I’ve recently realized that I love romantic fantasy books. I love them because they’re not quite romance books, as the romance isn’t the main plot, but they do have some swoonworthy romantic shenanigans here and there. I also love that they’re usually slow-burn romances set in amazing and magical worlds. So for me, these books have the perfect mix of magical setting and plot, PLUS a romantic and often angsty plot line. They’re just *chef’s kiss* .
Small disclaimer, the books featured here are romantic fantasy, not fantasy romance and there’s a small but significant difference. Fantasy romance is a sub-genre of romance, while romantic fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. Indie author A.J. Lancaster explains it quite well as some books tend to lie in the gray area between the two. So this list has fantasy books that feature romance (some more heavily than others), but that don’t rely on a love story to move the plot forward. If you want to check out some fantasy romance recs, we have some must reads!
So without further ado, here are eight great romantic fantasy reads.
8 Great Romantic Fantasy Reads
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
CW: torture, abuse, and animal abuse.
Princess Alyrra is on her way to her betrothed’s kingdom when she’s ambushed by Valka. Valka, her former handmaiden and a sorceress with a grudge, then casts a spell to switch their bodies. She leaves Alyrra behind, unable to tell the truth, and takes her place. In her new life, Alyrra still manages to fall for her betrothed, the Prince Kestrin, and learns about the deep injustice that haunts the kingdom. And so she must face a choice: return to court and save Kestrin’s life or sink back into the shadows and live as the royal goose girl for the rest of her days. Thorn is a wonderful retelling of the fairytale “Goose Girl.” It focuses on Alyrra’s story, her growth, and how she finds confidence in her voice to take a stand. The romance lies on the sidelines, but it’s slow-burn and sweet!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
The Nameless One, an ancient evil dragon, is rising again. Some believe Sabran Berethnet is the key to his prison. Sabran is facing constant assassination attempts, so Ead, a mage, infiltrates the Berethnet court to protect her. Across the sea, Tané is closer to becoming a dragonrider than ever before, until she is faced with a choice. All of these characters, separated by miles but also by ideologies, must work together to defeat The Nameless One before he rises. Priory is a more classic fantasy story with compelling characters and a fan of viewpoints that allow you to see the history of its world in very different ways. Although it is quite a large brick, at 800+ pages, it’s full of magic, complex world-building, and a beautiful slow-burn F/F romance that makes it absolutely worth reading.
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
Silver in the Wood is a short novella retelling “The Green Man” and it’s one of the more romance-heavy books on this list. It follows Tobias Finch, who lives deep in Greenhollow. He was human once, but now he’s part of the forest. He lives a quiet life until a folklorist named Henry Silver shows up. As their bond strengthens, a threat knocks on their door. The Lord of Summer has come and Henry and Tobias must protect their home. Silver is a soft, quiet book with an enchanting atmosphere that will suck you right into the story.
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
It’s 1872 and Celine Rousseau has fled Paris. New Orleans is now her safe haven, until bodies drained of blood start to appear. One of them is discovered in the lair of La Cour des Lions, a group that rules the underworld of New Orleans. Now Celine can’t trust anyone, including Sébastien. He’s the leader of La Cour, and Celine has growing feelings for him. A murder mystery plot ensues in which Celine and Michael, a detective, have to find the killer. And so Celine finds herself in the middle of an age-old feud with vampires, and a price too high to pay, even for love. Ahdieh writes a great, atmospheric story about creatures that go bump in the night, with a forbidden romance to make you swoon.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Mia Corvere’s father was executed, her brother taken, and her mother thrown in prison. As a Darkin, she has power over shadows. But she doesn’t know how to control the full extent of her powers just yet. So Mia joins The Red Church, a school of assassins. She’s intent on destroying those who destroyed her family, and to do that she needs to survive. Survive her classes, her teachers, the killer on the loose, and her initiation. And there’s something darker lurking in the shadows, waiting to topple the whole congregation. Nevernight is a dark, gory book. With unique world-building and narrator, it is a harrowing tale about family and betrayal. The romance, although smutty, isn’t a big part of the story. But it does provide some reprieve from the scheming and murdering going on at all times.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
Witchmark tells the story of Miles Singer, a doctor and war veteran with a secret. He works at a hospital, hiding the fact that he has healing powers. Lest his family finds out and force him to become his sister’s battery. But one day a poisoned man, accompanied by a stranger, asks Miles to find his killer. It all ties in with the mysterious, violent, and homicidal rages that some of the other veterans are experiencing. So now Miles has to team up with the stranger, Tristan, to solve the mystery. C.L. Polk delivers a compelling mystery within a magical society and an angsty will-they-won’t-they romance that makes your heart swoon.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
This is a Regency era novel with magic, fairies, and court intrigue. Zacharias Wythe, a freed man who was formerly enslaved, is named the Sorcerer Royal. He is the magical protector of England, and he’s charged with finding why the nation’s magic is being drained. Then there’s Prunella Gentleman, an orphan who is tired of the school and tries to suppress her magic instead of letting it grow. The two become unlikely allies as they work together to solve what exactly is happening with magic. The beauty of this story doesn’t lie in its romance, though it is there, but in the ways that the author deals with diversity and discrimination, making for a complex fantasy story that is worth reading.
Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh
Elena Deveraux is a vampire hunter. She was hired by a dangerous creature that no mortal wants attention from. The Archangel Raphael. A being so old and powerful that has grown distant from human matters, even if he has to rule those humans. Elena is good, but she fears she’s not good enough for this job, as she has to hunt an archangel gone bad. So she’s thrown in the middle of a paranormal murder mystery that could destroy her. Singh writes a unique and compelling story with amazing world building and a slow-burn romance full of tension that will make you fall in love with paranormal romances all over again.