Truthfully, we’re living in a golden age of fantasy right now. More diverse voices than ever before are writing in this genre, and as a result, the range of stories hitting shelves runs the gamut from multi-part epics to diamond-sharp novellas. But some of the most popular stories in fantasy today are those that mix their magical worldbuilding with a dash of romance. (After all, it’s the ultimate in escapism isn’t it?)
From love triangles to arranged marriages and enemies that become something much more, here are fifteen of our favorite fantasy titles that come with a little love on the side. And whether you like your fantasy seasoned with just a dash of relationship drama or spiced up and steamy, there should be something on this list for you.
The A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas
Titles in the Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruin, A Court of Frost and Starlight, and A Court of Silver Flames
Though author Sarah J. Maas has several lush and action-packed romantic fantasy series to choose from, her A Court of Thorns and Roses series earns a spot on this list thanks to its intricate world-building, feisty heroine, wide array of fascinating supporting characters, and spicy love scenes.
Although the first novel in the series is technically a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in which the huntress Feyre is taken to the magical faerie lands beyond the wall after accidentally killing a fae in disguise, Maas’s world ultimately expands to include multiple seasonal courts with their own hierarchies and political intrigues, a deeply compelling love triangle, and one of the rare instances when the series’ seemingly endgame pairing changes course midstream, and it actually all works.> Comprised of five books to date, its most recent entry is A Court of Silver Flames, which follows the story—and steamy romance with a Fae warrior general—of Feyre’s sister, Nesta.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Titles in the Series: N/A
Many people may not be aware of the fact that the classic 1980s film The Princess Bride is actually an adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel, originally titled The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the “Good Parts” Version.
While the book also follows the romance between Buttercup and Westley, complete with swashbuckling adventure, near-miss rescues, and, of course, true love. All the characters we loved from the film—particularly Buttercup herself, as well as Inigio and Fezzik—are fleshed out even further than we saw onscreen. But it’s the sly, biting commentary and swoony quotes about love and romance regularly inserted by the book’s narrator that makes this version feel like something entirely new, even for fans (cough cough yours truly cough) who have seen the movie countless times. Goldman’s book was meta before meta was cool.
The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Titles in the Series: N/A
A beautifully written medieval set fantasy that will likely appeal to those who have enjoyed The Witcher, Amy Harmon’s The Bird and the Sword features a feisty heroine who is rendered mute by her mother to muzzle the power she holds, the painfully hot king with secrets of his own whose prisoner she essentially becomes, and the sweet romance that blossoms between them.
Harmon deftly manages to make the story’s initial captive/captor dynamic into a relationship of equals and set it in the middle of a complex story of political intrigue and magical persecution. Harmon’s prose is especially lovely, with a surprisingly deft vein of humor running throughout.
The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
Titles in the Series: The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch.
To be clear Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy definitely skews more fantasy than romance, what with its heavy incorporation of elements of medieval Russian history and folklore, its complex political intrigues, and its all-too-real inclusion of threats of sexual violence and menace toward its female characters. (Though those horrific events are handled with more nuance and care than in many books in this genre.)
The relationship that develops between Vasya, a feral, fierce girl who can see spirits, and the frost king Morozko is subtle and honest, a fresh spin on the age-old story of a beautiful young maiden who falls in love with a monster, that ultimately manages to feel like one of equal, thanks to the act that it never forgets that he is ancient and she is not. Beautifully written and boasting gorgeous prose, this is a story that’s thoroughly romantic from its first pages, even if there’s not a lot of kissing in it.
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Titles in the Series: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, Go Tell the BeesThat I am Gone
Even people who haven’t read the books are probably familiar with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander thanks to the hit Starz drama of the same name, but the sprawling series of novels are even more addictive and romantic. Mixing steamy love scenes, rich historical details, exciting adventure, and time travel, there’s something for many kinds of readers to enjoy here.
And since the novels (as well as ancillary novellas and spinoffs) are set to continue past the TV show’s final season in 2024, they offer a way for fans to continue following the stories of Claire Beauchamp, Jamie’s Fraser, and the rest of the Outlander clan.
The Wilderwood Duology by Hannah Whitten
Titles in the Series: For the Wolf, For the Throne
Hannah Whitten mixes folklore, fairytale and horror elements in this fresh and original fantasy duology that’s one part Little Red Riding Hood retelling, one part Snow White remix, and one part something entirely new.
Set in a royal kingdom that must continually sacrifice its second-born daughters to the Wolf of the Wood in order to keep the realm safe from monsters, the story follows Second Daughter Redarys’s journey into the Wilderood in its first installment and her elder sister Nevereh’s descent into the Shadowlands in its second. Both halves of this duology weave themes of sacrifice, loyalty, love, and duty together, topped with a pair of deliciously slow-burn romances that are downright magical to watch unfold.
The All Souls Series by Deborah Harkness
Titles in the Series: A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life comprise the All Souls Trilogy, which is about Matthew and Diana’s relationship. Sequel Time’s Convert predominantly follows the story of All Souls’ supporting characters Marcus and Phoebe, though Matthew and Diana make appearances.
The forbidden romance between vampire Matthew Clairmont and witch Diana Bishop is the driving force behind this supernatural fantasy series, which boasts appealing characters and a complex hierarchy of otherworldly creatures. When Diana summons a bewitched alchemical manuscript from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, she draws the attention of all manner of beings—including Mathew—who want the secrets it contains. That the two sworn enemies fall in love is the least surprising thing about this story which involves complex supernatural politics, time travel, and magical mysteries involving Diana’s abilities.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenger
Titles in the Series: N/A
Although the central premise of Audrey Niffenger’s 2003 contemporary novel The Time Traveler’s Wife is more than a bit problematic—the issues of consent and power are naturally somewhat murky when we’re talking about an adult time traveler who first meets his wife when she’s just six years old—-the story still carries the magical qualities of a fairytale.
A seemingly predestined meeting that both leads to true love and can sometimes feel an awful lot like a curse: Henry knows elements of their future while Clare doesn’t, his time-traveling sickness means he vanishes in and out of their life together at random, and they both withhold crucial pieces of information from one another at various points for what often feels like no reason at all. And yet, their love for one another is palpable and real, and you’re a stronger person than I am if you can get through this book without ugly crying.
The Blood and Ash Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Titles in the Series: From Blood and Ash, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, The Crown of Gilded Bones, The War of Two Queens, with two more related titles (A Soul of Ash and Blood and Visions of Flesh and Blood releasing in 2023.
Author Jennifer L. Armentrout has written dozens of books in the young adult, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary romance genres, but it’s her From Blood and Ash series that has skyrocketed her into the stratosphere of fantasy romance authors and made her a household name on BookTok.
The sprawling high fantasy story features incredibly detailed worldbuilding, plenty of spice, and multiple shocking twists as it follows the story of Poppy, the Maiden chosen by the Gods to help her people reach the Ascension, a mysterious ceremony that anoints the new royals of the court. As such, her life is incredibly, restricted and controlled and she is allowed to get close to very few people, save for one of her super handsome young guards named Hawke. Slow-burn romance, political intrigue, and lots of drama ensue.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Titles in the Series: N/A
Whimsical and charming, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust follows the story of Tristan, a young man from the village of Wall, which borders the magical realm of Faerie. He promises to retrieve a fallen star for the lovely-but-dim girl he’s been crushing on, but when he discovers tha star is actually a young woman named Yvaine, the two find themselves sucked into a wild adventure, and falling in love at the same time.
Gaiman’s tale has faerie markets, scheming witches, feuding princes, a murder plot, quippy diagloue and tons of heart. It’s a story that shines like a star itself.
The Dragon Heart Legacy Series by Nora Roberts
Titles in the Series: The Awakening, The Becoming, The Choice
Bestselling author Nora Roberts is a household name in the world of romance, with over 250 books to her credit. And while her Dragon Heart Legacy series may not boast quite the same level of intricate world-building or complex political plotting as some other tales on this list, her straightforward, swoon-worthy love stories are more than worth the price of admission.
The lush, charming Dragon’s Heart series follows the story of Bree, a mortal woman who travels to Ireland and discovers she herslef hails from a magical bloodline. The story moves back and forth between the human world and the ancient magical world of the fae as Bree attempts to uncover her hertitage, introducing her to witches, mermaids, and, of course, hunky warriors.)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Titles in the Series: N/A, though Novik’s Spinning Silver has similar romantic folklore vibes
A charming fairytale-esque standalone that follows the story of Agnieszka, a girl chosen by the grumpy, powerful wizard known as Dragon to come to live with him in his tower as payment for protecting her village from the terrifying and corrupted Wood that’s steadily encroaching on their kingdom. This cycle has been repeated for as long as anyone can remember, and each girl the Dragon has chosen in the past has been special in some way. It turns out Agnieska does have magical ability, and the law demands she be trained to continue the seemingly endless battle against evil.
The Dragon is, unsurprisingly, not a particularly warm or patient teacher, but the relationship that slowly develops between the wizard and his new pupil is beautifully rendered. Layered and thoughtful, it grows organically along with Agnieszka’s abilities and character without ever overshadowing her purpose, and her failures and successes in both magic and personal connection are deeply and wonderfully human. This is the sort of fairytale where the romance is definitely secondary to the larger adventure at hand, but our heroine’s strengths are absolutely enhanced (both literally and metaphorically) by having Sarkan at her side.
The Bridge Kingdom Series by Danielle L. Jensen
Titles in the Series: The Bridge Kingdom, The Traitor Queen, The Inadequate Heir, The Calm Before the Storm, and more to come.
Danielle Jensen is extremely talented at building fascinating and unexpected fantasy worlds—her equally enthralling Maledition trilogy is literally set in a world populated by troll princes—and filling them with tons of messy, compelling characters.
Her Bridge Kingdom series is more overtly (and probably more traditionally) romantic, featuring a badass warrior princess, a well-plotted marriage of convenience and a thrilling enemies-to-lovers romance and a sweeping setting in which the fate of kingdoms is at stake.
The Grishaverse Series by Leigh Bardudo
Titles in the Series: Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, Ruin and Rising, Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, King of Scars, Rule of Wolves
Leigh Bardugo’s sprawling series of interconnected Grishaverse novels—a Grisha can manipulate different forms of matter, depending on the specialty of their gif—features fantastic worldbuilding, great supporting characters, and virtually every romance trope you could ask for.
From childhood best friends who become something more, a grisha and a grisha hunter who fall for one another, and a smoldering Bad Boy that none of us should want to have anything to do with, but all kind of do, there’s truly something for everyone. Throw in some thrilling adventure and devastating emotional twists and this is a sprawling YA fantasy series that will appeal to all ages.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Titles in the Series: N/A, though Shannon’s A Day of Fallen Night technically takes place in the same world. (Just centuries earlier.)
A sweeping, sprawling fantasy of the best and most epic sort, Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree is a story about the looming threat of a legendary prophecy and the (largely female) rulers and sorceresses who rise up to meet the darkness it spawns.
Mixing Eastern and Western cultural traditions and featuring everything from epic battles and the threat of a magical plague to political intrigue and a hidden school of warrior mages, everything about this story is densely plotted, with seemingly disparate plot threads delicately woven through one another in ways that reference a massive history that Shannon has clearly given an immense amount of thought to. Plus, the sapphic love story at its center—between a beleaguered queen who has never felt as though her life is her own and fears the childbirth her duty will force her to undergo and the sorceress turned spy charged with protecting her life—is not just a thoroughly satisfying slow build, but one that literally unites different factions in a war to save the world.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.