1. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Non-Magical Fantasy Books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Annûniel, Sep 7, 2013.

    Inspired by minstrel's comment in Magical or Not? in Setting Development: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/magical-or-not.127256/

    I've always considered myself to be a fantasy buff, but I don't think I've ever read a fantasy book that didn't have any magical elements in it. Even A Song of Ice and Fire has some magical elements to it. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy was probably the most unique magical system I've ever read, but it was still considered magic.

    I'm intrigued, even to the point of making my next novel magic free (I've struggled with magic in the past). Anyone know of any fantasy books that have no magic in them?
     
  2. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    I don't really know of any. Most I have read are more scifi than fantasy. Depends on what you mean by magic too. If you mean witches and magic spells and stuff I know I've read some but can't remember what they are.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Little, Big by John Crowley is the best example I can think of at the moment. But I think fantastical elements and magical elements basically go hand-in-hand.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Some people who think time travel is impossible consider alternate timeline stories fantasy. Some who believe unreservedly in psychic phenomena would consider a story with registered precognates science fiction or even mystery/romance/intrigue.

    Fantasy is speculative fiction, and is generally distinguished from science fiction on the basis of whether the speculative elements are consistent with science as we know it. The distinction gets very fuzzy, but so is the differentiation between science and magic.

    Tess Gerritsen's The Bone Garden features a connection between past and present that goes well into fantasy. Still, it is classified as mystery genre.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There are quite a few fantasy books with no magic. Mervyn Peake' Gormenghast books don't have magic, nor does K.J. Parker's novel The Company. I think some of Guy Gavriel Kay's books fall into this category (I'm thinking of works like The Lions of Al-Rassan, though it has been a while since I read that one so I'm not 100% sure). I don't recall magic in Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold, though his world has magic in it. Swordspointe, by Ellen Kushner, doesn't have magic, nor do the others in that series as I recall.

    That's just off the top of my head. Searching the web would reveal others.
     
  6. ScaryMonster
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    ScaryMonster Active Member

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    Would Jules Vern's, "Around the World in Eighty days," be considered fantasy or adventure?
    Certainly it has that fantasy feel about it.
    Another book where I don't think magic is a major element is Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book." Also by the same author there's "Rikki Tikki Tavi." But these contain anthropomorphised animals.

    If you can accept that. There's "Tail Chasers Song," by Tad Williams. "Watership down, " by Richard Adams, "Charlotte's Web," by Elwyn Brooks "E. B." White.
    There's more along this line, if you want to get away from the inherent cuteness of these I guess there's "Animal Farm," by George Orwell.

    Also I seem to recall that one story that takes place in a fairy tale world but has no real magic that I can remember, is William Goldman's "The Princess Bride."
     
  7. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I've done some research on the internet, but there aren't many results. I guess non-magical fantasies aren't very common.

    I guess what I was really hoping for was a book set in another world (or maybe an alternate timeline of our own) but without magic. I like unique worlds with their own histories, cultures, species, lore, and the like.

    @ScaryMonster: I've actually read most of those already. I hadn't really considered them to be fantasy but anthropomorphic stories. I guess some would consider that to be non-magical fantasy. Most of the lists I've found on the internet reference these. Also, I recently read The Princess Bride. Though it took place in our world with a few added countries, there was a reference to magic in it: Miracle Max. Still, it was definitely a good read. :)
     
  8. ScaryMonster
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    ScaryMonster Active Member

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    @ScaryMonster: I've actually read most of those already. I hadn't really considered them to be fantasy but anthropomorphic stories. I guess some would consider that to be non-magical fantasy. Most of the lists I've found on the internet reference these. Also, I recently read The Princess Bride. Though it took place in our world with a few added countries, there was a reference to magic in it: Miracle Max. Still, it was definitely a good read. :)[/quote]

    I kind of thought that Miracle Max, was a medicine man. No doubt a miraculous one.
    And then there was this! Miracle Max uses a bellows to fill Westley's lungs with air. He then asks him what he had that was worth living for. When he pressed on Westley's chest, he responded "true love."
    Is it rather unscientific.


    One I was loath to suggest last time because it might fall under the classification of Science fiction, even though it takes place in a pre-industrial land (Planet), and dragons are the major plot element.
    Is Anne McCaffry's "Dragonrider's of Pern," Series. It becomes more technologically based towards the end of the series. I'd call it a cross over Fantasy - Science fiction story.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  9. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I wouldn't call Miracle Max a wizard or magician, but there was a touch of magic in his "miracles."

    As for the Dragonriders of Pern, I've read the original trilogy and the Harper Hall trilogy. Maybe I've read more non-magical fantasy than I originally thought? Still, I recall Anne McCaffrey vehemently stated that The Dragonrider's of Pern series was science-fiction, not fantasy, despite the presence of dragons. And most descriptions of the series define it as "science fiction" as the Pernese were supposedly colonists from Earth that lost their ancestor's technology, likely from the threat of Thread. I was a bit frustrated with that, mostly because the article I read (forgot where) made it sound like she was defending her work from fantasy, as though there was something wrong with fantasy.

    I stopped reading the books as they are getting a bit dated and it didn't feel like there was a lot of development in them. By the time I read White Dragon, I felt a bit let down by the lack of any real climax and resolution. I kept waiting for some sort of theme to the book, but it just felt like she was too busy talking about all this ancient technology that nothing really happened and then the book was over.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You really aren't going to do any better than Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. It's not just good fantasy - magic, it's an incredible and unique read.
     

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