The comic fantasy book genre is a literary realm where the extraordinary goes hand in hand with humour. At its core, comic fantasy thrives on the juxtaposition of the magical and the comical, inviting readers into worlds where mythical creatures navigate absurd situations, and epic quests are laced with witty banter. Rooted in satire and often subverting traditional fantasy tropes, this genre provides a refreshing departure from the gravity of epic tales, offering a delightful escape into realms where laughter becomes as potent as any enchanted spell.
Comic fantasy authors, both past and present, craft narratives that embrace the fantastical while revelling in the quirks and foibles of humanity. Whether through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, where satire meets sorcery, or Neil Gaiman’s imaginative blend of the supernatural and the absurd, the genre showcases a diverse spectrum of storytelling that transcends conventional boundaries. From literary parodies to irreverent twists on classic myths, comic fantasy celebrates the boundless creativity of its authors, reminding readers that, in these enchanted realms, humour is a powerful force capable of transforming the extraordinary into the exquisitely amusing. As a genre that thrives on the fusion of magic and mirth, comic fantasy stands as an enduring testament to the joyous marriage of imagination and laughter within the realm of literary fiction.
Here are twenty comic fantasy books masterpieces:
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, 1605 (Part 1) and 1615 (Part 2): Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” is a seminal work that, while not conventionally comic fantasy, introduces a delusional knight whose chivalric adventures satirize the romanticized ideals of the time. The novel’s blend of absurdity and social commentary laid the groundwork for the genre, demonstrating the potential for humour within fantastical narratives.
Candide, Voltaire, 1759: Voltaire’s “Candide” is a satirical masterpiece that follows the misadventures of its titular character, providing a biting critique of optimism amidst a backdrop of fantastical events. Through Candide’s absurd encounters and philosophical reflections, Voltaire crafted a work that challenges societal norms with humour and irony.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” remains a timeless masterpiece of whimsy and nonsense. Through Alice’s journey in a fantastical realm filled with eccentric characters and surreal landscapes, Carroll crafted a narrative that defies logic, setting a precedent for the playful exploration of the fantastical in comic fantasy.
The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, 1900: L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” introduces readers to the enchanting land of Oz, a fantastical world where Dorothy embarks on a quest filled with peculiar characters and magical wonders. Baum’s imaginative tale, though not uniformly comic, combines elements of humour with a vibrant fantasy setting, influencing subsequent authors in the genre.
The Once and Future King, T.H. White, 1958: T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” injects humour into Arthurian legend, blending chivalric tales with wit and satire. White’s retelling of the Arthurian saga, particularly in “The Sword in the Stone,” offers a whimsical take on the legendary king’s early years, showcasing the author’s skill in merging fantasy with comedic elements.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1979: Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a comedic space odyssey that follows the befuddled Arthur Dent as he navigates the cosmos. Adams’ irreverent humour, combined with absurd interstellar scenarios, has made this series a classic example of how wit can elevate science fiction into the realm of comic fantasy.
Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett, 1989: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, exemplified by “Guards! Guards!,” is a comedic tour de force that satirizes both fantasy tropes and real-world absurdities. This instalment introduces the bumbling Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork, blending humour and social commentary with a fantastical cityscape, showcasing Pratchett’s unparalleled ability to infuse wit into the conventions of epic fantasy.
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, 1990: “Good Omens,” a collaborative work by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is a comedic masterpiece that explores the unlikely partnership between an angel and a demon as they attempt to avert the apocalypse. Gaiman and Pratchett’s collaboration seamlessly blends their distinctive styles, resulting in a hilarious and thought-provoking narrative that has become a quintessential example of comic fantasy.
The Last Hero, Terry Pratchett, 2001: Terry Pratchett’s “The Last Hero” is a Discworld novel that showcases the author’s trademark humour while exploring themes of heroism and consequences. With the iconic characters of Rincewind and the Librarian, Pratchett crafts a tale that combines high fantasy elements with his signature wit, creating a satirical yet heartfelt commentary on the nature of legends and hero worship.
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde, 2001: Jasper Fforde’s “The Eyre Affair” is a literary detective fantasy that introduces Thursday Next, a character who can jump into and interact with books. Fforde’s inventive blending of literary references, alternate realities, and detective fiction creates a delightfully whimsical narrative, marking his contribution to the genre as a master of literary-infused comic fantasy.
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, Robert Rankin, 2002: Robert Rankin’s novel presents a surreal and humorous mystery set in Toy City, where nursery rhyme characters come to life. “The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse” is a prime example of Rankin’s distinctive brand of irreverent and absurd comic fantasy, where familiar tales take unexpected and comical turns.
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud, 2003: Jonathan Stroud’s “The Amulet of Samarkand,” the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, introduces readers to a world where magic is wielded through summoning. Stroud’s clever narrative, featuring a young apprentice and an ancient djinni, combines humour with a richly imagined magical society, making it a standout example of comic fantasy for young adult readers.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke, 2004: Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a historical fantasy that intricately weaves magic into the fabric of 19th-century England. The novel’s meticulous world-building, combined with a dry and satirical wit, offers a unique take on the genre, showcasing Clarke’s ability to merge historical settings with fantastical elements.
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer, 2001: Eoin Colfer’s “Artemis Fowl” introduces readers to the eponymous teenage genius and mastermind, who kidnaps a fairy to restore his family’s fortune. Colfer’s blend of high-tech gadgets, magical creatures, and witty dialogue creates a fast-paced and humorous narrative, making the series a captivating entry in the world of young adult comic fantasy.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore, 2002: Christopher Moore’s “Lamb” is a comedic exploration of the life of Jesus Christ, as told by his childhood friend Biff. Moore’s irreverent and humorous take on biblical stories, combined with a touch of fantasy, showcases his ability to tackle sacred subjects with wit and satire, marking “Lamb” as a standout in the realm of comic fantasy.
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett, 2004: In “Going Postal,” Terry Pratchett continues his Discworld series by introducing Moist von Lipwig, a reformed con artist tasked with revitalizing the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. Pratchett’s satirical examination of bureaucracy, combined with his trademark humour and inventive world-building, makes this instalment a standout in the realm of comic fantasy.
The City Watch Series, Jasper Fforde (ongoing): Jasper Fforde’s ongoing City Watch series, starting with “Guards! Guards!,” continues to explore the comedic intricacies of law enforcement in the fantastical city of Ankh-Morpork. Fforde’s skill in blending humour, mystery, and social commentary within a richly imaginative world makes the City Watch series a testament to his enduring contributions to the genre.
A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett, 2004: Terry Pratchett’s “A Hat Full of Sky” is part of the Tiffany Aching series, following the adventures of a young witch-in-training. Pratchett’s ability to infuse coming-of-age themes with humour and magical whimsy, coupled with Tiffany’s journey into the world of witches, showcases the author’s versatility within the comic fantasy genre.
The Clockwork Boys, T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), 2017: Under the pseudonym T. Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon penned “The Clockwork Boys,” a comedic fantasy novel featuring a mismatched group on a mission to stop an impending war. Kingfisher’s ability to balance dark humour with an engaging plot, all set in a vividly imagined world, exemplifies her contribution to the contemporary landscape of humorous and fantastical storytelling.
Paladin’s Grace, T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), 2019: In “Paladin’s Grace,” T. Kingfisher crafts a romantic fantasy that follows a healer and a disgraced paladin entangled in a complex plot involving gods and intrigue. Kingfisher’s ability to blend humour, romance, and fantasy showcases her versatility, creating a narrative where the magical and the comedic seamlessly intertwine, contributing to the evolving landscape of contemporary comic fantasy.
And that’s our list of the 20 best comic fantasy books. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any comic fantasy novels not on this list that you feel should make the top 20?