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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

The Book Genre Tag

Book with pages folded to make a heart, says "Book Genre Tag"
Photo by Benjamin Raffetseder on Unsplash

Today's post comes from Paper Fury, an excellent book blog and one of the prettiest websites I've ever seen. If you love books and reading, you should check it out! You can also the original book genre tag post here.

When I went to Seton Hill University for their Writing Popular Fiction program, I formally declared two genres: fantasy and horror. These are my favorite genres to read, and while I haven't written straight horror yet, I do let horrific elements creep into the fantasy that I write.

...But if I had to choose between two of my genre loves, I'd always shoot for fantasy first. It's the genre I've known the longest, staying with me from early childhood all the way up to the present, particularly in the form of fairy tales, myth, and epics.

Watch me simultaneously idolize and lay waste to my absolute all-time favorite genre: fantasy.



Red and black cover with plants and thorns and figures of people, for JOhn Connolly's "The Book of Lost Things"

I greatly enjoyed John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things, which to me is a love letter to fairy tales and fantastic stories. The premise:

'Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother . . .' As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world begin to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is violently propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters, his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.

I remember reading this novel and thinking I absolutely wanted to write something like this, and the current book I've drafted, Son of the Siren, is also seeking to honor multiple fairy tales and their motifs in a single volume.

This story haunted me as I read it and I'll always love it. It's an engrossing, dark, beautiful story.


Door with swirling ironwork embedded in stone doorway in blue and gray and black, cover for N.K. Jemisin's "The Inheritance Trilogy"

N.K. Jemisin's The Inheritance Trilogy (consisting of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of the Gods) just blew me away. It's all about those gods, especially *swoon* Nahadoth. The premise:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

This book changed how I looked at epic fantasy. I just got sick of that genre for many years -- probably at least a decade -- and I avoided anything that sounded like the stereotypical LOTR-tinged tome. I hadn't read anything that really spoke to me since college, and then when I was assigned to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in graduate school years later, and my faith in the genre was completely renewed. I love these books.


I am a sucker for The Journey and The Mentor.

When it comes to The Journey, I'm not talking about the Hero's Journey specifically, although that makes plotting a story easier. I'm talking about any time a character has to leave their familiar home and venture out into a new, weird, exciting world -- the more fantastical, the better. Maybe it's because I love travelling. Maybe it's because our world is beautiful, diverse, and exciting, and I love seeing that represented in fiction...only with speculative fic, there are no limitations to the types of worlds we can build. Whatever the reason, whenever characters depart the small space they've always known in exchange for a wide one with unlimited possibilities, I fall in love with this trope again and again.

Yoda figurine standing among plants
Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

Going hand and hand with the Journey is the Mentor, and these two often crop up together because the Mentor is usually, though not always, someone the protagonist meets on their journey. Dispenser of helpful information? Check! Imparter of wisdom? Check! Benevolent educator? Check! Doorway to self-actualization? Check! In real life, I've always valued my mentors, most of whom are teachers or role models in the field in which I write. If you've got someone you can look up to and coach you along the way, the long and winding road isn't so lonely, and you learn from them (and learn more about yourself) in the process. I love wise and kind characters who are there to give the protagonist some info and a gentle push.


The Generic Fantasy Opening™ gets on my nerves.

Hooded figure in black holding dagger in the forest
Photo by Javier Peñas on Unsplash

Because I don’t want to name and shame, and because I see this in countless books anyway, I’m just going to make up something to show you what I mean.

The cloaked stranger, carrying on his back the sins of twenty-odd summers, one for every cursed year he walked this earth, peered at the dark shadows looming in the forest, feigning disinterest as he silently clutched his jeweled dagger. The corpulent ebony shades reached out to him like wafting tendrils; the branches of the ancient trees clawed upward like crooked fingers; the air hummed with electricity, and the wind whispered, destiny.

I swear, like 80% of the fantasy I’ve seen starts out this way. It takes a lot to get me to keep reading if the book sounds like this. I need a lot of convincing to continue on.

…This is the snobbiest thing about me when it comes to the genre. 😅😭


Picture of large castle and purple flowers on black background, cover for Brigid Kemmerer's "Defy the Night"

Brigid Kemmerer's Defy the Night. I bought it as it came out just based on entirely how much I loved her Cursebreaker series, but I haven't gotten to it yet and would like to. The premise:

Apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her people die. King Harristan and his cruel brother, Prince Corrick, ignore the suffering of their people and react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion, even as a sickness ravages the land. That’s why she and her best friend Wes risk their lives each night to steal the petals of the delicate Moonflower, the only known cure. But it’s not enough to keep everyone she loves safe―or alive.
When Prince Corrick commits an act of unspeakable cruelty, Tessa becomes desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds there makes her wonder if it's even possible to fix their world without destroying it first.


Doorstopper books or series with multiple volumes intimidate me. The one and only series like that that I've gotten through is Harry Potter, and nothing since then (and I'm never reading HP ever again.)

Three book covers - the Eye of the World, the Sword of Shannara, and A Game of Thrones, all featuring various men, women, and magical characters

This means I avoid stuff like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series; the Shannara books by Terry Brooks; and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I just don't want to devote the time and energy to processing these works.


Two hands come together to make a heart in front of a setting sun
Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

I feel like I really need to read a lot more romance. I realized that in my own stories, I always have some sort of romantic element, but I have only read a tiny handful of actual full-blown romance novels. I'd probably stick with historical or fantasy; maybe some paranormal thrown in. But I feel like if I want to write convincing love, compelling relationships, and sexy times, I need to read from the masters and get a handle on readers' expectations from the genre.


Space ship surrounded my multicolor lights and industrial background
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Science fiction intimidates me quite a bit, especially hard science fiction. I like elements that involve robots, androids, aliens, and far-off galaxies, but the minute science fiction gets all technical, weighed down by jargon, exposition, and explanation, I check out. I've read some sci fi, but I feel like the science should be a backdrop to a compelling story with equally compelling characters. The moment the science takes center stage, my eyes glaze over. I also think a lot of stuff goes over my head, a feeling that never went away ever since middle school science classes.


Readers, what's your favorite genre? What genre intimidates you? What genre do you want to read more of? Let me know in the comments, and thank you for reading!


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