Seven of My Favorite Fantasy Tropes

February 28, 2021

Happy Sunday!

Well, it's the end of February, which is considered Fantasy Month here in the blogosphere. Yet, somehow, I haven't posted a single thing about fantasy yet! *shook*

I blame school.

So today I'm going to list a few of the fantasy tropes I love to read about! Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list, because if it was, you would be exhausted reading it. XD But these are the tropes that I love with all my heart and soul, the tropes that will make me quietly squeal with happiness.

They're also quite random, as they're coming straight from my tired brain, so brace yourself.

I am SUCH a huge sucker for this trope. Any time a novel promises a group of strangers banding together, I am all for it. But there's something even more special about a group of strangers who only meet because they're outcasts and have no one else. And then through each other, they realize that they're not as worthless as they thought they were, and it's just WHOLESOME when they're not killing people. Maybe you could consider this the "found family" trope, I don't know. I love it regardless.

(Also, bonus points if there's a society of rejects who live by their own code and are shrouded in mystery *heart-eyes*)

example: KOLC book 4 (Exillium is the most iconic rogue school of all time)

I haven't read that many books with this trope, for some reason. But it's a FANTASTIC addendum to fictional worlds! Give me alllllll the settings that have their own personalities and actively influence the lives of the characters. A forest with the desire to protect its inhabitants, a hallway bent on destroying its inhabitants - you name it, it's so much fun. 

(To be honest, I also want to read a book where the setting has a sense of irony and sarcasm. Thus far I've only read about ones that are twisted and angry, but I want HUMOR here.) 

example: A Treason of Thorns (Burleigh House oozes creepiness and anger, and I love it so much.)

Speaking of settings, one of my all-time favorite locations for any story is a forest. I love the mysteries of abandoned, expansive woods, with a touch of magic in them. 

What I don't often read about, though, are light, airy, happy forests. We write plenty of descriptions of the sun being caught in the tree branches and never reaching the ground (which I do love). But where are the bright, sunlight-filled descriptions? I want my precious characters to be able to SEE the beautiful scenery around them as they travel, thank you very much.

examples: Lord of the Rings (MIRKWOOD <3), The Inheritance Cycle: Eldest (THE ELVES <3)

I've read about and loved a lot of magic systems in my day, but any time an elemental magic system appears, I'm instantly more intrigued. There can be so much variety in elemental magic, despite having four main pillars of abilities. For instance, can fire users manipulate lava, too? What about lightning? Light in general? There are so many possibilities for sub-abilities and ways to use the elements, and if done right, it can add a new layer of worldbuilding to the story.

example: Avatar: The Last Airbender (what, you thought I wouldn't mention this??? XD)

Okay, look. This is going to sound really bad. But I absolutely love it when a character can read minds, and I love it even more when they use this power for evil. The EMOTIONAL ANGST this brings to stories is just too good. Not only is it a cool way to show backstory, but the sheer possibilities of what it can do are endless. 

The long and short of it is: if you put ANY sort of mental manipulation in a story, be it mind reading, hypnosis, or even clever means of persuasion, there's a 99% chance you've won me over. XD

examples: KOTLC (because #telepathy), The Lunar Chronicles (because #illusions)

For me, mirrors have two awesome purposes in fiction. The first one is a purely technical one: presenting internal conflict through showing the person and their reflection in the mirror. Think Gollum and the water in LOTR. I know it's probably a huge cliche at this point, but honestly, I don't care. XD

The second one, though, is just all the possibilities of what's on the other side of the mirror. Is there another world? Another dimension? What happens if you go through the mirror? Does the mirror show a magical side to us that we can't see? It's SO fun to think about!

example: The WaterFire Saga (there's another world inside mirrors that's creepy and fantastic)

All right, Unpopular Opinion Time: I love prophecies. Trying to decipher those darn elusive poems is half the fun! (The other half, of course, is watching the prophecies unfold and the characters suffer. XD)

Obviously, there's a reason why a lot of people don't like them: many times, they're not done well. BUT, when they are, they really increase the tension and make the reader overanalyze everything that happens. And I love analysis. ;)

examples: Heartless (the memories of this book still hurt), the Oedipus Cycle (technically not "fantasy," but Greek tragedy is a Trip and I'm kind of here for it XD)

These tropes, along with hundreds of others, are just a few reasons why I come back to fantasy again and again. They're why I write in it, they're why I read in it, and they're why fantasy has stolen my heart. XD 

Happy Fantasy Month, everyone! Even though today's the last day, we might as well still celebrate it.

(also, if there are any Silver Eye people here, feel free to scream about anything in the comments XD)

-Nicole <3

What are your favorite fantasy tropes? Any other prophecy lovers out there? Let's talk!

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  1. OH MY GOODNESS. I knew you were a girl of my own heart. We share like ALL the same fantasy trope loves!!! I mean, the outcast found family trope??? YASSSS. That is probably my top favorite of EVER.

    I also LOOOOVE when the setting is a character. LOVE. I actually kind of have that a little bit in a WIP on working on now, and I'm hoping to bring it out more as I rewrite it because it's just so fun!

    Forests are my AESTHETIC. Seriously, in fiction, in real life, ERRYWHERE. I can never ever ever get enough forest!

    Elemental magic is my fave toooo! Did ATLA influence that??? Maaaybe. But I don't know, it's always appealed to me. I would definitely love to see it used more AND in more unique ways, like you said.

    Mind control also is SO MUCH FUN. Especially when it's used in a unique was as well. And there's just so very many ways it CAN be used!

    AND MIRRORS. :O I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE. I've had this weird obsession with mirrors in fantasy since I was very young. Like you said, there is just such POTENTIAL there. I tend to use mirrors a lot in my novels and I prooobably need to calm down with the mirror usage but but but THEY'RE JUST SO COOL. I cannot believe that's one of you favorite things too! :D

    Prophecies is literally the only one on your list that isn't a huge favorite of mine. BUT I don't dislike them either! I'm kind of just indifferent. If they're used well, I'm totally cool with them, but I'm fine with them not being there as well. They CAN up the stakes and add tension, like you said though! Bryan Davis used them brilliantly in his Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire series, so there is definitely some great ways to use them still.

    ANYWAYS. I could go on and on and on. You seriously just listed like ALL my top favorite fantasy things! Needless to say, I adored this post! <333

  2. AHHHH I love this post!

    Outcasts, especially outcast found families, are so excellent!


    FORESTS! I love forests in real life, and so I love them in books. But it's true, we need more open filter-y ones! Even if the light gets through the trees, that doesn't mean it's easy to travel through the forest (ask me how I know XD) so there's all kinds of scope for having fun with that.

    I know, elemental magic seems like it's been overdone, but there are so many possibilities still!

    Honestly, while mind control may add intrigue and emotional angst to a story, I...don't like it. I especially don't like when characters end up with amnesia. Giving a character I love amnesia is one of the faster ways to get me to put down a book. XD

    I love prophesies, too! But, as you said, only if they're well done. For sure.

  3. Semi-sentient settings!! I cannot think of any off the top of my head (does the Whomping Willow count xD) but I WANT.

    And I am ALWAYS down for worldbuilding that looks more deeply into magical abilities. Can fire users manipulate heat?? Can they make a human-shaped fire and trick heat-tracking sensors? What about water users - can they make you pass out by briefly sending all your blood away from your brain so you faint?? These extras which show how much thought authors have put into their characters/worldbuilding, they inspire muffled shrieking in me... xD

    Mind control... such opportunities for emotional angst, I love it. Also it ensures the conflict isn't just... explosions and punching.

    (*has nothing TSE-related to scream about so simply screams* EEEEEEEE)

  4. ROGUES AND OUTCASTS. YES. I love them so much. That could totally be a variation on the found family trope, but it's even better because...well, ROGUES. (Rogues are just the best. And we love it when they may or may not have the law on their tails.)

    And where would this post be without an Avatar reference? <3

  5. Ooo! All good ones! I've been loving forests lately. I've been writing a magic drenched one. Also have been using a bit of elemental magic.

  6. Yes to all of these! You picked such good ones! I LOVE rogues and forests and prophecies, and basically all of them. Elemental magic is definitely my favorite, though (does it play a huge part in my current WIP? Maybe).
    Great post.

  7. I think you picked ALL the best tropes. I am absolutely obsessed with setting=character. I'm sucker for sentient houses, forests....anything that shouldn't actually have a mind of its own but does.

  8. Oh my sword! Everything you listed are things I love too!!! Just ahdjk;jak;fs!!!!

    Rogues/Outcasts??? Yes please! I mean, come on, Murtagh? He's definitely both. XD Also, "found family"? Gimme allll the found family stories! ^_^

    *jots down note* Sarcastic setting. Brilliant! Now I want to write this one. ;)

    Forests!! Ugh, yes. I do love my dark, and gloomy forests, (Adding another to your list, The Forbidden Forest from Quest for Camelot. ^_^) so much yes to Ellesméra!!! <3

    Elemental magic is my fave magic!! And eep! I finally put ATLA on hold at my library! So excited to finally watch it! ^_^

    Mind control! Wanda from Avengers! And I loved the Lunar's Gift! Illusions yes!!!

    I adore mirrors as portals! <3 There was a really cool, and freaky, episode in Tangled: The Series that involved a Mirror Portal and mirror people. :D

    I love prophecies too! I also like making up my own. *grins* By Heartless, do you mean Marissa Meyer's Heartless? I just read that the other month! My heart can't take that ending! Jest! *sobs*

    Eheh, sorry for any incoherent squealing, tis late and I'm tired. XD But I loved your post! <333

  9. Great list, Nicole! It is just making me want to immerse myself in fantasy books and movies! My favorite "setting = character" story is the Castle Glower books by Jessica Day George. It's a castle that is alive... ;)

    MIRRORS! YES! They have such potential and are amazing all around.

  10. Oh my word THE OUTCAST FOUND FAMILY TROPE!!! Nothing gets me in a book like that one. And the setting = character one is so fun! I wish more authors would use it at its full potential XD
    (For my contribution as a TSE peep I will say: EEEEEEEEEEE)

  11. Elemental magic is the best! I adore it so much. I agree that we need more stories with it, especially in the unique areas!

    Ohhh, mind control. I definitely have love for that as well. I mean I'm writing a story about mind powers. They are just really cool. I can't say I relate to the manipulation part much, but I'd admit it is cool too to see people abuse their mind powers. Mind control is some reason one of the best things for an evil person to have! XD

    And, yesss, mirrors, I'm sure you remember I adore mirrors. They are never overrated in my opinion, always just right. <3

  12. Rogues and outcasts and found families <3 <3 <3 I will love that forever. I have been suckered into reading many a mediocre book, in fact, because someone mentioned those elements. I just can't resist. XD

    I also love prophecies! Mostly if they sound terrible. Especially when people manage to cleverly subvert them, or they just accept that they might all die horrible and do the right thing anyway and then it turns out better than they expected...fate and destiny and inevitability and what people do when they have assumptions about all that is just so fascinating.

    Also, I'm interested that you like mind control, because I personally despise that trope and I always wondered if there WERE people who like it. Since it's so common I figured there had to be, but it is good to have actually met one. *shakes your hand solemnly* XD

  13. Okay but my current WIP (Roots to Claim) has a forest, which (sort of) has character, and Archlan has elemental magic... xD

    This is a GREAT list! I love forests too. *heart eyes* And prophecies are great, too! Have no shame in your Unpopular Opinion. xD

    (also in the mirrors section you forgot to mention this really great story called darksoul)


Welcome to the comment section! I love hearing what you guys think and seeing you guys talk. Just remember to keep it clean, and as always, check back for my replies! <3