An AI assesses six Fantasy bestsellers - Authors A.I.

JD Lasica
February 27, 2024

6 Fantasy titles

This is the second of a two-part series on A.I. analyses of bestselling Fantasy novels. Also see part one, What turns a Fantasy novel into a bestseller?

Why do some Fantasy novels soar to the top of the bestseller lists and remain there month after month, while others debut and quickly disappear from view? Because the authors know how to grab readers with a compelling story — a page-turner.

But what goes into a page-turner? The elements may all be there, but you need to tell the story well. You need to meet certain reader expectations in your genre. You need to know how to write and to keep the action moving to sustain the narrative drive.

Marlowe, the artificial intelligence from Authors A.I., can identify many of these requisite story elements that all authors include — either consciously or subconsciously — in their manuscripts.

(For the hyper-curious: We abide by all copyright laws, so we purchase the bestsellers and run the physical copies through a book scanning service or we get them directly from the publishers. The top Fantasy titles are overwhelmingly written by indie authors, so we went the scanning route for this round … and also added the titles to our consumer-facing book discovery site, BingeBooks.)

You’ll notice we used two AIs, ChatGPT-4 and Claude AI, to summarize each novel’s plot. That’s because authors and publishers rarely provide a summary of what the book is about, opting instead to intrigue the reader by dangling a provocative question or hook rather than providing a straightforward book description. (Yes, I’m guilty of it, too.)

In part one, we looked at six of the most popular Fantasy novels on the bestseller charts. So let’s run six more Fantasy titles through Marlowe to see how our A.I. assesses these titles — and what takeaways you can glean for your own writing.


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

7. Elantris

By Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Military Fantasy
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

ChatGPT-4 book description

Elantris is a standalone fantasy novel set in the city of Elantris, once the seat of magic and the home of immortals. The story begins ten years after a cataclysmic event known as the Reod, which turned Elantris from a place of enchantment into a cursed land, and its inhabitants into powerless, ghastly figures. The novel follows three main characters: Raoden, the prince of Arelon, who is transformed into an Elantrian and secretly strives to improve life within Elantris; Sarene, the princess of Teod, who arrives in Arelon for a political marriage to Raoden, only to find him dead and must navigate the treacherous court politics; and Hrathen, a high priest from the rival empire of Fjordell, who comes to convert the people of Arelon to his faith within three months or face invasion. Their stories intertwine as they confront the mysteries of Elantris, political intrigue, and a deeper plot that threatens the world around them, leading to discoveries that could revive the glory of Elantris or doom it forever.

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

The fact that Elantris continues to ride the bestseller lists after 16 years tells you something about the enduring appeal of the worlds that Sanderson has built — and his mastery of the genre. When we ran this epic tale through our AI — Marlowe counted 209,540 words — it immediately pulled back the camera and saw a Quest story shape or narrative arc

Narrative beats are what propel a book forward. I haven’t read Elantris, but Marlowe detected only a handful of major set pieces or plot turns, at the 19%, 44%, 54%, 66% and 79% marks. The action builds steadily, perhaps a bit languidly, in the first three-quarters of the book before it accelerates through the climax right through to the conclusion.

Elantris is a bit chatty, with dialogue clocking in at 40% (above average) vs. 60% narrative. Joy is the dominant emotional value, followed by trust, fear and sadness. Language is hella clean — probably the cleanest I’ve seen in a Fantasy novel of this length, with no f-bombs, 11 damneds and four bloody. Explicit content detected: 0%.

There’s a lot of shaking of heads (96 instances) but the tale generally high marks for the writing. The complexity score (on a 2 to 3 scale) clocks in at 2.7 with a reading grade comprehension level of 6.8. The average sentence length is 11.11 words — high across all bestsellers, but Fantasy novels tend to be wordier than most genres.

The top subject matter comps are Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (naturally) and Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead.

Top writing style comps are Mistborn (again) and The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey.


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

8. Kiss of Fire (Imdalind Series)

By Rebecca Ethington
Publisher: Imdalind Press
Genre: Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Young Adult Paranormal
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

Claude AI book description

Kiss of Fire is a fantasy novel that follows Joclyn, a teenage girl who discovers she has magical abilities after being bitten as a child. She struggles to understand her powers while also dealing with typical high school issues. She has a close friendship with Ryland, the heir to a powerful magical family, which later develops into a romantic relationship. However, Ryland’s tyrannical father, Edmund, intends to take control of Ryland’s magic and erase his mind. Joclyn attempts to rescue Ryland, but ultimately fails when Edmund succeeds in wiping Ryland’s memories. The novel explores themes of friendship, love, good vs evil, and coming of age.

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

Like Elantris, this work uses a Quest narrative arc. For a long, sweeping tale, Kiss of Fire has only five major story beats that Marlowe detected, at the 16%, 35%, 51%, 76% and 97% mark. (Marlowe doesn’t call out smaller story beats that every novel contains, just major turning points.) These are spaced out well, with an ending coming fairly abruptly after the final conflict beat. Pacing is quite hilly, with lots of ups and downs compared with Sanderson’s relatively smooth ride.

Marlowe provided these assessments of major characters’ personality traits: Ilyan shows great physicality as well as happiness and responsiveness; Ryland shows a mix of physicality and confidence; Wyn shows an unsettled streak, while the narrator comes off as perceptive.

Ethington’s story comes in at 20% dialogue — half the amount in Elantis — vs. 80% narrative. Joy is the predominant emotion conveyed, followed by fear. Here, too, explicit language is rare, with no f-bombs, five hells and one lonely crap. Marlowe found 0% explicit content here, too, plus 16% suggestive content.

The 113,589-word novel has a complexity score of 2.66 and a reading grade comprehension level of 5.47. The average sentence length is 12.27, fairly wordy but in line with the genre.

Subject matter book comp: Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton.

Writing style book comp: Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton.

A final note: I hope a future edition fixes the ouch of reading this typo in the book: “summersault.”


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

9. When the Moon Hatched

By Sarah A. Parker
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sword & Sorcery Fantasy
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

ChatGPT-4 book description

When the Moon Hatched is a vivid and imaginative narrative that intertwines themes of loss, resilience, and the power of imagination. The story presents a world filled with fantastical elements, such as Moltenmaws and Moon-plumes, serving as metaphors for grief, beauty, and the desire to leave a bright mark on a world painted in shades of ugliness. Characters navigate through this world, grappling with personal loss and finding solace in the small joys and peculiarities of their surroundings, such as a misshapen moon that brings comfort despite its flaws. The narrative delves into the complexity of emotions, the importance of keeping promises, and the whimsical yet poignant reflections on life, legacy, and the pursuit of understanding amidst a backdrop of fantastical and sometimes harsh realities​

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

When the Moon Hatched generally follows the Rise and Fall story archetype. Plot turns resemble the story beats in Krista Street’s Court of Winter. Narrative beats here are much more regular and varied, with positive beats at 9%, 31%, 43%, 62% and 81%; conflict beats come at 21%, 37%, 51%, 71% and 92%. Pacing is nice and hilly, with a series of hills and not-too-low valleys.

The book has 20% dialogue vs. 80% narrative (most bestsellers run 25% to 35%). Joy, fear and anger are the three top emotions on the emotional color wheel. Unlike the previous two titles, explicit language here is free flowing, with 214 f-bombs and lots, lots more. Marlowe estimates there is 3% explicit content, 17% suggestive content and 80% non-explicit content.

When the Moon Hatched comes in with a complexity score of 2.52 with a reading grade comprehension level of 6.33. Like the other Fantasy titles, sentence length is longer than most bestsellers with an average of 12.67 words.

Subject matter book comp: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas.

Writing style book comps: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas, The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams and Lightlark by Alex Aster.


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

10. Dark Fae (Ruthless Boys of the Zodiac)

By Caroline Peckham
Publisher: Dark Ink Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy Romance, Dark Fantasy
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

ChatGPT-4 book description

Dark Fae unfolds in a world where Fae, vampires, and shifters coexist, focusing on Elise, a vampire seeking revenge for her brother’s mysterious death. She infiltrates Aurora Academy, a school harboring secrets and power struggles, where she encounters the Kings of the school, each with their own dark pasts and intentions. Elise navigates alliances, enmities, and her own burgeoning powers, uncovering truths that could shake the foundations of their society. Amid danger and deception, she must decide whom to trust in her quest for vengeance and justice.

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

Marlowe found seven narrative beats or turning points in Dark Fae, at the 10%, 29%, 43%, 54%, 64%, 74% and 84% marks. Pacing has lots of tall peaks and deep valleys, with a languid beginning to the novel. Characters’ personality traits are fairly varied. Marlowe found only 10% of the story is dialogue vs. 90% narrative, a result of the extensive internal monologue in this first-person POV novel.

The emotional color wheel in our Marlowe Pro report shows predominant emotions of joy, anger, fear, trust and sadness. Explicit language, as one might expect in a book titled Dark Fae, is off the charts, with 353 f-bombs and lots of other dirty words not fit for a family newspaper like this one. The tale follows the same breakdown of explicit content as When the Moon Hatched, with 3% explicit content, 17% suggestive and 80% non-explicit.

The book’s complexity score is an average 2.51 with a reading grade level of 5.96. The tale is a long one, with nearly 150,000 words and an average sentence length of 12.43 — again, above average for a bestseller but average for the Fantasy genre.


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

11. Cinder

By Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fairytales & Folklore
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

ChatGPT-4 book description

Cinder is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, set in a futuristic world where Earth and the Moon are at odds. The story follows Cinder, a talented mechanic in New Beijing who is also a cyborg, making her a second-class citizen. Her life takes a dramatic turn when her path crosses with Prince Kai’s, leading her into the intricacies of intergalactic politics, a deadly plague ravaging the Earth, and her own mysterious past. Cinder discovers she is not just a simple mechanic but has a unique heritage that puts her at the center of a struggle for power between Earth and the Lunar kingdom. As she navigates through these discoveries, she must decide where her loyalties lie and how she can protect those she loves against a formidable Lunar queen who aims to control Earth. Cinder’s journey is a blend of fairy tale inspiration and sci-fi adventure, revealing themes of identity, autonomy, and the fight against destiny.

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

Cinder, based very loosely on some of the classic tropes found in Cinderella, unsurprisingly follows the Rise and Fall story archetype. Amusingly, Marlowe found that the plot twists in Cinder most closely follow those found in The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Narrative beats here are plentiful and robust, with negative beats at the 16%, 36%, 52%, 71% and 91% marks and positive beats at the 29%, 44%, 60% and 80% marks. Marlowe did not detect a lot of character variation in Cinder, with an emphasis on physicality for all four top characters. Dialogue, though, hit the sweet spot at 30% vs. 70% narrative. Joy, fear, trust, sadness and surprise are the top emotions detected.

Explicit language is very sparse, with no f-bombs and 0% explicit content. The complexity score is average here, too, at 2.51, and a reading grade level of 5.97. The book is shorter than many others in the genre, with 93,864 words; the average sentence length is a nice 10.29 words.

Our Fantasy corpus is still being fleshed out, but it was still a surprise to see Marlowe point to Altered Carbon (a sci-fi novel) by Richard Morgan as the closest subject matter book comp. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros was the closest Fantasy book comp for writing style.


Click here to see the Marlowe Pro analysis of this novel

12. Moon Touched

By Elizabeth Briggs
Publisher: Elizabeth Briggs Books
Genre: Paranormal, Epic Fantasy
See purchase and reading options on BingeBooks

ChatGPT-4 book description

Moon Touched is a captivating fantasy novel that follows the journey of Ayla, a young woman with half-human heritage and a member of the Cancer Zodiac wolf pack. Facing ostracization and longing for acceptance within her pack, Ayla’s life is a blend of hope and adversity. The narrative delves into themes of belonging, the quest for identity, and the struggle against prejudice. As Ayla navigates the complexities of her world, the anticipation of the Convergence—a significant event that could change her fate—looms large. With the hope of unlocking her wolf and finding a place where she truly belongs, Ayla’s story is a poignant exploration of finding one’s path in a world where lineage and power dictate one’s place.

Marlowe Pro report takeaways

Like Cinder, Moon Touched uses the tried-and-true Rise and Fall story archetype. Narrative beats — one of the most important hallmarks of a bestseller – come at steady intervals, at the 14%, 27%, 39%, 47%, 56%, 68% and 86% marks. Pacing is quite out of the ordinary, with a long lull at the outset to get the story moving, perhaps as Briggs builds her world. Characters’ personality traits are nice and varied: Kaden is confident, Mira is physical, Stella is happy and the narrator is perceptive (as they often are).

Dialogue makes up 20% of the book vs. 80% narrative. The emotional components consist of joy, fear, trust, anger and sadness. Moon Touched falls somewhere in the middle of the naughty words scale, with 55 f-bombs and other assorted language that would make my sister blush. Marlowe suggests there is a fair amount of explicit content here, 5.4%, with 8.4% suggestive content and 86% non-explicit.

Marlowe identified 39 examples of “I wanted to” as a repetitive phrase, signaling that the narrator may have been overly passive in some of those scenes. (I highlight this bit of feedback only to point out that there was very little else that Marlowe flagged for possible editing.) The book’s complexity score was a tad high at 2.71, with a reading grade level of 5.72, or about average. The 86,172-word novel had the largest average sentence length, though, at 13.06 words. And the “Possible misspellings” section was the shortest of this batch, with Briggs not making up a whole lot of words from scratch.

Subject matter book comp: Hero’s Haven by Rebecca Zanetti.

Writing style book comp: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker.


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