All of us have at one time or another read something we would call Fantasy. Be it when reading "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings" as a school assignment (or for the more enlightened of us, at our own whim), from wanting to read the stuff that made the world we imagine exist, or more commonly from general love of the genre. But what is fantasy? What makes us pick up a book, read it from cover to cover, sigh and say "This is a good (or bad) fantasy book"?
First off, I need an original story. This doesn't mean every single part of the book needs to be unique or strange, it just requires imagination and a story that hasn't already been told in the way it is presented. A good example of this is David Farland's "Runelords" series. Along the lines of originality--there are certain things that we come to expect when we read a fantasy novel; whether it be magic, dragons, political intrigue, etc.--not
necessarily all of these things, just some. Can the author take these accepted facets of the genre, and make them new and fresh while keeping within the accepted confines (for lack of a better word) of the genre. The example of Runelords is great, and I will also cite Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams as a series that is literate, entertaining and original while keeping the accepted facets of the genre intact.
Second, I must have a character or group of characters that I can relate to and admire. Unfortunately for me, this generally equates to characters who have the potential to have great strength or powers. This probably speaks ill of my own character, but nevertheless, its what I like. Examples of this include Rand in...