by Marleigh Green
If you’re anything like me, and you spend way too much time on BookTok, you’ve
probably seen people talking about books that blend the genres of Romance and Fantasy.
Together, they form the power couple: Romantasy. But what exactly does it mean? What makes
a book straight up Fantasy versus Romantasy?
Romantasy is defined as a subgenre of Fantasy where there is a romance subplot that
exists alongside the Fantasy main plot. How intrinsic the romance is to the plot depends on the
book. For example, I wouldn’t label a book like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings a Romantasy,
because romance is such a minor aspect of the story, despite what the films might suggest. You
could make the argument that Melissa Caruso’s The Obsidian Tower qualifies, since a romance
subplot exists, even though the main story isn’t driven forward by it.
If you’re curious about reading books within the genre of Romantasy to see what it’s all
about, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a list with mini,
spoiler-free synopses of some popular Romantasy books currently on the market.
- Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
Two words: Dragon College. Fourth Wing centers around Violet, a young woman who is
forced by her ambitious mother to enter the cutthroat Basgiath War College. Most
students don’t make it out of training alive, and while Violet is underprepared for the
obstacles ahead of her, she possesses a great deal of cunning and grit. The college is full
of enemies eager to cut the weakest link, including the intimidatingly powerful student
Xaden Riorson, who has a dragon, more knives than you can count, and an ax to grind
with Violet. Fourth Wing is fast-paced and exciting to read, and certainly worth the
Romance Tropes: Forced proximity, enemies-to-lovers, shadow daddy, academic rivals.
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of ACOTAR, the wildly
popular Beauty & the Beast inspired Romantasy series that’s taken BookTok by storm.
When Feyre Archeron, an impoverished young woman forced to hunt for survival, slays a
wolf in the woods, she sets a series of events into motion that she never could have
predicted. The bill for this choice comes due, and Feyre is thrown into the world across
the wall, where the terrifying fae reside. She must learn how to adapt to life under the
beast-shifting lord of a beautiful manor, in a place whose enchantment hides the horror
lying underneath. Her humanity may be what saves or dooms her and the entire realm.
Romance tropes: Forced proximity, opposites attract, fairytale retelling, fish out of water.
- The Winter King by C.L. Wilson
A war, a curse, and a king named Wynter walk into a bar… C.L. Wilson’s The Winter
King centers on Khamsin Coruscate, an exiled princess of Summerlea, whose father
reviles her for her power to summon storms. When the king of Wintercraig defeats
Summerlea in war and demands one of the daughters of the king of Summerlea as his
bride, Kham is chosen and wed to the enemy king as punishment. Now, Kham must
survive a new court and melt the frozen heart of her new husband, who may be lost to a
terrible curse if she fails.
Romance tropes: Forced proximity, arranged marriage, fated lovers.
- Bonded by Thorns by Elizabeth Helen
A multi-POV, why choose, reverse harem, Bonded by Thorns is another retelling of
Beauty & the Beast, but involves four cursed fae princes instead of just one. When
Rosalina O’Connell’s, a bookstore clerk, eccentric father goes missing, she tracks him down in the fae realm at a thorn-infested castle called Castletree, where the cruel, icy-hearted high prince of Winter, Keldarion, takes her prisoner in exchange for her father’s freedom. Rosalina meets the other princes, one for each season, who are all cursed to turn into beasts at night until they find their mates. The armor-wearing, stoic high prince of spring, Ezryn, the swaggering and frequently shirtless high prince of summer, Dayton, and the kindly and timid high prince of autumn, Farron. But working to unravel their curse awakens something in Rosalina, who discovers that this world straight out of a book could destroy her, or turn her into something else entirely.
Romance tropes: Forced proximity, reverse harem, fated lovers, curse breaking.
- Blood Oath by Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare
It’s another dragon book! Except this one has dragon shifters. Ryn, like everyone else in her kingdom, has always lived under the oppression of the king and his blood-sworn dragon shifter, Lord Irrik. When Ryn is taken by the terrifying Lord Irrik to the castle, presumed to be a rebel, her death seems imminent. But there’s more to the frightening dragon shifter who captured her than meets the eye, and more to Ryn herself, which may just save her life.
Romance tropes: Fated lovers, mistaken identities, dark secret.