Sword and Sorcery; Magical realism; the difference,

Hey you! I am keeping the introductions short, so we can get into the article! If you are here then you must be wondering what is the difference between Magical Realism and Sword & Sorcery?

And you are at the right spot! As a fantasy author I am very knowledgeable in the realm of fantasy and most of it’s many, many, many subgenres. I have read and noticed that sometimes readers and writers will mixed up certain subgenres. Which is okay, but for those who maybe wanting to be reading, researching, or writing for a certain subgenre, it can be confusing. Hopefully reading this article may help those who confuse the Magical Realism and Sword & Sorcery genres.

Affiliate links are used in this post. Meaning I get a small commission if you chose to purchase from some of the links. There is no extra charge to you.

What is Sword and Sorcery?

knight armor; What is Sword and Sorcery?
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Sword and sorcery is a subgenre of fantasy. As the name states, it’s characterized by sword-wielding heroes battling in exciting and intense escapades. There are elements of romance, magic, and the supernatural often presents with these types of stories.

The story is a fast-paced, action-rich tale set in a quasi-mythical or fantastical framework. The nature of the story’s heroes hopefully finds peace after an adventure of near death. Their lower stakes and less-than-world-threatening dangers make this more plausible than a repetition of the perils of epic fantasy.

Unlike high fantasy (which we will talk about more next week), the stakes in sword and sorcery tend to be personal. Many swords and sorcery tales have turned into long series of adventures.

Common tropes in Sword and Sorcery:

  • Barbarian Heroes
  • Black-and-Gray Morality
  • Proud Warrior
  • Evil Sorcerers
  • Human Sacrifice
  • Reformed Villain
  • Humans are Bastards
  • Magic is Evil (this is important)
  • Very Manly!!!
  • War is Glorified

Examples of Sword and Sorcery Books:

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard

Kingdoms at War: An Epic Fantasy Adventure by Lindsay Buroker

Imaro by Charles Saunders

What is Magical Realism?

photo of woman holding a mirror; What is Magical Realism?
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Now this is my realm (see what I did there) of expertise! Magical realism is a subgenre of the fantasy literary style. Despite including certain magic features, it is generally considered a different genre from fiction. Magical realism is an amalgamation of natural and mystical elements that produces a more inclusive writing form than either literary realism or fantasy. Magical realism uses a substantial amount of realistic detail and employs supernatural elements to make a point about reality, while fantasy stories are from fact. As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.

Characteristics of Magical Realism:

  • Fantastical elements
  • Real-world setting
  • Authorial reticence
  • Metafiction
  • Heightened awareness of the mystery
  • Political critiques
  • Magic is not seen as universally bad

Examples of Magical Realism Books:

So I am going do a shameless plug and use my books from The Gods’ Scion series! Check them out if you really are interested in reading some really fun and adventurous magical realism!

The Gods’ Scion series is a fantasy world set in modern times dealing with modern-day problems. The series focuses on the life journey of the main character, Prince Rodrick Purcill, and how he deals with the consequences of the horrors of the world he was born into. The series shows how different characters and points of view deal with the same problems and issues presented within the story.

The Gods’ Scion series introduction

What is the difference?

The most significant difference you’ll find is the view on magic and magic users. Sword and sorcery are usually in a negative light. At the same time, magic realism is what drives the story or sets character motives, ambitions, etc. Sword and sorcery you see are not set in modern times. Now, magic realism will always be placed in contemporary time or hindering the futuristic, though it can be grouped into a different subgenre of sci-fi.

Magic realism also has a more complex magic systems plot and character development throughout the story. While sword and sorcery using have those simplistic characters and motivations. Which is not a bad thing and that does not mean that there are books out there with more complex plot and feelings under the sword and sorcery genre it’s just in the latter category.

white pillar candle beside clear glass bottlewoman wearing a costume holding a sword
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I hope this clarifies some things, and you found this information useful! Remember, I am just one author and writer and these are my opinions and thoughts. Let me know if you agree with me on the difference of these two subgenres. Thanks for reading and remember:

Live. Love. Laugh.