Fantasy fiction is a whole lot more than elves, wizards, and dragons spitting fire. While those things certainly do exist in some fantasy books, the genre really is so much more. Over the last twenty or so years, I have begun noticing a number of sub-genres beginning to emerge that are going in wonderful new directions while holding on to some of their more classic “fantasy” roots. These include the sub-genres of urban fantasy, steampunk, epic high fantasy, Afrofuturism, and magical realism. The sub-genre that I want to talk about today is commonly known as flintlock fantasy.
What is it?
Flintlock fantasy, which is also referred to as gunpowder fantasy, is a sub-genre of fantasy that takes place a different period of time than traditional fantasy. Most traditional fantasy books take place during medieval times which was before the advent of gunpowder being used. This means more swords, spears, arrows, and siege engines and no guns or cannons. Flintlock fantasy, as the name implies, takes place after the invention of gunpowder. This places it more at the beginning of the industrial revolution, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, around the end of the 1700s to the early 1800s in our time.
Why is it good?
Some of the hallmarks of flintlock fantasy have everything to do with the time period in which it takes place. The introduction of gunpowder and the weapons that use gunpowder, adds a whole new layer to a world with magic and/or magical creatures. Some books make gunpowder an actual part of the magic system, an example of this is the excellent Powder Mage books, authored by Brian McClellan. Certain people in those books are born with the ability to ingest gunpowder and they then gain heightened abilities such as strength, speed, and reflexes. In addition to these “powder mages”, there are also more traditional users of magic, the Privileged and those with knacks, and the interplay between these groups makes up an exciting part of these stories. Many books within this sub-genre will also feature a lot more military action and battle scenes. This again is largely due to the era and the use of more modern weaponry. This is a good thing from my perspective but I realize that not everyone loves battle sequences in their fantasy.
Finally, flintlock fantasies can also show how the changing times at the turn of the 19th century might impact magical creatures like dragons. The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik is a series about Temeraire the dragon during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. These alternate history stories utilize dragons with crews and riders as the air force for the various nations, along with more traditional navy and land forces. This is a really interesting dynamic that completely changes how you might look at that period of time. Just imagine how Napoleon might deploy dragons as part of his force.
Books to Check Out
Other than the ones I mention above, I have either read or heard great things about the following flintlock fantasies.