In a world filled with “horror stories,” escaping to a fantasy world has never been more appealing. Whether you prefer the traditional fantasy troupes or something more novel, fantasy books come in various shapes and sizes. If you’re considering getting into this incredible genre but are nervous about the reading commitment, we’re here to help answer the question of “how long are fantasy books?”
Fantasy novels are 90,000 words long but range from 50,000 to 150,000. The type of subgenre, the setting, whether part of a series or a standalone book, and various other factors influence the length of a fantasy book. The target audience is paramount to determining a book’s length.
Before an author starts writing a fantasy book, they need to consider how many words they have to cover all the important parts of the story. Various factors influence the length of a fantasy novel, which we’ll investigate in detail below.
How Long Are Books In The Fantasy Genre?
Regarding world-building, fantasy authors have an incredible amount of liberty. However, this liberty often inflates the word count of fantasy books drastically.
Some fantasy novels have a penchant for “dragging” on (looking at you, Mr. Tolkien!), while others cut quickly to the chase.
Various factors influence the length of a fantasy novel, including:
- The type or subgenre of the fantasy novel.
- The author’s “word limit” is per the publisher.
- The target audience of the fantasy novel.
- Whether the novel forms part of a series or not.
- The type of book: flash fiction, short story, novella, etc.
How Many Words Are In A Typical Fantasy Novel?
The typical length of a novel is 90,000 to 120,000 words equating to roughly 320 to 480 pages. Although the average range is between 40,000 and 150,000, there are many shorter and longer books.
According to ProWritingAid:
- Flash Fiction books are between 300 and 1,500 words.
- Short Stories are between 1,500 and 7,500 words.
- Novelettes are between 7,500 and 17,500 words.
- Novellas range from 17,500 to 50,000 words.
- Novels are between 50,000 and 120,000 words, and anything longer.
Defining a “typical” fantasy novel could come under fire for being unobjective. However, anything above 50,000 words counts as a novel. Fantasy books are usually longer than other works of fiction, and many exceed 120,000 words.
A hallmark of fantasy novels is their theme-specific content. In typical fantasy novels, we find:
- Imaginative and other elements which do not exist in reality, i.e., make-believe.
- There are often supernatural elements, like magical powers, spells, and creatures.
- The time frame is usually medieval in its setting, featuring castles, kings, knights, and middle-ages warfare.
- There is usually an element of good vs. evil.
How Long Are Epic Fantasy Books?
Epic fantasy books are almost stereotypical story-telling books. When most people think of the fantasy genre, this is the first type of book that comes to mind.
These books are characterized by world-altering events like war, an evil overlord, or some other foe that the hero(s) must overcome. These novels are set in a magical world full of sorcery, spells, quests, mythological, and other creatures.
Although epic fantasy books are usually the longest in the genre, there are various length categories, including:
- Short epic fantasy novels range from 60,000 to 80,000 words (roughly 200 pages).
- Medium epic fantasy novels are usually around 90,000 words and appeal to young adults.
- Longer epic fantasy novels, ranging from 90,000 to 200,000 words, are the “granddaddy’s” of epic fantasy. The longest book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is roughly 180 000 words.
What Is The Longest Fantasy Book In The World?
Although it is particularly challenging to measure all fantasy books by the same criteria (pages are subjective to word spacing, font size, margins, etc.), the fantasy book with the most words published in a single volume is Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest.
This novel is roughly 667,000 words, written between 1845 and 1847. They originally sold the copies per chapter.
The runner-up is Jerusalem by Alan Moore. This 2016 novel is 615,000 words spread over 1,266 pages. The supernatural elements in this book land it firmly in the fantasy genre.
The Average Length Of Popular Fantasy Books
To better understand the average length of fantasy books, we’ll examine some of the most popular books’ word and page lengths.
Note: often, exact word counts are not possible, and many word count programs estimate based on the book’s number of pages.
|1. The Fellowship of the Ring||J.R.R. Tolkien||1954||187,790||423|
|2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe||C.S. Lewis||1950||38,421||208|
|3. A Game of Thrones||George R.R. Martin||1996||298,000||694|
|4. A Wrinkle in Time||Madeleine L’Engle||1962||52,587||249|
|5. The Princess Bride||William Goldman||1973||89,426||493|
|6. American Gods||Neil Gaiman||2001||188,623||465|
|7. The Name of the Wind||Patrick Rothfuss||2007||250,000||662|
|8. The Night Circus||Erin Morgenstern||2011||120,937||387|
|9. The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West||Gregory Maguire||1995||153,353||406|
|10. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch||Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman||1990||109,000||288|
|11. The Gunslinger||Stephen King||1982||63,800||300|
|12. The Fifth Season||N.K. Jemisin||2015||134,415||512|
|13. A Wizard of Earthsea||Ursula K. Le Guin||1968||63,365||205|
|14. Circe||Madeline Miller||2018||100,000||393|
Although these books fall under the broad “fantasy” genre, they belong to various subgenres. The length of these fantasy books correlates with the various subgenres and who the target audience is.
For example, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a children’s fantasy story, and the book’s word and page count reflects the child audience’s reading capacity (which includes if an adult reads to them).
Whether a book is part of a series or not also influences its length.
This list is a good representation of the range in book lengths within the fantasy genre. The shortest book at roughly 40,000 and the longest at almost 300,000 words.
Some books’ words to pages ratio does not compare well with others. These discrepancies are due to different text sizes, spacing, and margins.
Why Is There A Difference In Fantasy Book Length?
A longer book is not better or worse than a shorter book. Short and long books are equal but different. Some authors create entirely new worlds within the fantasy book genre, while others re-create real-world settings with fantastical elements.
Generally speaking, a world-creating fantasy novel is longer than one that “borrows” from reality. However, this is not always the case.
Longer fantasy novels are more expensive to print, so publishers are less likely to commit to the venture unless it’s part of a hit series. Most authors trying to establish themselves aim for the 90,000 word mark.
These novels are long enough to flesh out characters and settings while remaining on point and captivating an audience who might need some coercion before they commit to a 400-plus page book.
For example, Andrej Sapkowski’s “The Witcher” sneakily hooks you with the comparatively short Blood of Elves book (324 pages), building up to a climactic finish in the Lady of the Lake with a staggering 540 pages.
By the time you reach the final, you’re so well invested in the characters that 500 pages are too short, but without the short preceding books, many people would baulk at the thought of reading so many pages, especially those new to the genre.
Fantasy Subgenres And How They Influence Book Length
Although there is a library’s worth of subgenres, the essential fantasy subgenres, according to Masterclass, include:
High Or Epic Fantasy
This subgenre is the type of fantasy popularized by JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It involves elements and threats that affect the fantasy world on a “global” scale while focusing on a single or small group of protagonists.
The setting of these books is usually a magical world governed by inherent laws and rules.
These books are the “long haulers” of the genre. They require a lot of words and take a significant amount of time to introduce characters, and backstory, providing the setting, build-up, climax, and the epic (often a battle) conclusion.
When supernatural or fantastical elements penetrate the real world, (otherwise normal human) characters need to interact and deal with the intrusion. The Harry Potter stories (by J.K. Rowling) are an example.
Low fantasy can move in either direction concerning word counts and book-length. Although the world-building requirements are lessened due to the author using real places, they often need to flesh out why things are the way they are.
Low fantasy books are usually around 90,000 words and don’t (usually) run as long as epic fantasy books. However, the Harry Potter series (for example) has several long reads, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is 257,154 words.
This type of fantasy bounces between high and low (real or fictional world) but has a strong element of horror and dark supernatural powers. The seminal works of HP Lovecraft are a prime example of dark fantasy.
Dark fantasy takes its word count from its “parent” subgenre. I.e., a high-dark fantasy book would usually have a higher word count than a low-dark fantasy book. Most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work is short stories.
The brothers Grimm and the traumatic reading they produced are sub-genre defining. Fairy tales are aimed at children; they are set in fantasy worlds and showcase the traditional creatures of folklore.
Fairy tales are usually short stories. The target age of the fairy tale and its rendition influence the length.
Like fairy tales, fables usually have a moral element and involve anthropomorphic animals, creatures, and supernatural elements. For example, the wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing teaches children to be wary of strangers.
Fables are usually one to two pages long. Fables are also short stories, with the moral as the central theme.
Fantasy Books: To Series Or Not To Series?
A large contingent of fantasy books is part of a longer series. Although true for high/epic fantasy, there are numerous examples of low fantasy book series.
An author may decide to convert their story into more than one book for several reasons, including:
- Publishers prefer a series to standalone books. Publishers make more money if people enjoy the story by selling one long story broken down into various “episodes.”
- Depending on the length, the author may not have enough time to write the entire story, so breaking it up gives them a chance to focus on a particular part at a time. Producing shorter books more frequently keeps readers interested and engaged with the story for longer.
- The longest series has roughly 4 million words across its various books. If they tried to put that in a single book, it would be inconvenient to try and use.
- Sometimes the stories lend themselves to a natural “break” in the story, warranting another book. In a fantasy setting where you introduce multiple characters and their stories, you might need multiple books to move the plot forward.
- In some series, the main character faces different challenges / goes on different adventures that connect to the overarching story. Harry Potter and his adventures are a great example.
When deciding between a series or standalone, the material’s length, the story’s content, and most critical, the publisher’s buy-in are determining factors.
What is the Longest Fantasy Book Series?
When stories become too long for one book, the next logical step is to develop a series. These series range from two to around fifty books.
Some of the longest fantasy series include:
6. Discworld by Terry Pratchett. Total word count: 3,327,215, across 41 books.
5. Malazan: Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont. Total word count: 3,381,980, across 10 books.
4. The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb. Total word count: 3,885,275, across 16 books.
3. Shannara by Terry Brooks. Total word Count: 4,070,030, across 32 books.
2. Riftwar by R. E. Feist. Total word count: 4,108,915, across 30 books.
1. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Total word count: 4,374,017, across 14 books.
Fantasy books average between 50,000 and 150,000 words. Although there are shorter and longer books, this range covers most fantasy subgenres. Numerous factors influence a fantasy book’s length, including the subgenre of fantasy and the target audience. Epic/high fantasy tends to be the longest of the fantasy books, while fables and fairy tales are the shortest.