Favorite and Least Favorite Tropes in Fantasy

Tropes… We love them, we hate them, we can’t live without them. For those of you who watch Booktube and you enjoy fantasy, I highly recommend checking out Daniel Greene and Merphy Napier. For this blog post, I’m taking some inspiration from Daniel and Merphy’s videos where they talked about their favorite and least favorite tropes in fantasy. And away we go!

My top 5 favorite tropes… 

  1. The epic, magical world! I’m a huge fan of epic worlds with well-thought-out magic systems. The Stormlight Archive series, The Broken Earth trilogy, and The Lord of the Rings are some of my faves. They are incredibly interesting to read about and I am regularly impressed by the authors who put so much thought and detail into their worlds.
  2. The intelligent, non-human companion. The spren in The Stormlight Archive series, the seons in Elantris, Chiri-Chiri in Dawnshard… I love them all and Sanderson does an amazing job of including them in his stories. For me, they add such unique personalities to Sanderson’s books and are typically linked to some amazing side story that adds context and layers to the main storyline.
  3. The overly intelligent, calculating character… My favorite characters bar none are the extremely logical, morally grey, and sometimes cold characters. I’m thinking of Jasnah in The Stormlight Archive, Bayaz in The First Law trilogy, and (up to a point) Steris in Mistborn Era 2. Their intense and slightly intimidating behavior combined with the fact that they’re usually two steps ahead of everyone else immediately puts them on my favorites list. They typically say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done with little hesitation. There is one caveat though… they can’t be the enemy or villain in the story. I wish more fantasy books had this type of character! 
  4. Random horror/grimdark. I enjoy the occasional cringe-worthy parts in a story, especially when it catches me off-guard. Jemisin does this very well in The Fifth Season. It is also in The Lord of the Rings. These moments usually raise the stakes in the story by adding serious potential consequences for our main characters. 
  5. The mentor. Give. Me. A. Mentor! Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, Alabaster in The Broken Earth trilogy, Bayaz in The First Law trilogy… I love any and all mentors. They’re usually the mage or wizard as well which is a serious plus for me because their magical abilities are typically amazing. 

My top 5 least favorite tropes… 

  1. Overpowered magic systems or characters… Especially when there’s only one magic user or one type of magic that only certain people have. Part of my irritation with this is because it typically makes the story predictable. If the overpowered character or magic system is involved in the scene, I know what’s going to happen. The other part of my frustration is when there are no restraints or limitations on the magic system to make the magic users hesitant to use it. I’m able to push through this issue if the rest of the book is fantastic… but it is a guaranteed way to drop my ranking of the book. This happened in The Gentleman Bastard series and it is one of my biggest complaints about that series. 
  2. Prodigy character. When a character, especially a young character, in a book is exceptionally talented with no explanation as to why… I get annoyed. It feels like the author left the readers in the dark. There should be some sort of explanation or reasoning behind why the particular character is so amazingly skilled. Especially if they have had no training and were just a normal character earlier in the book. Unfortunately, this happened in The Broken Earth trilogy. I absolutely love The Broken Earth trilogy… and yet, Jemisin did this with one of the younger characters in the book. 
  3. Out-of-character decisions. Along the same lines as the prodigy character concerns, out-of-character decisions need to have better explanations. Some major moment must happen in order to explain why a character is doing something so completely out of character. For this trope, I’m thinking of The Gentleman Bastard series where this occurred in the second book. 
  4. Instant love… When two characters suddenly fall in love with no backstory or “on-screen” moments, it does not make sense. One example that comes to mind is in Harry Potter when Harry suddenly falls in love with a character who had very little romantic interactions with him leading up to their relationship. It’s even worse when the author is leading you towards a different romantic interest and suddenly rips it away for another, seemingly random person. 
  5. The damsel in distress. Weak female characters who apparently cannot defend themselves are incredibly annoying. I’m not saying the female character has to be physically strong. I’m saying they are so utterly helpless that they cannot manage to do a single thing without their knight coming to save the day. I actively avoid books that include this trope and I’m happy to say I have no examples from fantasy books that I’ve read. 

Let me know what you think of my top five favorite and least favorite tropes! Feel free to share your tropes list or book suggestions with me in the comment section!

Published by Caroline

Avid reader, board gamer, yogi, and photographer.

One thought on “Favorite and Least Favorite Tropes in Fantasy

  1. “When a character, especially a young character, in a book is exceptionally talented with no explanation as to why” – I mean, that’s most YA fantasy to me! Definitely a big turn off for me when for no real reason, the 17 year old character who has been practicing magic or whatever for a few months is somehow stronger and better and smatter than everyone else around, as if actual experience means nothing at all.

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