Romantic fantasy—stories that combine magical tales with characters falling in love—has existed for about as long as humans have told stories, but a contemporary twist has brought a new focus to the genre. Books like A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros have inspired a new wave of romantic fantasies and even a new genre term: romantasy.
Romantasy novels range widely across the fantasy tropes. Fairies and dragons, sure. But you’ll also find demons, princesses, elves, witches, sorcerers, goblins. Everyday, average characters who discover their unexpected destinies. There are heroic journeys, intense battles, misplaced ancient artifacts. Fantastical creatures of course. Some of the stories build on European fairy tales, others from Greek or Norse or Asian mythologies.
Three main characteristics infuse the romantasy genre:
- A strong female protagonist
- A plot involving adventure and requiring courage
But not just any casual, barely-mentioned romance (we’re talking to you, Arwen and Aragorn!). The romantic escapades and struggles in romantasy are inescapably intertwined with the fantasy elements.
And don’t forget: they are spicy. In fact, the spice might just be the defining characteristic of romantasy.
(Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)
Already finished Maas’s and Yarrows’s books but want more romantasy? Here’s a list to keep you busy while you wait for the third book in the Empyrean series.
By Rebecca Ross
A war between Gods, letters that vanish through a wardrobe door, and a couple of magic typewriters: this YA romantasy is as quirky as it is hopeful.
By Jennifer L. Armentrout
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where nine cities survive, spread among a monster-filled wilderness, Armentrout’s new series builds on the concept of doomed love. Calista’s unfailing intuition has brought her a measure of power with the Baron of the city where she lives, but when it leads her to a lost prince, she knows he could destroy her.
By Nisha J. Tuli
After twelve years of torture by the Aurora King, Lor finally escapes—only to land in the Sun Queen Trials. This fight to the death determines who will be the next Queen, and Lor, whose main focus is revenge against the Aurora King, is an untrained Tribute. This fast-paced enemies-to-lovers story brings a complex protagonist to life.
By Hannah Whitten
Lore’s magic is forbidden. It draws its power from death while it ties her to Dellaire; to survive, she’s created an undergound life as a poison runner. When the Presque Mort discovers her power, she’s forced to use it under the service of the king. A love triangle develops as she struggles to survive in the opulent but debauched court.
By Mark Lawrence
Livira, an orphan from Dust, is brought to the great library at the center of the city, to work as a librarian. There she meets Evar, who’s been stuck inside the library his entire life. As the two characters’ stories and experiences weave them together, a question forms: what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? And will the wedge that difference drives destroy the city, or can two bibliophiles change this story’s course?
By Heather Fawcett
Emily Wilde, a Cambridge scholar and expert in the study of the fae, travels north to Scandinavia to document the area’s faeries and folklore in the encyclopedia she is compiling. Her research is interrupted by Wendell Bambleby, another scholar who wants to collaborate with her research. An obnoxiously charming scholar. Whimsical and more than a bit snarky, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries is an intelligent and gentle twist on romantasy’s tropes.
Written by Amy S. (Outreach)