We all know what this is. It’s probably what attracted us to Fantasy in the first place. Pure magic and medieval societies which have not progressed technologically beyond swords and armor. Mostly. And usually the heroes don’t need guns, because they have potent wizards or little girls with magic wands backing them up.
Swords & Sorcery is fantasy in a primitive setting, where problems must be solved with both violence and magic. The archetype of the genre is Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but the field, while littered with gray Conan wannabes, is capable of much originality. Adventure and confrontation are key words to the genre.
Heroic fantasy has grown over the past few years to encompass settings beyond the archetypal pseudo-medieval, middle-tech S&S stuff we all know and love. Harry Potter carved out a new niche in magical heroism, armed only with a wand. Who knows where the genre will go from here?
Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, The Cream of the Jest, The Silver Stallion, and Figures of Earth by James Branch Cabell
The Worm Ouroboros, Mistress of Mistresses, The Mezentian Gate, and A Fish Dinner in Memison by E. R. Eddison
Firedancer, by S. A. Bolich, is hero fantasy of a different kind, demonstrating the extremely broad range of this category, and “fantasy” in general, as do Windrider, Water Born, and Delver.
The Belgariad by David Eddings
Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, comprising:
The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Frostflower and Thorn by Phyllis Ann Karr
The Deryni/Camber of Culdi series by Katherine Kurtz, comprising:
Camber of Culdi
Camber the Heretic
The Bishop’s Heir
The King’s Justice
The Quest for Saint Camber
A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and Beyond the Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
The adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, by Fritz Leiber:
The Swords of Lankhmar
Swords and Deviltry
Swords Against Death
Swords in the Mist
Swords Against Wizardry
Swords and Ice Magic
A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin, though this is also gritty fantasy.
Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore
The Witch World series by Andre Norton, comprising:
Web of the Witch World
Three Against the Witch World
Warlock of the Witch World
Sorceress of the Witch World
Spell of the Witch World
Trey of Swords
Year of the Unicorn
The Jargoon Pard
The Crystal Gryphon
The Sunrunner Series by Melanie Rawn, comprising:
The Dragon Prince
The Star Scroll
The Dragon Token
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Sword of Bedwyr by R. A. Salvatore
The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
And many others!
You can buy Heroic Fantasy titles at the Other Worlds Bookstore.