Read any Romantasy lately?

The two best selling fiction works at Amazon in 2023 were Fourth Wing and Iron Flame both of which are–and I so don’t love this mashup–romantasy. Also in the top 25 was A Court of Thorn and Roses–that whole series sold a boatload. If you look at just the best-sellers in romance, romantasy ruled on many a site.

OK, just to be clear, romantasy is a fantasy with romance in it. Which is fantasy romance, right? I confess I’m not sure I know JUST what it is. The person who, for me, has described it the best is Sarah from Smart Bitches who wrote in The Washington Post:

Like all fun indulgences such as brunch, Botox and Bennifer, romantasy is a portmanteau combining “romance” and “fantasy.” These books feature all the fantasy hallmarks, such as magic systems, mythology, high stakes and abundant worldbuilding, but the love story is central to the narrative. Romance gets top billing in part because “fantamance” is a terrible name, and because there’s a difference between a fantasy with romantic elements and a romantasy: In the latter, without the romance, the book falls apart.

The fastest way to tell if you’re looking at a romantasy is to note the title. Is there a common noun, followed by two that involve something terrestrial and something corporeal? A House of Earth and Blood”? A “Song of Blood and Stone”? You’ve got romantasy. You may also encounter a verb, followed by disaster and anger nouns (“Fall of Ruin and Wrath,” “King of Battle and Blood”), or an authority figure of weather (“Queen of Shadows”). 

I think I get it. It’s fantasy romance redefined by those who wish to sell more books. Cool. Maybe we need a new book type at AAR. Fantasy romance doesn’t cut it anymore.

We reviewed 22 fantasy romances romantasies (or is it romantasys?) in the past year. Four were DIKs: Fourth Wing, A Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon, Starling House, and Divine Rivals. But, using Sarah’s definition, I think only Divine Rivals and Fourth Wing count. Starling House is urban fantasy and has absolutely no dragons–there are monsters!–and the world building is local, not galactic. So, not romantasy? Yes romantasy? Only the marketers know for sure.

What do you think? How do you define romantasy? Is it a new thing or just fantasy romance repackaged. And do you like it? Not? And if so, what are your favorites?

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