Comp-Finder Database:
Fantasy Novels

If you are a querying fantasy author, this database is for you! This is a list of novels published in the last five years under fifteen fantasy subgenres. I hope it helps you find some comparative titles for your query letter. If you don’t know what a comp is or are interested in tips on how to choose them, read “How to Find Your Perfect Comp Title,” which I wrote as a companion to this database.

Use these lists as a starting point for your research. Look at subgenres that have similarities to your novels (I recommend choosing comps that are under the same age category as your novel), then actually read the books before you decide whether they are a fitting comp.

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This is the basic version of a more detailed PDF database that includes tags, so you can see at a glance if a novel has similar themes to yours. The full database also has my research on how many literary agents are looking for each category and includes many more books under each subgenre. If you would like the complete database, you can purchase it here.

1. Action & Adventure Fantasy

Action & Adventure books are generally about a journey, where characters are on a quest to find something or solve a problem. The protagonists tend to have strong moral codes, so these are usually good vs. evil tales. Action and fun are at the heart of these stories, so this is a popular subgenre for middle grade fantasy (the complete PDF database has 96 middle grade books listed under this category)..

2. Alternate History

What’s the difference between historical fantasy and alternate history, you ask? You mean, you don’t know? Well, it’s not like I was extremely confused and had to look this up or anything. *coughs*

While historical fantasy tosses in magic or supernatural elements into a historical setting, alternate history is when a significant event in history is changed. For example, a story in which Germany won World War II would be alternate history. Of course, if Germany won World War II because they had dragons, then the two genres overlap.

3. Contemporary Fantasy

These are stories that take place in the modern world and are set in the present time. Magic exists, but it’s usually not common knowledge. This is a popular genre; the number of titles listed are only beat by epic fantasy and action & adventure (and the latter has so many titles because most middle grade fantasy falls under adventure).

4. Dark Fantasy

Dark fantasy is usually disturbing, scary, or eerie. It differs slightly from horror in that the point of the story is not to constantly scare you. Often, it’s the atmosphere or setting that is dark, and the story relies on suspense rather than jump scares (though you can also have horror without jump scares, so the lines certainly blur).

5. Epic & High Fantasy

I’m convinced epic fantasy—stories that take place entirely in a fictional, fantasy world—will never die. It has the longest list of titles in this article and is consistently popular. It’s also grown a lot more diverse, with many books moving away from the typical medieval setting and taking inspiration from other cultures and historical periods.

The term epic fantasy is most often attached to adult titles, suggesting stories with intricate magic systems, multiple protagonists, and gritty wars. High fantasy is used more often for young adult and middle grade books; however, often these novels are simply categorized as “YA fantasy” and “middle grade fantasy,” and are more adventure-focused and lighter on the scale of worldbuilding.

6. Fairy Tales and Retellings

There’s something to be said for books that including surprising twists to familiar stories. Fantasy novels inspired by fairy tales or other well-known stories are going strong, and many agents specifically request retellings in their manuscript wishlists. Dark and gothic retellings have been particularly popular in the last five years.

7. Gothic Fantasy

This genre has so many similarities to dark fantasy that I almost didn’t include it, but the word gothic does evoke a specific aesthetic, and several agents mentioned it in their wishlists, so it seemed worth including. Gothic fantasy is closely associated with an eerie, haunted atmosphere and a mystery. It’s often set in the Victorian era.

8. Historical Fantasy

Zombies during apartheid! World War I with necromancers! A dragon eats Shakespeare!

Historical fantasy is when magic and/or other supernatural elements are put into a historical setting. Except for the fantasy part, history is kept accurate (e.g. the Allies still win World War I, even though there are necromancers involved).

9. Horror

Horror is having a moment right now! Many agents are asking for it, including in middle grade. Horror’s goal is to scare, and it often focuses on a lone character reacting to the unknown. There’s usually a mystery involved, and the reveal is terrifying. Horror also has many thriller elements, where the protagonist is constantly running from something and concerned for their safety. In YA and middle grade, horror tends to have fewer deaths but is still ultra spooky! Fantasy horror has some sort of supernatural element, whether it’s a creepy monster or another world seeping into ours.

10. Magical Realism & Fabulism

Magical realism is a confusing subgenre. Lately, it gets slapped on everything supernatural, particularly contemporary fantasy, regardless of whether the book is truly magical realism or not.

Here’s the definition of magical realism: stories that are grounded in the real world but include magic that is considered ordinary. So, instead of Bella going all starry-eyed after learning Edward can stop a truck with his hand, she would just go back to reading her book because vampires are perfectly normal, thank you very much. These stories are less concerned with, “Surprise! It’s magic!” and more concerned with character growth and the conundrums magic causes.

Magical realism also has Latinx roots, featuring stories about the oppression of marginalized and indigenous people. Though it is becoming a term that publishing uses generically, I recommend using fabulism if you are not a Latinx writer.

11. Myths, Legends, & Folklore

This genre has a lot of overlap with the fairy tales & retellings category, but it deserves to stand on its own. Greek and Arthurian mythology used to be the most popular choices for retellings, but these days, publishers are branching out into mythology from various areas, cultures, and time periods.

12. Paranormal

Paranormal and dark books in a contemporary setting seem to be as popular as ever; I don’t know if witches and supernatural monsters will ever get old. This is technically a subgenre of a subgenre, as it falls under contemporary fantasy, but these books are so prolific they deserve their own category.

13. Romantasy

Fantasy romance, colloquially known as romantasy, is set in a fictional, high fantasy world. (Fantasy romance set in our world is generally referred to as paranormal romance, and the steamy variety is more popular in indie publishing than traditional.)

14. Science Fantasy

Science fantasy is set in a world where both magic and technology exist. It’s often categorized in bookstores as something else—high fantasy, adventure, science fiction, etc. But it can be a helpful descriptor when querying. In these stories, sometimes magic and technology are at odds with each other, various factions promoting one over the other. Sometimes, they just co-exist.

15. Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy—contemporary fantasy set in a city, often featuring dark undertones and detective protagonists—had its heyday with authors like Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs. But there is still a place for it, and some literary agents are still asking for it.