Epic fantasy is a door opened to another world where good fights evil. The sub-genre concerns itself with moral issues with knight-like code of honor. The hero did not expect being entrusted with saving the world. He meets a mentor who trains him.
High fantasy is characterized by a passage to a parallel world that can be access through a portal. Sometimes it is just a secluded world within a world, a place only accessible to a special kind of people. It includes kingdoms and multiple races. Magic is everywhere.
High fantasy is broader in scope, more brainy than sword fantasy. It can deal with politics and cultural issues. There is a broad range of characters involved and the theme is to save the world.
Some examples are Paksenarrion and Gird from Elizabeth Moon or Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
The king of high fantasy is J. R. R. Tolkien with Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Characteristics of the sub-genre:
- Young adults and adults are the only target audience
- An imaginary world parallel to our world
- The new world has its own culture with its own laws, its own made-up languages and religions
- The structure of the society resembles the medieval feudal system of caste
- Wizards and magical creatures a plenty
- Presence of giants, elves, dwarves, trolls, unicorns, pixies, etc.
- gods change the course of destinies
- Battles between good and evil