I originally came to romance through fantasy novels with what AAR would now describe as “strong romantic elements.” (Ok, yes, and X-Files fanfiction. It’s a strong overlap).
Back before YA got its own major marketing classification, a lot of us teens who were good readers but cognitively still kids found that speculative fiction was a good landing pad between kids’ books and Literature For Adults. My pivotal book was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, which I read in sixth grade and which will be on my keeper shelf until I die. There was action! There was romance! There was psychic-bonded dragon sex!
There was no going back.
At the risk of dating myself, other of the “greatest hits” of this era in my life included:
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Black Trillium by Andre Norton, Julian May, and Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix
Howl’s Moving Castle/The Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
By high school, I hit on Outlander, which segued into mainstream romance. I had found my people.
To this day, I love the worldbuilding thrill of a great fantasy combined with the comfort and satisfaction of a romance. After seeing some commenters talking about the challenge of finding good romantic fantasy/fantasty romances, I thought I’d share some of my and AAR’s more recent fantasy DIKs – and ask for recommendations from you!
If you’re using AAR’s new Power Search, first, try the “fantasy romance” category under “genre.” You can set the filter by grade, or you can check DIK reviews to only get books that received an A- and higher.
Tags may also help you find something you’ll enjoy, although certain tags may lead to books which aren’t pure fantasy (magic, for instance, may take you to urban fantasy as well, or dragons might be shapeshifters in a modern world instead of fantasy creatures). Here are some tags to get you started:
- Fantasy romance (a tag as well as a genre)
- Fairy (generally for fae-type stories)
- Fairy tale
- Shifter romance
Some of our favorite series:
Milla Vane’s A Gathering of Dragons series is one of our most beloved fantasy reads at AAR, with all three stories so far receiving DIKs. If you like the “sword and sorcery” barbarian adventure style fantasy, this is unmissable.
Draven writes a range of worlds. Her Wraith Kings series, which debuted with the opposites-attract Radiance, has two DIKs from us, and her Fallen Empire series has an A- and a B+. Well worth checking out!
The husband-wife team that writes as Ilona Andrews writes books we classify more as urban fantasy and paranormal romance than as fantasy. There is a lot of overlap in readership in these categories, though, so you may find something to love in one of their many series.
Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, about a Fey king (and cat shifter!) who finds his fated mate, rose from a B to a DIK here over the course of three books. All of us fantasy fans know the pain of series that start out strong and collapse, so it’s great to have this one on the right trajectory.
The Chronicles of the Warlands is a great and well-loved series here with two DIKs. The story of a city healer-princess enslaved (?) by a nomadic barbarian warlord is epic romantic fantasy at its finest.
Stand-alones we loved:
We’ve DIK’d Novik three times, twice for stand-alones. Her nuanced re-imaginings of fairy tales and intricately built worlds make for exceptional reads.
Beneath a Sapphire Sea is an unusual fantasy read starring merpeople, which our reviewer called her favorite book of all time.
By Magic Beguiledis a story of orphaned and separated twin fae princesses and their quests to save themselves and their kingdom.
In The Wind Witch, a mature widow captures a raider and makes him work to save her farm – but both of them are magical.
Books marketed as YA but well worth adult reads:
Tehlor Kay Mejia:
Like most of Romancelandia, you may know Thomas primarily for her historical romances, and if not those, for her Lady Sherlock mysteries. Her fantasy Elemental Trilogy, however, is spectacular. (We don’t have a review of the middle book, The Perilous Sea, but it’s possibly the best of the three! – Ed.) Is there any genre this woman can’t do?
Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days is a marvelous spin on a lesser-known fairy tale, Maid Maleen, set on a fantasy version of the Asian steppes.
I could keep going – but that’s what our database is for!
Now over to all of you. What fantasy romances can you recommend – recent or classics?
~ Caroline Russomanno
Interested in finding more books AAR Loves..?
Check out these posts:
AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part One (Military, law enforcement etc.)
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.