The Importance of “Trash Fantasy”

I don’t know if I could have gotten through quarantine* without my books. I think a lot of people were/are in the same boat as me. I’ve read more books than I have since high school, back when I used to devour inches-thick fantasies in a matter of days. During quarantine, I fell back into some of those habits, and my bookshelves have borne the weight of my renewed hobby with silent distress. 


But this past year, I haven’t exactly been reading “good” books. Not the deep, complicated epics the genre is known for, or even the thoughtful and acclaimed literary novels I got used to in graduate school. Sure, I’ll pick up one or two like that and slip it into my To Be Read shelf, but the majority of what I’ve been reading is what I lovingly call “Trash Fantasy.”


Trash Fantasy, as I define it, are those lighthearted fantasy books full of tropes and romance that aren’t necessarily well-written in a literary sense. Sometimes, they seem like they should have gone through one more round of revisions to close up plot holes or explain this point or that one. The characters are the focus, and the most compelling part, rather than the world or some grand political plot. Sometimes, they’re called YA, but I think that’s often a misnomer.**


Another way to define it? Comfort reads. 


It’s just that during this time of upheaval, plague, and injustice, I want to see happy endings. I want the knight to rescue the princess, or the princess to rescue herself. I want the kings to rule fairly and the gods to be just, and I want the enemy mages to kiss at the end, all problems fading away before their love. 


I don’t know if I have the internal strength to read about another grand library burning down, or the lovers torn apart, or an empire falling into dust. Things like that seem too real. Too close to home. So I’m reading more and more books to escape, and rediscovering my love of lighthearted, charming stories. 


Though I still love deep, thought-provoking novels, even sad ones, taking breaks between them by reading “trash fantasy” books has certainly helped me this past year. It’s what’s kept me afloat–knowing I can crack the spine of one of my beloved “trash fantasy” novels and believe that there will be a happily ever after.


Do you have any favorites that could fall into my affectionately titled “trash fantasy” genre? Let me know in the comments!


*I know Covid’s not over. It’s complicated. Please get vaccinated.  


**A lot of adult fantasy books written by women are considered YA even though they aren’t. It’s a sexism thing. It sucks. Other people have written about it here.

2 thoughts

  1. Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is 100% my go-to comfort read. It’s embarrassing the number of times I’ve listened to that audiobook.

  2. Basically anything by Maria V Snyder or Jacqueline Carey is my “trash fantasy”!

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