and two characters who are not married sleep together, so I wouldn’t consider it “clean.” However… the saving grace is that these things are definitely not portrayed as “okay,” not by a long shot, and there are severe consequences. Peretti is a Christian and so while the themes in this story are more adult, I feel he handled them well. I can’t say a whole lot more without giving away major spoilers, but this dark, gothic-style fantasy is a fantastic portrayal of the murky depths of sin versus the shining brilliance of redemption.

This one gave me nightmares, so again… I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it lightly to EVERYONE, which is why it is down here in this honorable mention section.


And there you have it. A list of 11 classic fantasy books I loved. Now it’s your turn! What are some classic fantasy books you’ve read that you would recommend? Do you have a list of fantasy books you think everyone should read? 

~ jenelle