Epic Fantasy - The Crimson Companions Trilogy

By Charles Moffat - May 2015.  Updated September 2019.

Epic Fantasy is a genre where huge battles and massive armies decide the outcomes of the plot. Or is it?

Well, yes, but not all of the time.

Epic Fantasy is really about stature.

Game of Thrones (the TV show and the book series ASOIAF) contains a lot of large epic battles, so it has several elements of epic fantasy, but truth be told you aren't shown a lot of those battles in the TV show, and the battles are often covered in the books as subtext. Most of the battles are unseen. Indeed most of the books are just people squabbling over things with rare bits of combat / magic / dragons doing cool stuff.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings could also be classified as Epic Fantasy, as there are similar large battles, but most of the books are the characters traveling from place to place. It is mostly about the epic journey.

So the battles are only part of it. Does epic fantasy have to contain huge battles? No, I don't think it does.

How we define epic fantasy is also a matter of debate. See the two images below which represent the two schools of thought on the topic.

Speaking for myself I prefer the top definition.

Does it describe Epic Fantasy by referring to the word epic twice in its own definition? Yes. But I don't care. The second definition in the image below is wholly wrong in my opinion.

Using the second definition a fantasy book would count as epic even if it is just 300,000 words of a group of talking anthropomorphic puppies rescuing people on a tiny island with a town called Adventure Bay. There you go, I just described the plot of "Paw Patrol". Could someone write 300,000 words on that topic? Yes. Would it be fantasy? Yes, because it has anthropomorphic talking dogs which ignore the laws of physics. Is it epic fantasy? Definitely not.

Let us ignore the definition and talk about an author who is well known for his Epic Fantasy books.

David Eddings.

I used to read a lot of David Eddings books back in the 1990s. In his books knights rode on horseback and fought demons, dragon-like creatures, evil armies, and even killed a few evil gods. And the knights do this across multiple continents.

The characters spent half of their time solving problems and planning things, and the other half actually doing the epic things they discussed (often with something unexpected happening).

And his books were amazingly enjoyable to read. Some day I must go back and re-read them. (Same goes for Dave Duncan. He also does Epic Fantasy quite well.)

Epic fantasy is about scale and power. The setting is massive, often spanning kingdoms and continents. The characters are heroic in stature. The plot is about life on a massive scale.

Let us compare two examples.

  1. A tiny village is having a festival that brings in many visitors and a dragon kills one of the villagers a week ahead of the festival. The villagers go out and kill a tiny dog sized dragon and bring back its corpse. Meanwhile the real threat, a massive dragon, is lurking in the mountains... and the villagers just killed her hatchling.
  2. A kingdom is invaded by an army of dragonriders and in order to fight back they send a tiny group of griffon riders on a long journey to find a legendary wizard known as Dathek the Dragonslayer and bring him back. But when they get there Dathek is too old to barely move, but he agrees to help anyway. They journey back and it is unclear if Dathek will even survive the dangerous journey.

Now which of these two plots sounds more epic? The first one is basically the plot from the film Jaws, but replaces the 1 large shark with 1 large dragon. The second plot has a whole army of dragons, a long perilous journey, and a powerful wizard with failing health. Certainly the 2nd one with the higher stakes, large dragon army and a dying wizard is more epic, right?

And 99% of the time, yes, it would be.

But it is possible that the first plot could end up being more epic as a storytelling if it is told properly... and if the dragon is properly huge. Like 10 times bigger than Smaug.

So it really depends on who the writer is.

When you read the taglines and loglines for books it should give you an idea of what the book is about, and also just how epic the story is.

Let us use the loglines from my book trilogy The Crimson Companions as examples and I shall highlight in red any words that give the reader clues that what they are about to read is epic fantasy.

Paladin Assassin
(Part One of "The Crimson Companions")

The Minotaur Emperor has been assassinated and the continent is on the brink of an epic war between minotaurs and humans. Wynic Doxon, the Arthian Royal Assassin, is asked to track down the assassin who killed the emperor and help prevent a war that would destroy the ancient city of Athex.

Ice War
(Part Two of "The Crimson Companions")

An evil army has set up camp in the northern reaches of the continent and plots are afoot. The heroes from "The Paladin Assassin" are ordered north to confront this new danger and to seek out the legendary Spear of Destiny.

King Culprit
(Part Three of "The Crimson Companions")

The epic finale to the Crimson Companions Trilogy! Waytorn, the king of the crime underworld has decided to retire and it creates a power vacuum as mafia kingpins converge on the ancient city of Athex to scheme and fight to the death as to who should carry on his criminal empire. Meanwhile Rades and the other members of the Crimson Companions struggle to survive as chaos unfolds and a new force threatens global domination.


Now just judging by the amount of red, I should probably go back and modify the old description for Ice War so that there is more words of an epic nature in the description. Or not. Just leave it be. I like it the way it is.

So this is my point about Epic Fantasy. Its very nature is about scale. Size. Continents. Empires. Global. Far reaching qualities and quantities.

To use a gun analogy a .45 Colt is a nice old gun. Looks nice in a gun collection. But a nuclear war is epic by its very nature of being both massive in the size of the explosions and the far reaching impacts of nuclear radiation on people, on politics, and on the environment will be felt through generations.

"Not all wars are epic, but 
all nuclear wars are definitely epic."

If you are curious about my books they are *currently available* on both Kindle and Kobo.

* This may change in the future. I have been thinking about dropping Kobo and becoming Kindle Exclusive for all future books.

  1. Paladin Assassin is now $2.99.
  2. Ice War is now $5.99.
  3. King Culprit is now $5.99.

Or you can buy all 3 in The Crimson Companions Trilogy for $9.99.

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