Looking for your next romantic fantasy read? We here at Romantic Fantasy Shelf have put together a list of our favorites and the most promising candidates from our TBRs, in no particular order, just for you! To help those of you supporting indie authors, we’ve gone ahead and marked those with #indie. Enjoy!
1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
2. Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Series Book 1) by Juliet Marillier
3. Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy Book 1) by Jacqueline Carey
4. Blood Oath (The Darkest Drae Book 1) by Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare #indie
5. Fantasy of Frost (The Tainted Accords Book 1) by Kelly St. Clare #indie
6. Air Awakens (Air Awakens Series Book 1) by Elise Kova #indie
7. Blade & Rose (Blade and Rose Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur #indie
8. Mother of Shadows (The Chosen Book 1) by Meg Anne #indie
9. Stolen Songbird: Malediction Trilogy Book One by Danielle L. Jensen #indie
10. The Priestess and the Dragon (Dragon Saga Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews #indie
11. Phoenix Unbound (The Fallen Empire Book 1) by Grace Draven
12. Mermaid Bride by J.M. Butler #indie
13. Oath Taker: Kingdom of Runes Book 1 by Audrey Grey #indie
14. A Thief & a Gentlewoman (Counterfeit Contessa Book 1) by Clare Sager #indie
15. Fortune Favors the Cruel (Dark Maji Book 1) by Kel Carpenter & Lucinda Dark #indie
16. Betrayed (Magi Rising Book 1) by Raye Wagner #indie
17. Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World Book 1) by Alisha Klapheke #indie
18. Summernight (Bridge of Legends Book 1) by Sarah K. L. Wilson #indie
19. Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha Book 1) by Tasha Suri
20. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
21. A Bond of Venom and Magic (The Goddess and the Guardians Book 1) by Karen Tomlinson #indie
22. Feast of the Mother (Witch of the Lake Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur & Nicolette Andrews #indie
23. The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S. A. Chakraborty
24. To Claim a King (Age of Gold Book 1) by May Sage #indie
25. Seas of Crimson Silk (Burning Empire Book 1) by Emma Hamm #indie
26. Sarya’s Song by Kyra Halland #indie
27. Kill the Queen (A Crown of Shards Novel Book 1) by Jennifer Estep
28. The Rose Crown by Catharine Glen #indie
29. The Shadow and The Sun (A Militess and Mage Novel Book 1) by Monica Enderle Pierce #indie
30. Heart of Dragons (Chronicles of Pelenor Book 1) by Meg Cowley #indie
31. Beneath the Mists (Of Astral and Umbral Book 1) by Bonnie L. Price #indie
32. Diviner’s Prophecy (Diviner’s Trilogy Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews #indie
33. Tree of Ages (The Tree of Ages Series Book 1) by Sara C. Roethle #indie
34. Dragon Storm (Heritage of Power Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie
35. Witch Song by Amber Argyle #indie
36. Identity Revealed (The Tue-Rah Chronicles) by J.M. Butler #indie
37. Frostbound Throne: Song of Night (Court of Sin Book 1) by May Sage #indie
38. Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1) by Anne Bishop
39. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
40. The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air Book 1) by Holly Black
41. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas
42. Sky Keeper (The Drowning Empire Book 1) by S.M. Gaither #indie
43. Balanced on the Blade’s Edge (Dragon Blood Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie
44. Destiny (Experimental Heart Book 1) by Shannon Pemrick #indie
45. Kingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer Book 1) by Maxym M. Martineau
46. The Mark of the Tala (The Twelve Kingdoms Book 1) by Jeffe Kennedy
47. Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings Book 1) by Kyra Halland #indie
48. Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie
49. Ishtar’s Blade (Ishtar’s Legacy Book 1) by Lisa Blackwood #indie
50. Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom Book 1) by Rowenna Miller
51. Striking Midnight (Fairy Tale Lies, Spies, and Assassins Book 1) by Jennifer Ellision #indie
52. Prisoner of Silk: A Dark Fairy Tale Retelling (Queen of the Sun Palace Book 1) by Lidiya Foxglove #indie
53. Trial by Fae (Dragon’s Gift: The Dark Fae Book 1) by Linsey Hall #indie
54. Shadows for a Princess (Trials of Terraina, Book 1) by Vivienne Savage and Dominique Kristine #indie
55. Marked by Dragon’s Blood (Return of the Dragonborn Book 1) by N.M. Howell #indie
56. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) by N.K. Jemisin
57. Star of the Morning (A Novel of the Nine Kingdoms Book 1) by Lynn Kurland
58. Red Winter (The Red Winter Trilogy Book 1) by Annette Marie
Which of these have you read? Which others would you recommend?
Reverse harem fantasy authors have often been inspired by the wealth of folklore and mythology across many cultures, both current and ancient. Who wouldn’t love to have a harem of immortal gods who are conjuring magic all day to please their ladies?
However, when it comes to ancient Egypt, things get a little tricky. The fascination with gods, immortality and magic is immense and mostly true, but there’s a lot more to Egyptian myth than just that.
As an Egyptian myself, and a fantasy author, I find that Egyptian myth in particular has a very wide range of conceptions, or more likely misconceptions, that varies from one culture and country to another. The main reason behind that is the mystery of the ancient Egyptian culture. You can never be sure of the authenticity of Egyptian mythology unless you have serious knowledge of hieroglyphs, have read tons of Egyptology books written by Egyptians or reliable Egyptologists, or have actually been to Egypt.
That kind of mystery, which is the main element of the Egyptian mythology appeal, remains one of the main reasons behind the underrepresentation of this fascinating mythology in fantasy books. And when an author has the courage to dive in and use it, it often comes as clichéd, superficial or full of misconceptions that would induce several eye rolls, especially from a local like me.
I’m sure most, if not all, of you have seen Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, and let me tell you one thing. There is no waterfront by the pyramids, and Jordan is definitely not right across from there!
These details may seem trivial to someone who has no knowledge of Egypt or its history, but to someone who does, it makes all the difference. The details are what make or break a story based on mythology.
Now, I’m going to list a few misconceptions that I came across while Seratis Daughter of the Sun, my latest Egyptian Reverse Harem, was being beta read and reviewed.
Ancient Egyptians didn’t have a Mother of Gods
Yes, we did. The first mother of gods in all history, Isis, is a core goddess in Egyptian mythology and religion. I can’t even begin to list the stories and myths associated with her.
Ancient Egyptians didn’t believe in heaven and hell
Yes, we did. Ancient Egypt is the first civilization that had acknowledged a one unified god for all way before Moses was born. And even before the unity, Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife that INCLUDED a horrific journey in the underworld where one would be judged in the end and sent to either eternal paradise or eternal hell.
Ancient Egyptians were all dark-skinned and mostly black
No. Egypt has always been an African country. That doesn’t automatically make us black when it comes to skin color. And that goes all the way back in time and history and not just nowadays due to racial mix.
Two pieces of evidence support this. 1) The paintings on the temples and papyri. The colors orange, brown and rarely black are used to paint various Egyptians, royalty or otherwise, which meant black skinned Egyptians existed but they were not the majority of people back then. 2) The great civil war between the North and the South. The War of the Two Regions as we call it. This civil war kept going for years until Mina/Narmar, the Northen King (Pharoah) won the war and united the two regions. He did so by giving the South (who were black-skinned) Nubia, a part of Upper Egypt, to live and rule as their governorate, and yet remain under the Kingdom and Narmar’s reign. The Nubians remain till today the only exclusive black-skinned nation in Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians only had lotuses for flowers
Let me start by saying lotuses grew over the Nile water with zero effort from people. They weren’t exactly planted. They just grew. That’s why Ancient Egyptians gave them significance and associated them with rebirth. That doesn’t mean in any way we didn’t plant other flowers! Some were planted locally, others planted with imported seeds such as Sunflowers, a favorite of the nation that worshiped the sun. Yes, Egypt traded with other countries. We have the River Nile. A lot of trading was done on its banks.
The same applies to certain foods, animals and material.
All royalty believed in immortality, magic, and divinity
I know this is the core of Egyptian mythology, and it is true. However, this is not all. Some kings didn’t believe in their divine birth right such as Akhnaton. Many Egyptians knew immortality is only possible in the afterlife. And there are a lot more secrets in Egyptian myth.
These are just a few examples of misconceptions I came upon. The list can’t be contained in one article.
Here are some interesting and a little funny facts about the mysterious civilization:
Royal brothers and sisters used to marry to keep the bloodline pure. BUT only if they are half-siblings. If they come from the same parents, it’s forbidden.
Homosexuality existed. It was fine with women. With men, tops weren’t ridiculed, only bottoms.
Virginity had no importance. Infidelity for a married woman was a shameful sin.
Thank you so much for reading. Next time you delve into an Egyptian fantasy book, I hope some of the misconceptions are cleared for you. I certainly hope there are more Egyptian fantasy books to come every day. Here’s one to start today, and it’s free with a kindle unlimited subscription:
N. J. Adel, the author of Seratis, Her Royal Harem, Love Off Camera and The Night Minutes series, is a cross genre author. From chocolate to books and book boyfriends, she likes it DARK and SPICY. From dark women’s fiction and romance to sci-fi and fantasy. Bikers, rock stars, dirty Hollywood heartthrobs, smexy guards and men who serve. From steamy sexy short stories to full-length literary books. She loves it all. She teaches English by day and writes fun smut by night with her German Shepherd, Leo.
N.J. is the author of the Egyptian Mythology Fantasy Seratis.
My name is NOT Seratis. I am Queen Meha. The rightful ruler of the Kingdom of Egypt. A scientist. Human. I was never her. Seratis, the evil Goddess of Sleep who puts men under her spell to compel them to do whatever she commands. It was all a lie. A myth my half-brother created to make my own people hate me so he could usurp my throne.
Lucky for me, I’ve found a way to preserve the living like my ancestors did with the dead. To escape the war my brother has waged on me, I enter my tomb to be mummified, alive, for a hundred years. With my guard, my apprentice and my maid. Only to wake when my half-brother is long gone and forgotten.
But when we wake up, reality as we know it crashes down around us. Instead of rising after a hundred years, it was a thousand. We haven’t aged a day, and we now possess inhumanly senses, strength and healing powers…among other things. As if that is not shocking enough, now I know my half-brother isn’t dead yet, and he’s going to wake just like us.
This time I won’t escape. I will fight. And I must find a way to win the war I’ve lost before. Dead or alive.
Full with Egyptian mythology, fantasy, wild romance and sizzling scenes, Seratis Daughter of the Sun makes the perfect escapism for fantasy lovers, Egyptian historical myths fans, and spicy paranormal romance readers. Get your copy of SERATIS DAUGHTER OF THE SUN, the first book of the Egyptian Mythology Fantasy SERATIS THE GODDESS OF EGYPT.
You love a good romance. We all do, that’s why we’re here! When two characters fall in love and overcome adversity: nothing better! Sometimes there’s another love interest, and the infamous triangle emerges: who will she choose?
With the genre exploding over the last year, there are tons of books to choose from spanning all genres. But don’t worry, romantic fantasy fans. I’ve got you covered. Here are five great fantasy books that will draw you into the world of reverse harem romance.
Note: All books listed below are suitable for ages 18+.
Power Of Five By Alex Lidell
The Story: Orphaned Lera is magically bonded to four fae warriors in search of their “fifth”, who to their disbelief turns out to be a mere mortal woman. It must be a mistake, right? But as their relationships develop, they realize Lera is so much more than they initially believed.
Why You Should Read It: This one is for all you fae lovers! Four hot fae guys that are fated to be with Lera, each with a distinct personality. River is the serious leader of the group who rejects Lera from the get go. Coal is the cold, brooding one who maintains his distance. Shade is the broken wolf shifter in mourning after the death of his twin. Tye is the flirtatious, playful one who is totally on board with Lera joining them. They each approach their new relationship with Lera differently, some more willing than others, which affects the dynamic of the group and how the romance unfolds. I found something to love about all the guys, individually and as a group. Being fantasy romance, the story focuses on the relationships, with a secondary plot revolving around fae politics and the greater consequences of Lera joining their group.
The “Power of Five” series is complete at four books. They are relatively short, quick reads ending on cliffhangers that are intended to draw you into the next installment. An easy, fun series to step into the world of reverse harem fantasy.
Stroke The Flame By Elizabeth Briggs
The Story: After she is struck by lightning, four handsome men from Kira’s dreams appear in the flesh, revealing they’ve been chosen as the new elemental dragons — and she’s their mate. As the newly assembled five come to grips with their destinies, they must learn to trust each other and work together as a team if they have any hope of overthrowing the tyrannical Black Dragon.
Why You Should Read It: First of all, dragons. But if that’s not enough… One of the aspects I love most about this series is that neither Kira nor any of the guys know each other before the start of the book. This means there’s a focus on building trust, accepting their new roles, and coming to terms with the fated bonds between them. There are secrets, hints of jealousy, conflicting motivations, and even reluctance — after all, none of them had a choice, including Kira. Each of the guys represents a different element and has a distinct personality: Jasin, the cocky soldier (Fire), Auryn, the scholarly prince (Air), Slade, the protective blacksmith (Earth), and Reven, the cold, mysterious assassin (Water). To unlock each of their elemental dragon forms and share their power with Kira, they must travel to each of the four elemental temples spread across the realm and, ahem, get it on. The promise of sexy times at the end of the books is definitely a plus!
The “Her Elemental Dragons” series is complete at four books. Each is a complete story focusing on the progression of Kira’s relationship with her men. These books are definitely hard to put down and are a solid representation of the genre.
Dragon’s Gift By Jada Storm And May Sage
The Story: Dareena Sellis is a small town nobody, until a dragon huntress chooses her to be the Dragon’s Gift: the one woman chosen every hundred years to bear children for the future dragon king. There’s only one catch — instead of one, there are three sons vying for the throne…and Dareena.
Why You Should Read It: Do hot and steamy scenes with three dragon shifter brothers sound appealing to you? Dareena starts from nothing and is suddenly thrust into the politics of Dragonfell, pursued by three virile men, and given the impossible task of having to choose just one. Drystan is the aloof, responsible leader, Lucyan is the flirtatious, seductive strategist, and Alistair is the warm, kind-hearted soldier. The focus of the story is mainly on the relationships and the sex, and there’s plenty of it right in the first book.
The “Dragon’s Gift” series is complete at three books. It’s a pretty fast burn with instalust: there’s not a lot of relationship development up front. So hop aboard for the dragons, stay for the steam!
The Fifth Knight By Claire Luana And Jesikah Sundin
The Story: To save her family from a rival clan, Fionna, a warrior in her own right, sets out to steal Excalibur from King Arthur himself. Arthur and his closest knights are seeking their fifth who, as foretold by Merlin, will break Morgan la Fay’s curses over the land. They certainly don’t expect the fierce and formidable Fionna to be that knight.
Why You Should Read It: Fans of Arthurian lore will appreciate the research that went into bringing Arthur and his knights to life. All of the characters are well developed and feel genuine in their interactions and their motivations. There is a strong brotherhood among the men and Fionna’s joining to their group challenges that bond. King Arthur is a man of honor, caring first and foremost for his kingdom. Galahad is the big, charming Norseman and rock of the group. Percival is the youngest and must remain celibate due to his role with the Grail search. Lancelot is cold and standoffish, for he believes any involvement with Fionna on his part will ignite the third curse cast by Morgan la Fay. Fionna herself is strong, not only physically, but in her convictions and reasons for her actions: she’s conflicted and it pains her knowing she must betray Arthur to save her family. But what is borne from the betrayal is far more than any of them expected.
The “Knights of Caerleon” series is complete at three books. If you’re looking for a slow to medium burn romance steeped in historical lore with plenty of steamy, more explicit scenes, you’ll find all of that and more here.
Bloodlust By Auryn Hadley
The Story: Salryc Luxx, a purebred Iliri, joins the Black Blades, an elite military force of strong, super-skilled Ilirian crossbreeds. Humans want to exterminate all Iliri, yet at the same time fear their predatory nature. Sal and the Blades form a strong bond, but that could all be destroyed if the enemy succeeds in their plans. And they are closing in…
Why You Should Read It: There are not many true epic fantasy reverse harem series out there, and this is, simply put, one of the best. After being freed from slavery, Sal was trained to be a ruthless fighter, which enables her to join the Black Blades. She must reconcile the prejudices she faced in her past with her current acceptance by the men, slowly forming deep, strong relationships with each of them. They need to be strong, for they work together as a unit and must be able to rely on each other in battle. Because the Blades are half-Iliri (unknown to the rest of military command), they will all succumb eventually to their race’s innate bloodlust, which can only be quenched by sex, lending some explicit scenes between Sal and her men. While the relationships play a major role, the overarching war for steel (and the secondary aim of both using and eradicating all Iliri), provides the drivers for the story.
The “Rise of the Iliri” series is on-going as of this posting, with eight books published and the ninth forthcoming in July 2019. If you’re looking for something big to sink your teeth into, with plenty of action, worldbuilding, great characters, slow long-term burning romance, deep bonds between the characters, and explicit sex scenes, then Hadley’s sweeping epic military fantasy is a must read.
About the Author
Catharine Glen is a romantic fantasy author residing in New England. Her favorite kinds of stories take place in faraway worlds with unforgettable characters, plenty of romance, adventure, magic and the supernatural. She tends to get immersed in all things Japanese, reading, Lego, and possibly consumes a bit too much coffee and tea. She’s also a wife to a loving husband and a mom to two children and a spirited Jack Russell.
Catharine’s forthcoming reverse harem romantic fantasy series, The Shadowed World Saga, is anticipated in late 2019.
Catharine is also the author of the romantic fantasy novel The Rose Crown.
Elite soldier Marian serves and protects the royal family—a responsibility she does not take lightly. But when she thwarts an assassination attempt on the king, she unwittingly becomes a prime suspect. Worse, she is left with a terrible, pulsing wound and vile, intrusive thoughts that are not her own. Now, the mysterious cult behind the attack has targeted her, and Marian soon learns of their goal to restore a devastating relic: the legendary Rose Crown.
Former mercenary Henryk has vowed to prevent the restoration of the Rose Crown at any cost. When he encounters Marian, he discovers the terrifying truth of her involvement—and the mortal danger they both face. Drawn together by the very thing that could destroy them, Henryk and Marian must forge a bond of trust—before it’s too late.
Can Marian battle against the ancient darkness consuming her soul, or will it utterly destroy them both?
Sometimes a book draws you in so completely that you only remember you meant to go to bed hours ago after you emerge, blinking, from the very last page. I mean, look at that opening sentence:
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.
How can you possibly stop there? It’s clearly necessary to keep reading at least as long as it takes to find out that the Dragon is a wizard who lives in a tower, and that he takes a village girl to serve him every ten years. And once you’re that far in, well, if you’re me you won’t be able to stop, even if it is after midnight. Who needs sleep, anyway?
Uprooted isn’t technically a fairytale retelling, butit certainly feels like one. It’s partly the dreamy prose and partly the setting, which is alive and magical and sinister in the form of the malevolent Wood. Uprooted is somehow simultaneously epic fantasy about saving the world and small-scale cozy fantasy (that’s a genre, right?) about the comforts of home. I love it fiercely. I own multiple copies and have re-read it countless times.
My copy of Uprooted with bonus cameo by my cat Kestrel
So what makes me love it so much?
Let’s start with our heroine, Agnieszka (Ag-NYESH-kah). She’s messy, stubborn, big-hearted, uneducated but intelligent. The story is told entirely in her voice, and her arc forms the story’s core as we watch her grow from awkward village girl to self-assured sorceress.
She’s also clumsy and frequently spills things, and it’s so nice to see the non-adorable consequences of this represented in fiction.
“How do you do this to yourself?” he asked me, almost marveling, one day when I wandered in with a clump of rice pudding in my hair—I had accidentally hit a spoon with my elbow and flung some into the air—and a huge streak of jam going all the way down my front of beautiful cream silk.
(It should be mentioned at this point that our grumpy hero, Sarkan aka The Dragon, is a neat freak, and, yes, the conflict between him and our messy heroine on this front is just as amusing as one could hope for.)
It’s also a relief to find a heroine who, despite her magical qualities, doesn’t distance herself from other women or define herself as being “not like other girls”, which is a trope that hugely annoys me. Agnieszka’s best friend is the beautiful, confident, poised Kasia, and in a lesser book they’d be rivals. In Uprooted, a lot of the plot is driven by the strength of their friendship.
The other central relationship in Uprootedis the slow-burn romance between the Dragon and Agnieszka. It’s that good old trope of enemies-to-lovers. When we first meet the Dragon, he is cold and callous, removing Agnieszka from her village and imprisoning her in his tower—and Agnieszka fears him. But as the story unfolds, we learn that the Dragon isn’t the villain of this tale at all, despite his prickly exterior.
These two are chalk and cheese, and it’s very satisfying to watch as they come to understand each other and realize that ultimately they share the same goal of saving humankind from the relentless evil of the Wood (more on that later).
Some readers may find the Dragon’s grouchiness not to their taste, but for me his actions speak louder than words—and as Agnieszka quickly realizes, his bark is much worse than his bite.
The Dragon tries to teach Agnieszka magic, and he’s soannoyed by how unpredictable her magic is. Magic should be sharply defined, methodical, and work the same way every time! But Agnieszka’s magic is organic, intuitive, and context-dependent—and often fails spectacularly during their lessons.
[After Agnieszka has accidentally set fire to the guest bedroom]
He roared at me furiously for ten minutes after he finally managed to put out the sulky and determined fire, calling me a witless muttonheaded spawn of pig farmers—“My father’s a woodcutter,” I said—“Of axe-swinging lummocks!” he snarled.
But even so, I wasn’t afraid anymore. He only spluttered himself into exhaustion and then sent me away, and I didn’t mind his shouting at all, now I knew there was no teeth in it to rend me.
Initially, Agnieszka doesn’t want to learn magic, doesn’t want to accept that she can’t go back to her old life. Her emotional journey is one of learning to step up and embrace her new self, whilst not sacrificing her values and her deep connection to her home village.
Because home, the sense of being rooted (ha, see what I did there?) to a place, is ultimately what Uprootedis about. This also probably explains why it appeals to me so strongly, since I like to write about magically sentient places. There’s something powerful about home, the place that you both can and can’t return to after you’ve gone away and changed.
Which brings me to… the Wood.
It’s hard to make a place into a compelling antagonist, but Naomi Novik has managed it in the eldritch horror that is the Wood. Its evil lies not just in the monsters that roam beneath its branches, but in how it deliberately taints people it comes into contact with and uses them to manipulate events outside its borders, inciting deaths, wars, and misery. The central mystery of the novel is why the Wood hates humanity—and what created it in the first place.
Both Agnieszka and the Dragon have to grow and change in order to have any chance of defeating the Wood, creating magic stronger than the sum of their parts.
“Try and match it,” he said absently, his fingers moving slightly, and by lurching steps we brought out illusions closer together until it was nearly impossible to tell them from one another, and then he said, “Ah,” suddenly, just as I began to glimpse his spell: almost exactly like that strange clockwork in the middle of his table, all shining moving parts. On an impulse I tried to align our workings: I envisioned his like the water-wheel of a mill, and mine the rushing stream driving it around. “What are you—” he began, and then abruptly we had only a single rose, and it began to grow.
There’s also wars, court politics, and magical monsters. What more could you ask for?
Enemies to lovers.
Magic training montages.
Strong female friendship.
Evil sentient wood.
Have you read Uprooted? What did you think?
About the Author
AJ Lancaster lives in the windy coastal city of Wellington, New Zealand, with two ridiculous cats and many novelty mugs. She writes fantasy of the whimsical rather than grimdark variety.
Her Stariel Quartet is romantic gaslamp fantasy, set on a magical sentient estate in a world where the fae are only stories…until now.
The first book in the Stariel Quartet is The Lord of Stariel:
The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.
Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they?
Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?
Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.
But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.
Winged, beautifully deadly problems.
For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe. In theory.
If like me you’ve balked at how un-feminist our classic fairy tales can be, then you understand how reluctant I was, last Christmas, when my niece asked me to read her Cinderella.
For a start, three of the women in the story come in for very harsh descriptions, they’re either, ugly, stupid, or evil. As for Cinders, all the girl has to do is dress up nice to deserve the prince. Give us all a magic wand and we’ll all get a prince of our own. Oh, and just a minute, why is the prince such a prize anyway?
So, I did my best and tried to ‘edit’ the story, to focus more on how kind Cinders was, how despite her circumstance, she finds the time to help others. And then it hit me, the hidden story.
So let me tell you my take on Cinderella, the one that might feature on Oprah. It’s a story of success in the face of difficulties, a story of challenge, and opportunity.
A woman is widowed and left penniless with two daughters to raise. In a society where marriage is the principal career open to women, she needs a new husband, hopefully one with money. Unfortunately, no sooner does she find a new husband than he goes and dies too. He leaves her having to manage his disordered finances and debts.
The next snag comes in the shape of her step-daughter who is far too pretty. How is she supposed to find suiters for her own daughters when Cinders steals all the attention. So the twice widowed woman has to think like a business strategist; it’s a kill or be killed world out there. She looks at her daughters with honest eyes and sees that they are … average … they’re going to need all the help she can give them. Any spare money will have to go on beauty treatments, expensive clothes, and health farms. She needs to save money and get the competition out of the way. Laying off some staff and moving her step-daughter into the kitchen achieves both objectives. And when the invitation to the royal ball comes … well, what would anyone in her place do?
Don’t all shout at me at once. This is what the real world is like. As J.R.R. Tolkien says, evil is more often committed by ordinary people trying to survive, to compete. We’ve all had jobs where we’ve been treated unfairly, prizes we should have won that went to somebody with inside connections.
Now we come to Cinderella herself. As every life coach will tell you, don’t sit around moping and crying over the unfairness of life. So, she works hard, makes good friends and doesn’t give up hope. When a stranger claiming magic powers turns up with an offer of new clothes that only last till midnight, and she converts a bunch of rats and a pumpkin into a crystal carriage, what does Cinderella do? Does she give in to doubts and fear? She does what every business guru tells us to do, she grabs the opportunity with both hands. She finds her courage and takes the risk.
I wish I could say that I’ve always been this brave, that I haven’t sometimes chosen the safe and familiar option. I think on reflection, Cinderella would make a fantastic educational story for children of both sexes.
In, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche says that lies hold up a truthful mirror to the world. He cites both Gulliver’s Travels and ancient mythology. In Gulliver’s Travels, the small people fight wars over which side of the egg should be sliced first. The giants on the other hand, decline Gulliver’s offer of new weapons, they don’t believe in war.
The thing about fantasy and fable is that it allows us to comment on reality much more easily than other kinds of fiction. By elevating the question into architypes and imaginary characters, we can bring up questions of good vs evil and lay out our conclusions in a way that would seem crass in ordinary fiction.
Could you write in your next novel People don’t stay in the pigeon-holes we make for them, or that Children grow up and stop listening to their parents? Both are true but would sound cliché and flat. Pinocchiodoes it so much better. The wooden toy, once complete, becomes a boy. He has feelings, makes mistakes and wants to go out and explore the world. He tells lies and learns about consequences. Author Stella Night explains Pinocchio in terms of romantic relationships.
The other part of my story was actually about how a woman can’t change a man, only he can change himself. It was an idea that I had because I had watched my friend desperately try to save her marriage by constantly trying to change her husband, making him go to courses, yoga, and various things to make their relationship better. He didn’t respond well to any of them. In the end, she gave up. She actually just focused on her own ‘stuff’ in life. Then her husband sorted himself out on his own and returned to her becoming an amazing husband.
A similar allegory can be made with Goldilocks.
Who would you want to marry out of George Clooney, astronomer Brian Cox. Bill Gates, the football star in our local high school, or the handsome mechanic at the Mercedes dealership (let’s assume they are all single)?
My answer is, none! They’re too famous, too brainy, too rich, too young, too old, too sporty. Would I be happy in a mansion in Malibu, or a tax haven island for the super-rich? Can I live on a farm in the Prairies? No. I’d want someone just right for me. What’s my size, my personality, my lifestyle?
Once I started to think about it, I realized how our classic fairy tales can in fact say a lot about real life. When I worked as a relationship counselor, I lost track of how many people, especially women came to me with what I learned to call the Little Mermaid syndrome.
For those not familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen tragic version of The Little Mermaid: A girl falls in love with someone she doesn’t really know, she hangs her own dreams on him and believes him to be perfect for her. Then she gives up everything for him, her world, her family, her way of life, even her voice which was the one thing he liked about her. And for what? On land, he doesn’t even notice her.
The problem when women – and most of us were raised thinking that success in love would be our greatest aim – when women fall in love, they can sometimes build up the man into what they hope he could be. And in our effort to be with him we give up our independence, the very thing that made us attractive to him in the first place. We become needy and vulnerable. I’ve met a psychiatrist who quit her job and moved to Germany – which she didn’t speak – and sat at home bored waiting for her man to come home from work. A lawyer who sold her home to finance some guy’s dubious business venture and was left destitute.
I’m not saying fables and fairy tales were written as symbols of such life examples, rather that they are a blue-print of how humans behave or respond. It’s the reader, or in some cases the writer, who can find a new way of looking at these stories.
The award-winning writer Salman Rushdie in his novel, Shame, describes Beauty and the Beastas the story of an Indian arranged marriage. The girl, full of youthful romantic dreams, is horrified that her father has arranged a marriage with a local merchant. In her eyes he is a beast. But gradually, with patience and kindness, she begins to see how hard he works to provide a good life for them, she grows out of her youthful fantasies and learns to appreciate having a good home and the respect of the community. Her husband becomes a prince in her eyes.
In a recent conversation, romance author Lena Maye told me about her own latest work.
I focused on choices. We set out in a certain direction and sometimes we need to stop and think about what we really want — not what anyone else wants for us — and then change direction to follow ourselves. A theme repeated through the story was for Laurel to trust only herself in the labyrinth, and that she’s the only one who can find her way through. She has to block out everyone else — everything that she’s grown to rely on, all the noise around her, even Radek — and ask herself: what’s my path?
I think we all need to stop every so often and ask, what is my path, where am going and is it still where I need to be.
About the Author
When Rose Amberly was little, she pestered her mother for stories every night (and morning and afternoon.) In the end, her parents taught her to read so they could have some peace, but very soon she pestered them for books and more books. By the age of six, she started to make up stories and tell them to her parents pretending she’d read them in a book. Happily, now she’s all grown up and no longer has to pretend. She travelled widely and tried different careers is education, therapy, art management and even briefly, bookkeeping but none of them were as much fun as making up stories. Rose Amberly lives in London which she thinks is the most fabulous city in the world. She loves to set her stories in England to share with readers some of her favourite places.
Rose has a new release in the fairy tale collection After Dark:
Favourite fairy tales get a smart grown up and passionate remake. Some stories follow the classic tale very closely, others move further and wider to offer a different ending. With a range of heat from sweet to very steamy they also range in romance sub-genres from contemporary to historical, magical fantasy, and paranormal.
The Goblin King: Based on Labyrinth
Always a Swan : Based on The Ugly Duckling
Forever: Based on Snow White
The Girl with no Name: Based on The Little Mermaid
A Touch Too Hot: Based on Goldielocks
The Wood that Would: Based on Pinocchio
Robin Hood Prince of Hackers: Based on Robin Hood
Sun Gold: Based on Rumpelstiltskin
Cock-a-Doodle-Do: Based on Mother Hulda
9 Favourite fairy tales get a grown-up make-over. Charming heroes, dangerous royals, Hollywood stars, farmers and mysterious neighbours take you on a sensuous magical journey from London to Washington DC, Tuscan hills to a rugged Canadian nature reserve. Nine stories full of passion, glitter and unexpected twists. These charming old favourites are retold as passionate love stories (contemporary, historical, paranormal, and fantasy romances). Experience tears, heartbreak, and happy smiles as our heroines make life changing choices, overcome troubles, and find true love. Equinox romance carefully selected nine exciting romance authors to create this collection with high quality writing and delicious escapism.
Today we’d like to introduce you to an old genre that is getting some new recognition — gaslamp. While gaslamp has been with us for over a hundred years now, it has only recently been given its own category on Amazon and a BISAC code.
What is gaslamp?
GASLAMP (also known as gaslight fantasy or gaslight romance) is a subgenre of both fantasy and historical fiction. It tends to have a clearly recognizable grounding in either a Regency, Victorian, or Edwardian setting. Gaslamp is further differentiated from other forms of fantasy by the supernatural elements, themes, and subjects it features. Many of its tropes, themes, and stock characters derive from Gothic literature. This means there is often a combination of romance and horror or suspense. For example, the innocent heroine thrust into a creepy setting and beset by peril, who must find the internal strength to succeed in the end.
Gaslamp is not to be confused with steampunk, although the two can overlap. Some call gaslamp steampunk’s magical cousin. The key difference between gaslamp and steampunk is that steampunk has more of a science edge and includes mechanical or steam technology. Steampunk focuses on alternate developments and need not have any magic at all, while gaslamp focuses on supernatural elements and need not have any technology that didn’t actually exist. Gaslamp is further distinguished from steampunk in that it doesn’t require a dystopian or “punk” setting to the world.
Why do we need another book category?
If we said the words “urban fantasy” or “paranormal romance”, you would immediately conjure up an image in your head of that type of story. You might also think of a favorite author or book in that category.
Promoting “gaslamp” as a sub-genre is just another way to help readers know instantly what sort of journey they are going to embark upon. Just like “urban fantasy” might make you think of a kick arse sarcastic heroine, “gaslamp” should make readers think of a by-gone era, an imperiled heroine, and a dark force.
Gaslamp fantasy is a young genre that has already seen its boundaries redefined. At first, only fantasies in Victorian settings fell into this category. However, the success of bestsellers like Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series opened up gaslamp fantasy to include the Regency era. On occasion, fantasy novels that evoke the atmosphere of relevant time periods also fall into gaslamp fantasy. A prime example is The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett, which combines Austen and Bronte tropes in a secondary world setting.
C. J. Archer is arguably the most successful indie author in this genre. Her multiple series are set in Victorian times and contain a strong supernatural element. Other indie authors are also carving out their own space and reaching readers hungry for stories of ghosts, faeries, and magic in historical eras known for elegant manners, grand houses, and dark city streets.
More examples of gaslamp can be found in movies and TV. Crimson Peak combines many of the elements — we have the innocent heroine who is plunged into peril with paranormal happenings in the creepy old house. In the end, Edith overcomes her fears and becomes a stronger person as she confronts Lucille in the final battle. 😊
Television gives us the marvellous BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and another TV series that epitomizes the gaslamp tropes is Penny Dreadful with its combination of the Victorian era, supernatural beings, and a suspenseful atmosphere. Recently it was announced that Joss Whedon is writing a new TV series called The Nevers for HBO that is described as an epic science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world. While it is called science fiction, it does sound like a new gaslamp series to us and we can only wait for it to debut. 🙂
If the combination of these elements causes a tingle down your spine, you just might be a gaslamp fantasy fan! While it is hard to find communities just for this niche, many readers congregate under the historical fantasy umbrella. We run one such group on Facebook, the Historical Fantasy Book Club, where gaslamp fantasy is one of the popular sub-genres read and discussed. You are welcome to join the Historical Fantasy Bookclub, where we have a regular book of the month and discuss all aspects and sub genres of historical fantasy (including gaslamp!)
What’s your favorite gaslamp novel? What are you adding to your TBR? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Authors
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.
Today, Anita writes fantasy historical novels from her home in rural New Zealand.
Rabia Gale breaks fairy tales and fuses fantasy and science fiction. She loves to write about flawed heroes who never give up, transformation and redemption, and things from outer space. In her spare time, she reads, doodles, eats chocolate, avoids housework, and homeschools her three children.
A native of Pakistan, she grew up in hot, humid Karachi. She then spent almost a decade in Northern New England where she learned to love fall, tolerate snow, and be snobbish about maple syrup and sweet corn. She now lives in Northern Virginia.