We needed a place for fantasy that was often bold in scope, world-menacing in villains, but calling more on revelation with low violence. It wasn’t sword and sorcery by the longest shot, though it might be fairly epic. So we hit on the gentle fantasy genre. These always have the idyllic edge, though the plot is basically that the idyll has been interrupted or threatened and must be saved or restored.

How gentle?

Many young knights die, but way off stage, in The Treasure in the Heart of the Tanglewood. It is primarily an accelerated turning of the seasons and the solving of Hannah’s origins.

Certainly there is danger and a threat of horrible things in The Last Unicorn, but it’s the sort of thing you can give an older child without worrying about giving them nightmares, too. Can’t say that for Shelob’s lair in LotR.

For that reason, gentle fantasies are often sold as YA: they aren’t too gritty, too sexy, too violent. Oddly enough, many started out on the adult fantasy shelf, but that was before the rise or proliferation of the gritty sexy violent epic fantasy as the norm in adult fantasy.

Other gentle fantasies include —

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay

The Song of the Pearl by Ruth Nicols

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Dreamstone and The Tree of Swords and Jewels by C.J. Cherryh

The Forever King, The Broken Sword, and The Third Magic by Molly Cochrane (the first two with Warren Murphy)

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Riddlemaster of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip

The White Hart, The Black Beast, The Golden Swan, The Silver Sun and The Sable Moon by Nancy Springer

The High House by James Stoddard

The Day of the Minotaur, Green Phoenix, How Are the Mighty Fallen, The Not-World, The Forest of Forever, Wolfwinter, The Weirwoods and most anything else by Thomas Burnett Swan. These also qualify as historical fantasy.

Of course, we have a shelf of Gentle Fantasy at the Other Worlds Bookstore.