10 Fantasy Books with the Best Romance Subplots

10 Fantasy Books with the Best Romance

Valentine’s day is coming up so let’s chat about my favourite romances in fantasy! It’s difficult to say exactly what makes something a fantasy romance or a fantasy with romance in. All of these books have amazing romances, but the plots are strong enough to stand on their own. Some of these romances are messy, and not necessarily the Happy Ever After you’d expect from a romance novel, but trust me when I say they’re worth it. I may also have been pretty lax on my definition of fantasy and mixed a couple of spooky books in too, this is my list, you can’t stop me. What I can promise are some swoon-worthy, fantastic reads.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

This book is an utterly gorgeous Indian-inspired fantasy with a fascinating magic system and lots of rebellion. Not to mention the sapphic slow burn romance between an exiled princess and a maidservant with a secret past.

The Jasmine Throne book cover has a brown woman sitting at the bottom of a staircase with plants.

Adult Fantasy

Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Prepare to fall in love with this magical reimagining of The Goose Girl fairytale with messy characters you can’t help but fall in love with. The main character and the love interest are demisexual so the romance is a slow burn with chaotic thief x investigator-to-friends-to-lovers vibes.

Little Thieves cover is illustrated and features a silhouette of a woman in red standing in front of two women in blue, plants, rubies, and a stag skull

Young Adult Fantasy

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This historical, literary fantasy reimagines the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, it’s a gorgeously written story of longing, and the romantic relationships will destroy you. Zhu brings forwards that complicated, sapphic goodness, but it’s the secondary protagonist, Ouyang, whose longing left me broken.

She Who Became The Sun book cover has the silhouette of an army below the sun.

Adult Fantasy

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Is this one technically a horror, yes. But it has speculative elements and I couldn’t leave it out. Summer Sons is a southern gothic full of messy queer masculinity, an ‘oh shit am I gay for my dead best friend’ realisation, and a relationship with tension you could cut with a knife.

Summer Sons book cover has two hands tangled in plants reaching for each other, one hand is skeletal

Adult Horror

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him. 

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun is a fantastic fantasy inspired by the indigenous cultures of the pre-Columbian Americas. It also features two of my favourite characters ever, Xiala a bisexual siren pirate, and Serapio, a young man destined to become the vessel of the Crow God. Forbidden, tragic romance, yes, please.

Black Sun has a face that merges into a crow in flight with an eclipsing sun.

Adult Fantasy

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

The Wolf and The Woodsman by Ava Reid

This magical Ancient Hungary & Jewish-inspired fantasy is absolutely phenomenal. Not to mention it has The Best enemies-to-lovers relationship, like, maybe ever. Évike and Gáspár are angsty, messy, and everything you could want from the trope. They make me feral, like, honestly, get a man who will get down on his knees for you.

The Wolf and The Woodman has a a silhouette of a person wearing a wolf cloak with bright patterns.

Adult Fantasy

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Lush, and full of rich mythology Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a fantastic read. The love triangle trope can be controversial, but trust me when I say this book knows how to do it well. With love interests it’s difficult to choose between, twists, betrayal, longing, and a heart that refuses to listen to reason, this book hits the spot.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess book cover has an intricate illustrated scene with flowers, a moon, and a figure.

Young Adult Fantasy

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

For The Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten

Fantasy with creepy, bloodthirsty woods will always win, and For The Wolf is no different. The gothic vibes in this book are immaculate especially when combined with a slow-burn monstrous romance filled with delightful tension. A dark fairytale that’ll take your breath away.

For The Wolf book cover has a silhouette of a woman in a red cloak against a forest background.

Adult Fantasy

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon

Okay, so maybe it’s rude to have the fourth book in a series on a list like this but trust me when I say the romance was immaculate. There’s nothing better than a romance that takes four books to build, and Samantha Shannon is not afraid to make you suffer for your ships. If you like long series, this fantasy-dystopian world filled with underground magic and intrigue should be on your list.

The Mask Falling has a reflective pattern that looks like a yellow flower.

Adult Fantasy

Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

A haunting, gothic fantasy with occult magic and a gorgeous, haunting atmosphere, The Death of Jane Lawrence is fantastic. You’ve got a marriage of convenience that both people are surprised turns romantic, a past filled with dark secrets, and an autistic protagonist. Things get weird, but the passionate intensity is breathtaking.

The Death of Jane Lawrence book cover has two hands with red string sewed between them.

Adult Fantasy Horror

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.

By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished. 

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