I’m not sure that this is really a genre, but there are a few books that have all the trappings of a fantasy story (a fictional setting, a fairy tale-like atmosphere, etc.) but do not actually feature magic. They read like fantasy or fairy tale in tone, but no real magic occurs (although I did include some where magic or mythological creatures may be implied but not confirmed, those were sort of borderline). This is a list of stories like that for people who kind of like fantasy but don’t feel like reading about witches and wizards.
This story takes place in a fictional kingdom during the Middle Ages. Ten-year-old Trad is an orphan who lives with his wicked grandfather, who is part of a gang of bandits. He helps a mysterious stranger with amnesia, a victim of his grandfather and his friends, who only remembers that he is on a great and terrible quest but is not quite sure what the quest actually is.
A spoiled little princess learns about friendship and hidden depths and finds her own inner beauty when she is sent to live with a family of commoners for a time.
Fiona leaves the big city to return to the seaside to live with her grandparents, hoping that they might once more live on the island their family has called home for generations and hoping to find her lost little brother, who was apparently washed out to sea the day their family left, but who may actually be alive on the island in the care of the seals that live there. By Rosalie Fry.
There is implied magic because of the story that Fiona’s ancestors intermarried with the mythical selkies (creatures that are seals when at sea but can shed their seal skins to become human on land), and the theory is that the seals cared for her little brother because he is part of their family as well, but there are no magic spells or anything, and the fantasy elements are left kind of a mystery (there are hints that the selkie story might be true, but it’s hard to be completely sure). The overall theme is more about family and kinship with the natural world and traditions of the past.
I have the movie-tie in version, which was printed much later, but it contains the text of the original book, Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry (Child of the Western Isles), which was originally published in 1959. Copies of the original book are very expensive collectors’ items. However, there is good news: it’s coming back into print in October (and on Kindle!), so if you’re nostalgic or just curious, you will be able to get a copy easily then!