58 Romantic Fantasy Books To Tie Your Heart In Knots

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 

“A dazzling world, complex characters and sizzling romance. Feyre is a charming heroine with a perfect amount of flaws and strengths, and her chemistry with Tamlin is wonderfully tangible.” –Top Pick, RT Book Reviews

2. Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Series Book 1) by Juliet Marillier 

“It is dark, painful and horrifying at times but it is also balanced with extreme love, devotion and hope. So even though it breaks your heart DoF will do its best to patch it up again.” — Amazon Reviewer

3. Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy Book 1) by Jacqueline Carey 

“The story is rich and complex, the characters deep and conflicted, and the setting is full of grace. There’s love & betrayal, for sure, but also sword fights, brilliant escapes, brutal warlords, torture, a good deal of kindness unlooked for, poetry, royalty teetering on the brink of collapse, and so much more.” –Amazon Reviewer

4. Blood Oath (The Darkest Drae Book 1) by Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare #indie

“This book has everything you could possibly want: action, love, hysterical inner monologue, the answers to the questions and predictions that eat away at you while reading, and leaves you wanting more.” –Amazon Reviewer

5. Fantasy of Frost (The Tainted Accords Book 1) by Kelly St. Clare #indie 

“Olina is a very interesting character and you’ll quickly be drawn into her story and be anxious to learn more. There is adventure, a little romance, interesting world building, and fun and interesting characters that play into this series well.” –Amazon Reviewer

6. Air Awakens (Air Awakens Series Book 1) by Elise Kova #indie

“I love Air Awakens! It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Cinderella in a wonderfully crafted world created by debut author Elise Kova.” –Michelle Madow

7. Blade & Rose (Blade and Rose Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur  #indie

“…[M]ultiple threads of a complex plot, forbidden romance, manipulative villains, and marvelous writing.” –Fantasy-Faction.com

8. Mother of Shadows (The Chosen Book 1) by Meg Anne #indie

“I’m completely shocked that this is a debut novel… It’s executed flawlessly, the storyline is decadent, full of magic, love, heat and deceit. I literally felt like I was stepping into a different world, I didn’t want to put the book down, I just had to know what was going to happen next!” –Amazon Reviewer

9. Stolen Songbird: Malediction Trilogy Book One by Danielle L. Jensen  #indie

Stolen Songbird is an absolutely wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. The book is full of magic, adventure, outlandish creatures, and at its heart is one of the most touching love stories I have ever read…” –Avid Reviews

10. The Priestess and the Dragon (Dragon Saga Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews  #indie

“This story has it all, action adventure, mystery, touch of romance, humor, excellent visual word pictures, and the deepest, full-bodied characters.” –Amazon Reviewer

11. Phoenix Unbound (The Fallen Empire Book 1) by Grace Draven 

“Grace Draven’s exciting romantic fantasy features characters who are fresh and original. Their problems and triumphs will keep you reading into the night.”—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author

12. Mermaid Bride by J.M. Butler #indie

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s prose is very strong, with beautiful imagery that captures all the senses and a strong plot of conflictual romance, loyalty, and integrity.” –Amazon Reviewer

13. Oath Taker: Kingdom of Runes Book 1 by Audrey Grey #indie

“A lyrical, sweeping fantasy that will take you on a beautiful adventure in a world where danger and romance lurk at every corner.” ~ Olivia Wildenstein, USA Today Bestselling author of A PACK OF BLOOD AND LIES

14. A Thief & a Gentlewoman (Counterfeit Contessa Book 1) by Clare Sager #indie

“There’s romance, deception, magic, palace intrigue, murder, sword fights, a couple of cross country races against time and best of all, a selection of characters (not just two) I want to read more about.” –Amazon Reviewer

15. Fortune Favors the Cruel (Dark Maji Book 1) by Kel Carpenter & Lucinda Dark #indie

“If you love dark fantasy, anti-heroines and sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance, prepare to be tired, because you won’t be able to put this puppy down.” –Katherine Bogle, author

16. Betrayed (Magi Rising Book 1) by Raye Wagner #indie

“Brutal yet compelling, BETRAYED brings me back to why I fell in love with dark fantasy. The lush jungle kingdom of Qrali is as vibrant as it is dangerous, and the chemistry between Disa and Rune is mind blowing. Full of magic, intrigue, and plenty of mystery–this tantalizing tale will keep you glued to the book until the very last page.” ~ Kel Carpenter, USA Today Bestselling Author of Fortune Favors the Cruel

17. Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World Book 1) by Alisha Klapheke #indie

“I give this book a 5/5, not only for the stellar world building, kickass heroine, and sexy love interest, but for the hungover longing for more I’m experiencing days after. Klapheke is one to watch out for!” ~Katherine Bogle, author of Savages

18. Summernight (Bridge of Legends Book 1) by Sarah K. L. Wilson #indie

“Marielle & Tamerlan’s lives intertwine with the hope and fear of their fates, and it’s an amazing ride. The question of who will succeed and who will die flows throughout the entire novel, leaving me on the edge of my seat until the very end.” –Amazon Reviewer

19. Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha Book 1) by Tasha Suri

“The magic system is fascinating, and it is seamlessly integrated into both plot and character development. I adored the romance.” –Amazon Reviewer

20. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

“A brilliant debut, full of everything I love: a sparkling and fully realized heroine, an intricate and deadly system of magic, and a searing romance that kept me reading long into the night. Serpent & Dove is an absolute gem of a book.” —Sarah J. Maas

21. A Bond of Venom and Magic (The Goddess and the Guardians Book 1) by Karen Tomlinson  #indie

“A swoon worthy page-turner. Tomlinson finds the perfect balance of adventure and romance. I can’t wait for the next book! I loved it…!” — Kelly Oram, Bestselling Author of Cinder & Ella

22. Feast of the Mother (Witch of the Lake Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur & Nicolette Andrews  #indie

“Steeped in rich and dark folklore, Feast of the Mother is young-adult fantasy at its best. Honfleur and Andrews take witches, murder, and romance, twist and weave them together with an imaginative and mysterious backdrop of medieval grievances. The result is a page-turning tale that will keep you riveted from the first page until the very last.” ~Raye Wagner, USA Today bestselling author of Magi Rising series

23. The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S. A. Chakraborty

“THE CITY OF BRASS has some of the best fantasy world building I’ve ever read, along with compelling characters, an intriguing mystery, a dash of swoon-worthy romance, and roots in cultures that don’t normally take center stage in fantasy.” –Amazon Reviewer

24. To Claim a King (Age of Gold Book 1) by May Sage #indie

“This is the first book I have read by this author and will not be the last. There was drama, action, fantasy and romance.” –Amazon Reviewer

25. Seas of Crimson Silk (Burning Empire Book 1) by Emma Hamm #indie

“…this is a slow burn of romance, that is definitely apparent in all the most deliciously antagonizing of ways. Everything from their physical chemistry to their verbal interactions was definitely melt worthy.” –Amazon Reviewer

26. Sarya’s Song by Kyra Halland #indie

“This was a very enjoyable read, a perfect blend of well-thought-out fantasy with a satisfying romance. I loved the ingenious and cleverly implemented concept of music as a form of magic. Highly recommended.” –Amazon Reviewer

27. Kill the Queen (A Crown of Shards Novel Book 1) by Jennifer Estep 

“Kill the Queen rocked my world! With court intrigue, a cast of fantastic characters, epic political sweep, and a slow-burn romance to die for, this book had me rapt. I only regret I devoured it so fast. And that I didn’t write it. More please!” –Jeffe Kennedy, RITA® Award winning author of The Pages of the Mind

28. The Rose Crown by Catharine Glen #indie

“No word is out of place and each sentence is balanced. It reminds us of a long-forgotten melody, of which you can only remember when you hear it aloud, and it warms the cockles of your heart.” –Fantasiareviews.com (Best Writing of the Year, 2016)

29. The Shadow and The Sun (A Militess and Mage Novel Book 1) by Monica Enderle Pierce  #indie

“I love this story so much. The characters are fully realized without the author needing to go into detailed back stories. Their actions and reactions MAKE SENSE! It’s so refreshing to have not one but both of the main characters be likable and rooting for both of them. I understand where they are both coming from and the tidbits of detail into their live before they collided are so juicy and raw. I really love this book and highly recommend it if you’re at all a romance, fantasy, or action/adventure fan.” –Amazon Reviewer

30. Heart of Dragons (Chronicles of Pelenor Book 1) by Meg Cowley #indie

“I loved the characters, the storyline, the murkiness of the relationships and how the characters have to work through it. I also happen to love elves 🧝‍♀️ And dragons! I highly recommend this book” –Amazon Reviewer

31. Beneath the Mists (Of Astral and Umbral Book 1) by Bonnie L. Price #indie

“The romance isn’t overdone, it doesn’t detract from the plot but instead enhances the character’s development.” –Amazon Reviewer

32. Diviner’s Prophecy (Diviner’s Trilogy Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews #indie

“I won’t give too much away, but the cast of characters Ms. Andrews has assembled leave the reader guessing as to their true intentions, while also managing to pull them under their spell. Will NOT disappoint true romantic fantasy fans!” –Amazon Reviewer

33. Tree of Ages (The Tree of Ages Series Book 1) by Sara C. Roethle #indie

“I had the craving for a good epic fantasy, and this world provided it. There is action, a quest, the potential for a slow-burn romance, family drama, an unknown past, the the looming threat of potential war on the horizon. I enjoyed watching the character development of Finn as she slowly becomes more human” –Amazon Reviewer

34. Dragon Storm (Heritage of Power Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“Another new series with typical Buroker flair of impossible mission, funny verbal banter, romantic attraction, and solid storytelling.” –Amazon Reviewer

35. Witch Song by Amber Argyle #indie

“Witch Song is a debut with an engrossing world full of magic, adventure and romance. It’s a story that fascinated me with its unique witch lore and rich world building, and introduced me to some great in-depth characters.” ~Katie, Mundie Moms

36. Identity Revealed (The Tue-Rah Chronicles) by J.M. Butler #indie

“I fell in love, hate, despair with all the characters. The relationships in the story are highly relatable.” –Amazon Reviewer

37. Frostbound Throne: Song of Night (Court of Sin Book 1) by May Sage #indie

“I loved this book! If you enjoy fantasy, adventure and romance you will love it as much as I did.” –Amazon Reviewer

38. Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1) by Anne Bishop 

“So good, I read it twice years apart and can’t wait until I read it a third time in a few years. Magic, romance, loyalty beyond measure and a great story.” –Amazon Reviewer

39. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson 

“If you are looking for magic you will find it inside this book. Sorcery of Thorns is a bewitching gem, full of slow burning romance, loyal friendships, and extraordinary world building. I absolutely loved every moment of this story.” —Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series

40. The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air Book 1) by Holly Black 

“Heart-in-throat action, deadly romance, double-crossing, moral complexity-this is one heck of a ride.”
–Booklist (starred review)

41. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas

“I loved the sarcasm, the romance, the mystery and the action that this story has. I loved how well developed was the love, the hatred and the friendship throughout the story.” –Amazon Reviewer

42. Sky Keeper (The Drowning Empire Book 1) by S.M. Gaither #indie

“Rich world building, fast-paced adventure, a dash of romance and a wondrous quest make this a book to get lost in and wish for the continuation as soon as the last page is done.” –Amazon Reviewer

43. Balanced on the Blade’s Edge (Dragon Blood Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“I found myself wanting more of the book and not wanting to put it down. It had great airship action, romance was very exciting, and I find myself genuinely caring for the characters and wanting more at the end of it.” –Amazon Reviewer

44. Destiny (Experimental Heart Book 1) by Shannon Pemrick #indie

“The suspense, the wonder of romance, the different types of mythical creatures was so interesting it hooks you right in.” –Amazon Reviewer

45. Kingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer Book 1) by Maxym M. Martineau 

“With Kingdom of Exiles, Maxym M. Martineau launches a fresh new romantic fantasy series that has all the lush world-building and intoxicating magic of the Harry Potter universe edged with something altogether more adult… Martineau’s writing bursts with humor, heart, and an exquisite burst of magic that declare her a new voice as powerful (and charming!) as one of her irresistible characters.” – Entertainment Weekly

46. The Mark of the Tala (The Twelve Kingdoms Book 1) by Jeffe Kennedy 

“It’s a solid first book and I enjoyed the author’s world-building and writing. If you like fantasy with a little romance thrown in then this book is for you.” –Amazon Reviewer

47. Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings Book 1) by Kyra Halland #indie

“This book had me from page one. It has fantasy, mystery, and western with a great romance plot throughout. The intrigue kept me turning the page, and the well-developed characters made me care about what would happen next.” –Amazon Reviewer

48. Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“You’ve got adventure, mystery, romance, lovable leads and quirky supporting characters. It’s all there. Heck yeah!” –Amazon Reviewer

49. Ishtar’s Blade (Ishtar’s Legacy Book 1) by Lisa Blackwood #indie

“I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy with romance and intrigue.” –Amazon Reviewer

50. Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom Book 1) by Rowenna Miller 

“This book has romance, intrigue, betrayal and magic sewn all though it. Very well done!” –Amazon Reviewer

51. Striking Midnight (Fairy Tale Lies, Spies, and Assassins Book 1) by Jennifer Ellision #indie

“Cyn is not your average damsel, she is a kick a$$ leader with a brilliant mind. Loved the story.” –Amazon Reviewer

52. Prisoner of Silk: A Dark Fairy Tale Retelling (Queen of the Sun Palace Book 1) by Lidiya Foxglove #indie

“…it was definitely compelling and erotic but different from the usual romantic fantasy!” –Amazon Reviewer

53. Trial by Fae (Dragon’s Gift: The Dark Fae Book 1) by Linsey Hall #indie

“I loved the action, adventure, romance, and getting to know Mari.” –Amazon Reviewer

54. Shadows for a Princess (Trials of Terraina, Book 1) by Vivienne Savage and Dominique Kristine #indie

“The authors have penned a story line keeps you intrigued with a hint of romance to take your heart for a ride in the best of ways.” –Amazon Reviewer

55. Marked by Dragon’s Blood (Return of the Dragonborn Book 1) by N.M. Howell #indie

“I would recommend this book to all who like light romance with HEA and, of course, Dragons.” –Amazon Reviewer

56. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) by N.K. Jemisin

“Multifaceted characters struggle with their individual burdens and desires, creating a complex, edge-of-your-seat story with plenty of funny, scary, and bittersweet twists.” –Publishers Weekly

57. Star of the Morning (A Novel of the Nine Kingdoms Book 1) by Lynn Kurland 

“I love the fact that the heroine truly is a strong person in her own right. There’s great world-building, an interesting magic system, great characterization, and the romance element builds rather than being some crazed instalove.” –Amazon Reviewer

58. Red Winter (The Red Winter Trilogy Book 1) by Annette Marie

“An enchanting tale of fantastical magic, supernatural creatures, mysterious heroes, and forbidden romance, [set] against a wildly gorgeous and exotic backdrop.” – FLYLeF Reviews

Which of these have you read? Which others would you recommend?

AJ Lancaster: Book Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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.

Uprooted, p1

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.

Uprooted, p36

(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.

Uprooted, p54

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.

Uprooted, p95

There’s also wars, court politics, and magical monsters. What more could you ask for?

TL;DR list:

  • Enemies to lovers.
  • Magic training montages.
  • Strong female friendship.
  • Evil sentient wood.
  • Fairytale-like atmosphere.

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.

Reach her at:

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.

15 Books to Read If You Love Women Mages

Here’s a list of books if you like strong women who wield magic. These books were selected by our administrators and community members. We hope you find your next favorite read!

1. Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

Gillengaria seethes with unrest. In the south, hostility toward magic and its users has risen to a dangerous level.

“Wonderful world building with a series of great characters all of whom are layered and well worth spending hours of time with.”

Amazon Reviewer

2. Stroke the Flame by Elizabeth Briggs

Four sexy dragon shifters. A huntress with a dark past. A bond that could save the world.

“Elizabeth Briggs books are well written, filled with enchanting characters and intriguing plots and worlds. Definitely worth reading and recommended.”

Amazon Reviewer

3. Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke

A sailor with forbidden magic. A golden heir with a secret love. If you love fantasy with mages, battles, romance, and wild sea adventures, Alisha Klapheke’s Uncommon World series is perfect for you!

“Monsters, magic, multiple warring factions, mystery, romance, this books encompasses it all. I recommend it wholeheartedly!”

Amazon Reviewer

4. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

“A vibrant world, rich characters, more than a hint of the supernatural, and an endearing main character who doesn’t have all the answers but isn’t afraid to find them makes this a must-read.”

Amazon Reviewer

5. Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save? Dive into a medieval world sensual and dark, full of magic and greed, love and blades, where factions vie for influence and there are no easy choices…

“From the moment I began “Blade & Rose”, I realized I was being transported into a vibrant, marvelous world of magic, mystery and intrigue, told through the lens of the deeply relate-able, strong and engaging main character, Rielle, and I never looked back.”

Amazon Reviewer

6. Fallen Empire by K.N. Lee

In this sprawling epic fantasy novel with shifting wolf hybrids, dragons, and mermaids, Amalia and Kylan begin their quest to return their realm to its former glory. 

“I really enjoyed reading this book. It was unpredictable, kept me on my toes and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.”

Amazon Reviewer

7. Lawless by Janeen Ippolito

A dragon felon, a forsaken prince, and a jaded airship captain walk into a city—and everything explodes. A steampunk fantasy adventure with a side of snark and quirky romance.

“What a fun adventure! This book had everything, action, strong female lead, romance, and a great sense of humor that literally made me laugh out loud.”

Amazon Reviewer

8. Shadows of Lela by Tessonja Odette

A forgotten princess. A deadly quest. A threat that hides in shadow… If you like swoon-worthy romance, adventurous quests, breathtaking magic, and surprising twists, then you’ll love Tessonja Odette’s epic fantasy tale.

“I LOVED this title. It had everything a lover of the fantasy genre could ask for; original mythical creatures, an all-new magical realm, solid writing, loveable characters, hate-able characters, and of course unicorns!”

Amazon Reviewer

9. Beneath the Canyons by Kyra Halland

The new gunslinger in town. The rancher’s daughter. They share the same dangerous secret – magic. If you love magic, adventure, and romance in a unique setting, come discover the wonders and mysteries of the Wildings today!

“If you like mystery with romance, danger and humor, this is the book for you. Think Western with wizards and aliens. I know, right, but it WORKS. Good read.”

Amazon Reviewer

10. A Thief & a Gentlewoman by Clare Sager

A city of intrigue. An irresistible con. A mysterious enemy. Immerse yourself in a gripping story of sword fights, sabrecats, and simmering romance.

“The world-building is intriguing and evocative, the romance warm and engaging, and the plot weaves together light and dark, becoming richer and deeper as the story progresses.”

Amazon Reviewer

11. The Avant Champion by C.B. Samet

All things considered, it was a good day to die… The Avant Champion: Rising by C.B. Samet is an intelligently written book that will turn fantasy readers into fans.

“Captivating. Draws you in slowly to capture you before you are aware of the snare laid to hold you to the end.”

Amazon Reviewer

12. Phoenix by Jessica Wayne

The first installment in an epic five-book fantasy series following one woman’s incredible adventure to another world, and the monsters she must face when she arrives. 

“This book was full of magic, violence, heartbreak, and hope. The characters were well written and felt real to me. The relationships were everything. I loved it.”

Amazon Reviewer

13. Frostbound Throne by May Sage

Vale was born in battle seven hundred years ago, and in all this time, he’s never encountered an enemy that poses a real challenge. Until now.

“I loved this book! If you enjoy fantasy, adventure and romance you will love it as much as I did. The writing style is sophisticated with out being pretentious.”

Amazon Reviewer

14. Mage Slave by R.K. Thorne

A warrior prince, an enslaved mage, a plot to draw the world to war. Magic, politics, love, and fate collide in the destinies of two people in this fantasy adventure from R. K. Thorne. For lovers of swords and sorcery with a side of romance.

“Brilliant! I can highly recommend this book. It’s a fun, easy read to get lost in.”

Amazon Reviewer

15. A Bond of Venom and Magic by Karen Tomlinson

Magic awakens. Darkness stirs. The Wraith Lord hunts. Hold onto your heart, dive in and be swept away in this spectacular epic adventure.

“What a great book to start a new fantasy series. A different take on the usual. It had it all – mystery, a quest, heartbroken heroine, a savior or worse enemy, and Fae and Monsters galore.”

Amazon Reviewer

Do you have any recent reads you’d add to the list? Comment below!

About the Author

Nicolette is a native San Diegan with a passion for the world of make-believe. From a young age, Nicolette was telling stories, whether it be writing plays for her friends to act out or a series of children’s books (which her mother still likes drag out to embarrass her with in front of company).  

She still lives in her imagination, but in reality she resides in San Diego with her husband, children, a couple cats, and an old dog.  She loves reading, attempting arts and crafts, and cooking.

Reach her at:

Nicolette also writes books about women who wield magic, including The Priestess and the Dragon:

A story of love, magic, and revenge that readers say they couldn’t put down. 

“It’s just a really interesting, unique read. I’m hard-pressed to think of another book that is quite like this one. A unique read that makes me want to read more.”

Amazon Reviewer

13 Books to Read If You Love Gaslamp

Here’s a list of books if you like Gaslamp. These books were selected by our administrators and community members. We hope you find your next favorite read!

1. Nefertiti’s Heart by A.W. Exley

Cara Devon has always been impulsive, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

“I love everything about the story. The title alone has gotten me ensnared. This book has blown me away.

Amazon Reviewer

2. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J. Archer

With a cast of quirky characters, an intriguing mystery, and a dash of romance, THE WATCHMAKER’S DAUGHTER is the start of a thrilling new historical fantasy series.

“Mystery, secrets, deceit, action, magic, and a tiny bit of romance all rolled up into a well-written adventure story in London with Scotland yard and a hint of cowboy- what’s not to like?”

Amazon Reviewer

3. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

“This imaginative and tightly crafted first novel opens the door to a vivid and awe-inspiring vision of Victorian era England.”

Amazon Reviewer

4. Ferromancer by Becca Andre

Solutions aren’t always black and white—sometimes they come in shades of iron gray.

“The characters were fleshed out and felt real, with just enough flaws to seem genuinely human. I’m a big fan of witty/well paced dialogue, and this definitely satisfied!”

Amazon Reviewer

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale…This is a book to treasure.

“I gave this an easy 5/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes three-dimensional high fantasy read, full of a delightful set of characters and a terrifically intriguing world.”

Amazon Reviewer

6. The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen

Eilian Sorrell is no stranger to cheating death, but when a dirigible accident costs him his arm, he fears his days of adventuring are over.

“This novel was interesting from beginning to end. The main characters were honorable, well educated and forward thinking.”

Amazon Reviewer

7. Prudence by Gail Carriger

From NYT bestselling author Gail Carriger comes a witty adventure about a young woman with rare supernatural abilities travels to India for a spot of tea and adventure and finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

“But her best talent, and the true reason that I will always read anything she ever writes, is her ability to craft the most hilarious witty banter! I literally laugh out loud when I read her books. They bring me so much joy and glee that I suffer major book hangovers whenever I finish one.”

Amazon Reviewer

8. Ghostlight by Rabia Gale

Trevelyan Shield would rather fight demons and exorcise haunts than deal with debutantes, alive or dead.

“I love Rabia Gale. Her worlds are unique and interesting and her characters are complex and flawed, like most of us.”

Amazon Reviewer

9. Clockwork Alchemist by Sara C Roethle

Liliana is trapped alone in the dark. Her father is dead, and London is very far away. If only she hadn’t been locked up in her room, reading a book she wasn’t allowed to read, she might have been able to stop her father’s killer.

“Really enjoyed this book. Lots of action and suspense, as well as a bigger picture yet to be revealed. Really enjoyed the characters and the humor they displayed.”

Amazon Reviewer

10. The Star of Anatolia by amaila Brinkley

Meet Miss Anastasia Galipp. Debutante, know-it-all, and the Home Office’s secret weapon.

“I loved all the details that the author provided of the agency and the culture of the series. I am looking forward to the next installment! Well done!”

Amazon Reviewer

11. The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick

London papers scream of dirigible attacks, kraken swarms, and lung-clogging, sulfurous fogs. But a rash of gypsy murders barely rates mention.

“First, I love that the heroine is smart and not afraid to hide her femininity, which is refreshing. Second, I really like the hero – wounded, brilliant, and of course handsome.”

Amazon Reviewer

12. Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster

Standing between London and a deadly plot against the throne, are the dangerous spies and femme fatales that form the Company of Rogues… that’s if they don’t kill each other first.

“It was suspenseful as well as sexy. I love the way that the love between the two characters starts off slow but then you see the intensity in which they come to trust and immerse themselves in each other.”

Amazon Reviewer

13. Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

She wants to be an engineer, but her parents–and society–will never allow it. Until riots break out in steampunk London and she seizes her chance…

“I greatly enjoyed this series of stories. They are all fun, adventurous, and entertaining. I tried to keep my laughter quiet in deference to those who were around me, but I just couldn’t hold in the laughter at many points.”

Amazon Reviewer

Do you have any recent reads you’d add to the list? Comment below!

About the Author

Nicolette is a native San Diegan with a passion for the world of make-believe. From a young age, Nicolette was telling stories, whether it be writing plays for her friends to act out or a series of children’s books (which her mother still likes drag out to embarrass her with in front of company).  

She still lives in her imagination, but in reality she resides in San Diego with her husband, children, a couple cats, and an old dog.  She loves reading, attempting arts and crafts, and cooking.

Reach her at:

Nicolette also writes Gaslamp books, including Heart of Thorns:

A story of murder, magic, and manners that readers say kept them up at night.

“Secrets, lies, mystery, magic and the enchanting way Nicolette presents them to us – that heady concoction will keep you glued to her Heart of Thorns.”

Amazon Reviewer

15 Books to Read If You Love Warrior Women

We here at Romantic Fantasy Shelf thought it a good time to celebrate our favorite fierce warrior women and magic users in a post of books about women who fight hard and fall in love. These books were selected by our administrators and community members. We hope you find your next favorite read!

1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In a world where some are bestowed with special gifts, Katsa is given the gift of killing. An action-packed fantasy that tackles what it means to be strong.

“I absolutely adored Katsa. She was such a fierce, independent heroine…”

Amazon Reviewer

2. First Test by Tamora Pierce

One woman fights to realize her dream of becoming a knight amidst discrimination. This is a fantastic tale about persistence despite opposition.

“This series tackles weighty issues like sexism, bullying, classism, poverty, crime, and the injustice of law head-on, all while never once sacrificing the suspense and delight of the story itself. “

Amazon Reviewer

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

A deadly assassin must win a contest against the most wicked, bloodthirsty men in the kingdom for a chance to win her freedom.

“I couldn’t put the damn book down! From the moment I started reading I was entranced in a world I had never been yet felt like I had known my whole life.”

Amazon Reviewer

4. The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley

Exceptional prose, strong characterization, and an imaginative world that readers adore.

“A strong female lead, horses, swords, magic… i read it probably a dozen times. “

Amazon Reviewer

5. By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

An action-packed romantic tale about one woman’s journey to realize her destiny.

“This is one of my favorites books of all time. Lackey writes very real, very diverse characters and her Heralds of Valdemar series has the best fantasy world I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Amazon Reviewer

6. Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

An adventure story featuring a foul-mouthed assassin and her companions. Filled with action and romance that readers rave about.

“The world that Saintcrow constructs pulled me in and her characters were alive and emotionally invaded my life it seemed.”

Amazon Reviewer

7. Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs

A slave turned assassin, political unrest, and plots abound in this exciting romantic adventure.

“This takes you into a completely different world with heroes, villians, magic and much more with a plot that twists and turns – P. Briggs at her best!”

Amazon Reviewer

8. Embellish by Demelza Carlton

A fun and fast-paced retelling, mixed with a great romance.

“I loved this story. A great female role model, a great equal relationship between the two main characters and supportive families in the background.”

Amazon Reviewer

9. Mercenary by Catherine Banks

A human girl raised by elves fights for her place at the mercenary academy, despite her parents’ opposition and fending off kidnap attempts.

“The characters were outstanding and I enjoyed the pacing: fast, and action-filled.”

Amazon Reviewer

10. Duel of Fire by Jordan Rivet

In a world where swordfighting is king, one girl is paired with an indifferent prince. A story packed with magic, battles, and danger

“The author’s merging of prose and world building is sublime. “

Amazon Reviewer

11. Savages by Katherine Bogle

A warrior with a dark past and a fight for freedom that may just cost her life. An epic story that you can get lost in!

“This book had me gripped from the time I picked it up”

Amazon Reviewer

12. Ishtar’s Blade by Lisa Blackwood

A woman chosen by the goddess as her warrior maiden, a kingdom ripe with intrigue and romance that will leave you swooning.

“It’s not too often that I can’t put a book down, but this was definitely one of those times. I loved the fresh, intriguing mythology. “

Amazon Reviewer

13. The Shadow and the Sun by Monica Enderle Pierce

A story packed with action and romance, featuring a badass heroine and hero you’ll fall in love with.

“I loved that a woman was the hero of the story, which is something lacking in this genre. I LOVE a good dose of girl power! “

Amazon Reviewer

14. The Fifth Knight by Clare Luana and Jesikah Sundin

A clever take on the usual King Arthur retelling. This reverse harem is packed with action and slow burn romances.

“Every page is filled with gorgeous, poetic prose and deliciously vivid imagery that makes it easy to fall into the magical world that Luana and Sundin have masterfully created. “

Amazon Reviewer

15. Curse of the Fae Queen by Delia Castel

A fae huntress, a curse, and a slow-burn why-choose romance that we think you’ll love.

“It is such a beautiful tale that I couldn’t get enough of from page one. I want more!!! Now!!”

Amazon Reviewer

Do you have any recent reads you’d add to the list? Comment below!

About the Author

Nicolette is a native San Diegan with a passion for the world of make-believe. From a young age, Nicolette was telling stories, whether it be writing plays for her friends to act out or a series of children’s books (which her mother still likes drag out to embarrass her with in front of company). 

She still lives in her imagination, but in reality she resides in San Diego with her husband, children, a couple cats, and an old dog.  She loves reading, attempting arts and crafts, and cooking.

Reach her at:

Nicolette also writes books about warrior women, with her latest being Okami:

(Romantic Fantasy Shelf March 2019 Book Club Winner)

An enemies-to-lovers romance set in ancient japan.

“I was honestly so hooked on this story that I couldn’t put it down. The characters are very strong and well written… the story and plot flowed well with many twists and turns.”

Amazon Reviewer

Jaycee Jarvis: In Defense of Beta Heroes

I’m a huge fan of beta heroes both as a reader and a writer, so I wanted to explore how beta heroes play out in fantasy romance and romantic fantasy, and make a few reading recommendations along the way.

Beta heroes are generally defined as softer, emotionally intelligent people who are willing to take directions and listen to advice, both from their romantic partner and from other characters in the book. They are in direct contrast to the ever popular, take-charge, domineering alpha heroes. Because alphas are often larger than life, it is easy for beta heroes to get dismissed as weak or–worse yet–boring, when in fact being willing to do the emotional labor in a relationship and truly listen to their partners can be incredibly sexy.

Radiance by Grace Draven is a good example of an incredibly hot, slow-burn relationship that builds over time. Brishen and Ildiko are wed in a largely symbolic marriage to unite their two very different people—in a plot that seamlessly crosses Beauty and the Beast with a marriage of convenience. This set-up lends itself to a beta hero, as Brishen is willing to do his duty—however distasteful–and make the best of it rather than resenting the circumstances. They quickly learn to be honest with each other and frank about their cultural (and indeed species) differences. Brishen wins his bride over with his humor, kindness, and respect—all hallmarks of a great beta hero. As this excerpt shows, the agency of the heroine is often underscored in stories with beta heroes, which is one of the things I like about them most.

The laughter faded but their smiles remained. Brishen’s thinned a little. “What do you want to do, Ildiko?”

He had asked a question Ildiko thought she’d never hear in her lifetime. No one ever asked her what she wanted; they only told her what she was to do and say. For a moment she was struck dumb. He waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts.

Radiance by Grace Draven

Because beta heroes generally value compassion over status or control, there are some traits or stereotypes that are often paired with beta heroes. They are often written as scholars or geniuses rather than soldiers or commanders. This association with being quiet or nerdy is a natural fit, which is part of what makes Jadrek from Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey a quintessential beta hero.

As a scholar who relies on his knowledge and book learning to help Tarma and Kethry, Jadrek often underestimates himself and lacks confidence with women, showing the very sweetest side of a beta hero. Oathbreakers is a romantic fantasy with an epic fantasy storyline, so the love story between Kethry and Jadrek is an important subplot, not the main focus of the novel. Because of this, the relationship development happens more as part of the other action, yet the romance still gets me in the feels every time—especially when Kethry finally admits her growing attraction…

“It’s you I admire, Jadrek; the mind, the person. You’re something special—something those pretty bodies downstairs aren’t, and probably never will be.”

Very hesitantly, he leaned forward and kissed her. She returned the kiss as passionately as she dared, and suddenly he responded by embracing her and prolonging the kiss until she was breathless.

When they broke apart, his gray eyes were dark with confusion. “Kethry—”

“There are more comfortable places to be doing this,” she said, very softly. “Over there, for one.” She nodded at the curtained bed, half-hidden in the shadows.

He blushed. He blushed even harder when she led him there by the hand, and all but pushed him down onto it. “I—” he stammered, looking past her. “Kethry, I’m not—very experienced at this sort of—”

“You were doing just fine a moment ago,” she interrupted…

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey

While sexual inexperience is often found in beta heroes, it is not a necessary trait. Harlan, from Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, is more sexually experienced than Ursula, the heroine of this fantasy romance. Harlan also breaks the beta mold in other ways, as a skilled swordsman and the leader of his own band of mercenaries. He is confident and assured of himself, yet he has no trouble deferring to Ursula, letting her take the lead in many milestones in their relationship, and stepping back when she takes charge–an important mindset for a man who wants to partner with a powerful ruler. Because Ursula is so emotionally cut off and determined to stand alone, Harlan’s compassion and tenderness are exactly what she needs—even if she can’t admit it to herself at first. He is the perfect foil for her harrowing emotional journey. Harlan himself puts it best—

“There is no shame in feeling emotion. It doesn’t make you weak. Strength is in bearing our wounds, living through them, and carrying forward regardless—not in pretending they never existed.”

The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

Beta heroes can add emotional depth and texture to books already filled with wonder and magic. Do you have any favorites for me to add to my TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Learn more about her around the web:

She enjoys writing beta heroes as much as she loves reading about them. Her latest book, Deadly Courtship, features an empath who isn’t afraid to bare his heart.

In a world rife with elemental magic, can a bard with a knack for predicting the future help a warrior face her painful past?

Han-Triguard Magdalena turned her back on her heritage and her family in order to pursue life as a Hand, honor bound to serve as a Protector in the tropical market town of Trimble. She never regrets putting duty first until a string of brutal murders changes everything.

Her former lover, the attractive musician Jasper, stands accused. Madi knows the gentle empath could never kill anyone, but her word alone is not enough to protect him. Even worse, one of the other victims is a member of her old clan, for whom justice is entirely out of reach.

As Madi begins to question the demands of her work, Jasper asks her to give safe haven to his brother’s orphans. With the children, Jasper has the family he’s always wanted, a dream Madi has never shared. Living in close quarters, their attraction combusts while Madi is beset by unwanted tenderness for the children. When a new threat looms, Madi vows to protect their future, make peace with her past, and maybe find a love worth fighting for.

If only she can stop the killer in time…

Available on Amazon and through KindleUnlimited:

J.M. Butler: Review of A Thief and a Gentlewoman (RFS Book Club Winner – March 2019)

For the month of March, 2019, the readers of Romantic Fantasy Shelf voted for two books: A Thief and a Gentlewoman by Clare Sage and Okami by Nicolette Andrews. And today, we’re going to be discuss A Thief and a Gentlewoman.

This story is the first book in the Counterfeit Contessa series. Book two will be coming out in June of this year if everything goes according to schedule, but let me give you a little spoiler and tell you that even if I had to wait two or more years to get the sequel, I would be more than willing to wait. A Thief and a Gentlewoman is a story very much its own while working beautifully within the genre conventions and immersing the reader into an incredible world.

Quin, short for Quinta, is a special sort of thief. She’s trained in many respects and most definitely a bit of a rogue with a skill for cards, seduction, flirtation, locks, and escape. But her life begins to change as she encounters a Pasha who is more than he appears and who is not content with her feigned appearances of demure femininity. This Pasha, Atesh, is far more than meets the eye, and though she has set him as her next mark, both are falling for one another, even though that will create even more consequences. Not only that, but Atesh is the cousin of the Sultana, an individual with whom Quin has some family history.

A Thief and a Gentlewoman is the first book in the Counterfeit Countessa Series.

Type of Story

A Thief and a Gentlewoman is an immersive romantic fantasy epic. Clare weaves together a complex and beautiful world rich with details that draw heavily on Turkish influences as well as some English with a strong infusion of magic and fantasy (my favorite distinct element being the sabre cats which are large enough to ride).

Arianople is a fascinating city, similar to Istanbul but without the dominant Christian and Muslim influences.

This is a slow burn romance with intrigue and doom looming over the couple as they are perpetually drawn together. This story also features mysteries and political intrigue in a way that is well balanced. While I did find myself accurately guessing some of the twists and turns, they were laid out in such a way that my enjoyment was not diminished. This is the sort of story where the journey and the unfolding and development of the characters is far more important.

This story is set within a distinct world from our own. Arianople is perhaps best described as Instanbul without the prominent Christian or Muslim influences. A distinct religion/spiritual tradition which serves the Hundred and draws on altered tarot cards takes their places.  

The Romance Between the Characters

As I have begun to realize is one of my favorite elements of romantic fantasy, this features a slow burn romance. Here the characters run into one another early on in the story, and matters build from there along with respect and affection amid vital questions.

Indeed there is a spark and an intimacy between these two, even from their first encounter. And despite all of the concerns that develop between the two, I absolutely wanted them to get together and yet found myself content with the more gradual connection, especially as Quin’s thoughts and emotions transform. Her attitude and growth throughout is the most complex and the most fascinating.

And while this section is intended to be about the romance of the two leads, I have to speak about another point of romance within this story that charmed and surprised me: the romance of the cards. It’s not often that an author weaves together a scene regarding games of chance and cards that makes you feel like the cards are seducing you. Don’t get me wrong. The romance between Atesh and Quin is incredible as well, but I really wasn’t prepared for how seductive the cards were going to be.

The cards play a significant role through, providing culture, context, and clues for Quin’s quest as well as serving as a source of magical influence.

The Characters and Their Relationships Beyond the Romantic

The scope of the characters’ worlds go far beyond their relationships with one another. Both not only have friends but also family who exist in different circles with distinct motivations and desires. While both are well developed, I feel that Quin’s POV is the best utilized to expand both the world and ground her motivations and observations. She notices many things, drawing conclusions that reveal the world and yet are natural to her. In particular, I’d note that the specific body language references and notations are excellent, not only for developing the characters but creating clear images.

Robin Hood faced many challenges but none quite like Quin’s.

Additionally the plight of many within Quin’s life make her a sympathetic character. Like the famed Robin Hood, her thieving is not to enrich herself. But she has to navigate a far more complex web than the cunning archer ever did since she is trying to care for a diseased and dying family member and protect old friends from a dangerous life while also remaining presentable and intriguing to the nobility. Numerous interests and concerns pull on Quin, and almost everyone in her life represents someone who has a need which she can in some way fulfill.

Of all the non-romantic relationships within the story, I most enjoyed the ones between Quin and her family. It is especially refreshing to see it developed between female members of the family and addressing certain conclusions that flow from the events of the family’s history.

Fascinating Influences Within the Story

The very first line of the story is a delightful reference to Pride and Prejudice. Other literary references and influences apparent within the story are 1001 Arabian Nights and Robin Hood. Clare’s overall style and tone is coy and artful throughout. The story is quite luxurious and calm in its pacing, allowing you time to be fully immersed in the world and live with the characters rather than a rapid page turner that skims the surface.

Though A Thief and a Gentlewoman is distinctly its own, the playful nods and allusions to Pride and Prejudice are a delight.

The very first line of the story is a delightful reference to Pride and Prejudice. Other literary references and influences apparent within the story are 1001 Arabian Nights and Robin Hood. Clare’s overall style and tone is coy and artful throughout. The story is quite luxurious and calm in its pacing, allowing you time to be fully immersed in the world and live with the characters rather than a rapid page turner that skims the surface.

The depth of the characters and their interactions reminds me most of Jane Austen with the wit of Pride and Prejudice and the gradual intertangling of the two loves. I didn’t feel as much concern about the ultimate conclusion of Atesh and Quin as Darcy and Elizabeth, but I enjoyed it immensely and felt very much that they were suited for one another, even if they had not yet reached that same conclusion. In this case, it was very much about how will they come together and how will they be changed in this journey rather than relying only on the tension of will they, won’t they.

For those who love Robin Hood stories but want a more feminine focus with political intrigue or seekers of a more modern Austen voice in fantasy setting, I certainly recommend A Thief and a Gentlewoman. It will also appeal to those who want a non-European focused romantic fantasy or simply an excursion into an immersive fantasy world with a rich romance and complex characters and a relaxing pace.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Share in the comments!

About the Author

J.M. Butler is an adventurer, author, and attorney who never outgrew her love for telling stories or playing in imaginary worlds. She is the author of The Tue-Rah Chronicles, which includes Identity Revealed, Enemy Known, and Princess Reviled. Independent novellas set in the same world include Locked, Alone, and Cursed. She has also written a number of other stories including Mermaid Bride, Through the Paintings Dimly, and more. She writes primarily speculative fiction with a focus on multicultural high fantasy and suspenseful adventures with intriguing romances. And on top of that, she lives with her husband and law partner, James Fry, in rural Indiana where they enjoy creating fun memories, challenging each other, and playing with their three cats.

Reach her at:

Check out her romantic epic fantasy Tue-Rah Chronicles:

Though her brutal husband is imprisoned, Amelia must navigate the hostile political climate or else face banishment or execution. 

Despite saving the nation, Amelia remains incapable of satisfying the demands of the Libyshan leadership. Amelia fights to stand firm in her calling and her convictions while struggling to find a solution that leaves Libysha whole, restores the interdimensional portals, and removes Naatos and his shapeshifting brothers to a place where they can do no harm. The Machat warn that these shapeshifters can only be held for a brief period, but an enraged populace and spiteful elder commander desire vengeance and block Amelia at every turn. Her bond to Naatos and his family makes her a traitor unless she does precisely as they say.

Time counts down, and soon Naatos and his brothers will be free to wreak bloody vengeance on Libysha before resuming their plans of universal dominance. Amelia must embrace being a traitor in the eyes of her own people to save them while also untangle her feelings for the man who has claimed her as his wife.


Get your copy on Amazon today!

ROZ P. GARRETT: BOOK REVIEW OF KUSHIEL’S DART BY JACQUELINE CAREY

Undoubtedly, if you’ve been in any of the recommendation request posts in the RFS Facebook group, you’ve heard of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and for good reason. In case you haven’t heard of it, let me give you a treat because this week I have the pleasure of reviewing it. I’ll try to keep my review from spoiling the entire story, but give you enough to whet your appetite about it.

Kushiel’s Dart came out in 2001, at a time when I was bright eyed and college bound for the first time. I grew up on fantasy books like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books and Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series, with a smattering of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels as companions. I love these stories, but I eventually wandered away from the genre as a whole because the books were satisfying in their adventures but didn’t give me a real sense of fulfillment. Part of that had to do with the stations and genders of the protagonists, but the most glaring lack was that the emotional journey in the books was often boiled down to the bare necessities to augment the fantasy or adventure plot, and I wasn’t given enough interaction between the leads for the romantic aspects to seem realistic. I understood having the sexy bits behind closed doors or faded out, but it often felt like the sweet bits were being locked away as well.

The same copy that I bought back in 2001. <3

So I came to the purchase of Kushiel’s Dart on a whim, needing something to distract me from the frustrations of freshman year, and was rewarded with a love for a genre I hadn’t even realized existed. As RFS defines the terms fantasy romance and romantic fantasy, Kushiel’s Dart is in the  romantic fantasy category, meaning that there is a romantic subplot that plays a significant role in the novel. (For a more in-depth discussion of the two genres, check out the blog posts: “The Place of Romantic Fantasy,” and “Falling In Love With Fantasy Romance.”)

Kushiel’s Dart is the first book of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, and also the first of the trilogy about Phèdre no Delaunay.

The book begins with Phèdre telling the tale of her birth and departure from her parents. This serves to explain several of the important aspects of Jacqueline Carey’s fictional world, which is what I like to call a not-Europe, in that the landmasses on the map are familiar but the names of the countries are changed. You learn at once that the D’Angelines of Terre d’Ange are known for and value beauty, that there is an acknowledged and non-stigmatized system of sexual companionship known as being a Servant of Naamah, that the Night Court (or Court of Night Blooming Flowers) is an esteemed system of brothels, and that Phèdre is the child of a former Servant of Naamah who went on to marry a merchant’s son with questionable business acumen.

A Little Background on Terre D’Ange

With this book, it’s hard to balance a review between plot and worldbuilding, so allow me to interject some explanation here.

According to D’Angeline lore, the head of their pantheon of gods, Blessed Elua, was an angel conceived by Yeshua ben Yosef, the son of the One God, and Magdelene at the crucifixion. The story of Elua’s conception is told to a very young Phèdre, and makes reference to Magdelene’s tears and Yeshua’s blood, and that it was from this union that “the grieving earth engendered her most precious son,” which is a bit confusing. But the salient point is that Elua is the One God’s angelic, half-mortal grandson. Elua was scorned by the One God and Yeshua’s followers for his mortal conception and his open beliefs regarding love. (Blessed Elua’s slogan is Love as thou wilt, which is the basis of the D’Angeline faith.) As he wanders, the tale of his persecutions reaches heaven, and some of the hierarchy of the One God’s angels feel compassion for him and flout the will of the One God and come to earth to become Elua’s Companions. Even with a retinue of angels, Elua isn’t welcomed to stay anywhere, so he spends a long while as a nomad.

Terre d’Ange is the land where Elua and his Companions were finally welcomed. Not only do D’Angelines worship Blessed Elua and his Companions, they are also said to be their descendants. (Elua and most of his Companions practice what he preaches.) Among the Companions, Naamah, the elder sister, is said to have lain with strangers in the street for coin to keep Elua and the Companions fed. It is from her sacrifice that Naamah’s Service derives, and those who take up Naamah’s Service are called, appropriately, Servants of Naamah. They pledge themselves until they can make their mark – a full back tattoo that supposedly originates in the marks Naamah herself would have acquired from bedding people against unforgiving surfaces – in stages as they ply their trade. Patrons can leave gifts above the price they pay for the service, and from there come the funds to pay the tattooist to fill out the mark. Most Servants of Naamah within the City of Elua (the capital of Terre d’Ange) choose to operate within the Night Court, where there are contracts and safeguards and standards. The Night Court is made up of thirteen houses that all cater to a particular aesthetic both visually and in terms of sexual desire.

The Fate of a Child: “A Whore’s Unwanted Get”

As Phèdre tells it, her parents probably intended to apprentice her into the Night Court, and thus she could pay for her own upkeep and eventually they would be given a portion of her income, but the plan hits a fatal snag because both by D’Angeline and Night Court standards, Phèdre is flawed. She was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, and that imperfection makes her unfit for service. Her parents, who she explains have more love for each other than sense, failed to make profit from a trading caravan and desperately need money enough to survive. Her father is the least capable of the trader’s sons, so though the trader has offered them a second chance, it comes with a price. They must back the goods with their own coin. As Phèdre’s father is too proud to share his wife’s talents to earn coin to make up the difference, and without Phèdre’s entry into the Night Court they are in dire straits. In desperation, her mother turns to the first house, Cereus House, for a way out. You get, in Jacqueline Carey’s beautiful prose, the scene thusly:

I remember standing in the courtyard upon marble flagstones, holding my mother’s hand as she stammered forth her plight. The advent of true love, the elopement, her own Dowayne’s decree, the failure of the caravan and my grandfather’s bargain. I remember how she spoke of my father still with love and admiration, sure that the next purse, the next sojourn, would make his fortune. I remember how she cited, voice bold and trembling, her years of service, the exhortation of Blessed Elua: Love as thou wilt. And I remember, at last, how the fountain of her voice ran dry, and the Dowayne moved one hand. Not lifted, not quite; a pair of fingers, perhaps, laden with rings.

“Bring the child here.”

So we approached the chair, my mother trembling and I oddly fearless, as children are wont to be at the least apt of times. The Dowayne lifted my chin with one ring-laden finger and took survey of my features.

Did a flicker of something, some uncertainty, cross her mien when her gaze fell on my left eye? Even now, I am not sure; and if it did, it passed swiftly. She withdrew her hand and returned her gaze to my mother, stern and abiding.

“Jehan spoke truly,” she said. “The child is unfit to serve the Thirteen Houses. Yet she is comely, and being raised to the Court, may fetch a considerable bond price. In recognition of your years of service, I will make you this offer.”


(Kushiel’s Dart, page 7-8)

Kushiel’s Dart is told in first person, with a limited omniscience. The Phèdre narrating the story is a much older version than the Phèdre in the action of the story, so logically, I know that she’ll overcome this, but the feels when the Dowayne of Cereus House goes on to name Phèdre “a whore’s unwanted get” aren’t lessened by knowing she carries on. Phèdre’s situation feels so real to me that I choke up every time I read that scene.

An Imperfection Turned Mark of Destiny: “I remember the moment when I discovered pain.”

The second chapter of the book, which is quite short, begins thusly. And this gives the first glimpse of Phèdre’s story with her attraction to pain. She scores her hand with a pin and is caught enjoying the pain of it by the Dowayne, who starts to send her off to Valerian House, where they specialize in that sort of fascination, but stops herself. The Dowayne is a shrewd one, and has an inkling that there is more to Phèdre than just her parentage. She sends for Anafiel Delaunay, who is not a member of the Night Court, but something of a noble and a scholar.

Kushiel’s Dart is not a fantasy book containing magic, exactly, but there are moments of divine guidance and intervention. Delaunay recognizes instantly that the scarlet mote in Phèdre’s eye is not a mark of imperfection, but the mark of the god Kushiel, who was a bestower of punishments, and whose followers have a special relationship with the experience of pain. The scarlet mote in her eye is the Kushiel’s dart of the title. Phèdre also feels Kushiel’s call to action on more than one occasion, and her tolerance for pain helps her to carry out Kushiel’s wishes. What’s more, Phèdre’s pleasure in pain is not common, but the trait of an anguissette. Delaunay, after giving a name to her gifts, buys her mark so that once she has reached the age of ten she will join his household as one of his apprentices.

From here the story grows into a masterfully crafted, War of the Roses style political intrigue. Delaunay is loyal to the main royal house of Terre d’Ange, the de la Courcels, and his two apprentices – Phèdre and a lad named Alcuin, who is, honestly, too pure for words – are his tools for securing the line of succession in favor of Ysandre de la Courcel (who happens to be the daughter of his former lover, the late Crown Prince). He seeks to accomplish this by using the pair of his apprentices, who pledge to become Servants of Naamah in an independent fashion, as honey pots.

Having started and put down a lot of books with political intrigue, Kushiel’s Dart might have died on my endless TBR pile at this point, because considerable time is spent on Phèdre and Alcuin’s apprenticeship in which they are learning to observe and think, which is great and makes a case for the dramatis personae section in the front of the book, but also contains a lot of details about the political movers and shakers of Terre d’Ange. That the book did not molder in the annals of my college shelves or become a very thick table leg replacement is where credit is due to Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous prose, lush worldbuilding, and Phèdre’s relatable narration. That’s what kept me going through all ninety-five chapters of the book. Alongside Phèdre I fell in love with Delaunay, wept at his misfortune, was frustrated with not being told the aim of his schemes, and despite my own tastes in intimacy, I found myself looking forward to Phèdre’s eventual assignations.

ABOUT THOSE ASSIGNATIONS

You get a hint early in the book that Phèdre’s not going to be a vanilla-sex sort of romance heroine. Being an anguissette means that it is in Phèdre’s nature to derive pleasure from pain, but during her apprenticeship we slog through what Phèdre calls the “dumb torment of virginity.” In chapter fourteen we are further educated about what sexploits we can look forward to as, alongside Phèdre, we journey to Valerian house and are introduced to “the tools of algolania,” or the implements of pain we can expect her clients to use on her. She’s somewhat familiar with most of them, at least in an academic fashion, but she is nonetheless excited by the show and tell. For someone on the outside of these desires, it was nice to be introduced to the ways of Phèdre’s art. The sex scenes themselves are handled as masterfully as the rest of the prose in the novel, without an excess of detail but with a true connection to Phèdre’s feelings in these moments. Her experiences and pleasure are vividly portrayed. So, while I couldn’t sympathize with her excitement over the specifics of her assignations, I was on the edge of my seat because she was going to experience what she’d been craving for chapters upon chapters. That I could understand, and Phèdre’s fulfillment makes the read that much better.

Piece by piece, assignation by assignation, we move through the story, and along the way we meet Melisande Shahrizai. If Delaunay is Sherlock, with an immense intellect, a keen eye for detail, and a mission for the greater good (as he sees it), then Melisande is his Moriarty in the sense that the two of them are equally clever and motivated towards their own goals. Melisande is beautiful, dangerous, and a noble of Kushiel’s line, which makes her a flame to Phèdre’s moth. Kushiel’s chosen and a scion of Kushiel’s line have an undeniable chemistry between them that could make them perfect for each other, but while Melisande appreciates Phèdre as a singular creature, they are not entirely on the same side. Melisande has as many schemes as Delaunay, and both are playing a very long game with the succession of Terre d’Ange as the prize. While Delaunay seeks to secure Ysandre de la Courcel, it takes the whole book to learn Melisande’s true aim, and she damn near razes the country in pursuit of it. I enjoy Melisande for her ruthless ambition and her intelligence. Like so many of the characters in the novel, she’s real, vibrant, and alluring enough that even I can understand Phèdre’s instant infatuation with her.

As with all good stories involving political intrigue, the tête-à-tête regarding the succession involves a rather stunning betrayal, and as our narrator and protagonist, Phèdre is caught in the middle of it, finding herself shipped off to the barbarians of Skaldia in chapter thirty-nine. She has the good fortune not to be sent alone, which brings me to one of my favorite things about this novel.

OH, JOSCELIN…

I’ve been saving possibly the best part of this story, because Joscelin Verreuil is probably every reader’s best fictional boyfriend, and he deserves to be done justice. If you’re wondering what I mean, I think a case could be made that Joscelin is to romantic fantasy what Mr. Darcy is to regency romance.

How? Well, let’s start with how he enters our story.

As much as they are Delaunay’s apprentices, Alcuin and Phèdre are also part of Delaunay’s household and, despite the brewing adoration in them for their master, they are like family to him. Delaunay is a veteran soldier (along with being a poet and a nobleman), but it isn’t his station to escort them to their every appointment, so he keeps an unofficial man-at-arms in his household for that purpose. We see a glimpse of the danger he has set his apprentices to courting when Alcuin comes riding pell-mell back from an assignation on horseback after his carriage was attacked and the man-at-arms, Guy, perishes facing off against the attackers to defend Alcuin’s escape.

Guy is an older, chaperone-type figure during Phèdre’s younger years in the household. He doesn’t spend much time talking in the book. Like everyone else in Delaunay’s household, he knows when to keep his mouth shut, and he’s got a few secrets in his past. The only real tidbit we’re given is one that Phèdre discovers during the torment of her virginity, that Guy is a disgraced Cassiline Brother.

Much like Naamah and Kushiel, Cassiel was one of Eula’s Companions, and he alone among them remained chaste, disdaining the open, loving ways of the others. The Cassiline Brotherhood are not descendents of Cassiel, but an order of bodyguards pledged from noble houses that are considered to be the ultimate protectors. Usually they are only in service to those born of the Great Houses (i.e., nobility). They dress in grey and carry two daggers and a sword, though mostly they fight with unmatched skill with the two daggers, as their swords are only drawn to kill. But it’s rare for them to draw their swords. Cassilines won’t even draw their daggers except in defense of their charges.

Delaunay secures a Cassiline to replace Guy in accompanying Phèdre on her missions, which she thinks a disaster in the making as she anticipates a prudishly chaste, old, wrinkled guardian that will be off-putting and unsuitable.

What she gets is Joscelin Verreuil.

The young man standing in the shadows behind me bowed in the traditional manner of the Cassiline Brotherhood, hands crossed before him at chest level. Warm sunlight gleamed on the steel of his vambraces and the chain-mail that gauntleted the backs of his hands. His twin daggers hung low on his belt and the cruciform hilt of his sword, always worn at the back, rose above his shoulders. He straightened and met my eyes.

“Phèdre no Delaunay,” he said formally, “I am Joscelin Verreuil of the Cassiline Brotherhood. It is my privilege to attend.”

He neither looked nor sounded as though he meant it; I saw the line of his jaw harden as he closed his mouth on the words.

It was a beautiful mouth.

Indeed, there was very little about Joscelin Verreuil that was not beautiful. He had the old-fashioned, noble features of a provincial lord and the somber, ash-grey garb of a Cassiline Brother adorned a tall, well-proportioned form, like the statues of the old Hellene athletes. His eyes were a clear blue, the color of a summer sky, and his hair, caught back in a club at the nape of his neck, was the color of a wheatfield at harvesttime.

At this moment, his blue eyes considered me with ill-concealed dislike.

Kushiel’s Dart, pg 254-255

Joscelin enters the story at a tumultuous time. Alcuin has made his mark, leaving Phèdre as the only active spy for Delaunay, and the waters she’s diving into are getting turbulent. A trained, chaste protector, Joscelin is affronted by her “service.” Phèdre equally resents Joscelin for his rigidity. But they are of a similar age, and he is assigned to be her protector at a time when she is becoming isolated from those she cares for by their shared mission. Their similar age and exclusion from Delaunay’s greatest secrets gives them common ground. He becomes a fixture in the household, and a steady companion to her, despite not having Phèdre’s training at political intrigue. There’s something of a role-reversal in their dynamic from the more standard male-warrior/female-damsel relationships in the fantasy I read prior to this book. Phèdre faces danger even without carrying a sword, and she lacks a sense of caution about her work. Joscelin, who is much more careful, is a good foil for her, and proves himself a stalwart companion when the chips are down.

What draws me to Joscelin is similar to what draws me to Phèdre. Despite his impressive skills with a sword, he’s not perfect. He messes up and needs help finding his way, and has some growing up to do when we meet him in the book, but he never stops trying and he never abandons Phèdre despite their differences and disagreements. And they have some serious disagreements along the way, but even to at the worst of them, he remains a constant in the turbulence she’s embroiled in.

“You don’t know.” He bowed his head, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, despairing. “You don’t understand. It has naught to do with thrones and crowns. Cassiel betrayed God because God Himself had forgotten the duty of love and abandoned Elua ben Yeshua to the whims of Fate. To the point of damnation and beyond, he is the Perfect Companion. If you are true, if you are true… I cannot abandon you, Phèdre nó Delaunay!”

Kushiel’s Dart, page 388

The two of them are such a slow-burn, antagonists-to-lovers romance that I could write an entire epic saga in honor to it. They both support each other and grow to be capable individuals that fit together. There’s a lack of narrative focused on how they feel about each other, but with Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous prose and Phèdre’s insightful narration, you know how close they grow without needing purple prose descriptions or long-winded confessions to explain it. And Carey doesn’t rush into their pairing, or ignore or avoid their individual truths or situations. Their affection for each other doesn’t magically erase the impediments to it – Phèdre remains a Servant of Naamah and Kushiel’s Chosen; Joscelin remains a Cassiline with his oaths. Joscelin can’t supply for all Phèdre’s sexual desires, and she can’t give them up for him. Likewise, there’s the pesky issue of his vow of celibacy to consider.

In another story this might lead to a relationship doomed for failure or only lasting a single novel, but the main tenet of the d’Angeline faith is Blessed Elua’s decree to “Love as thou wilt,” and thankfully their relationship proves that love will find a way despite the struggles it must endure. Their growth as a couple and the progression of their love make Phèdre and Joscelin one of my favorite literary couples.

LOVE AS THOU WILT

I can’t write this book review without further exploring the open-mindedness of Elua’s teachings. The acceptance of sexuality, desire, and love in this world (I would say book, but remember, this series continues on for more than just this one) are another reason I love it so. There’s an absence of shaming of desires in the book. Even Joscelin, who doesn’t agree with or understand Phèdre’s assignations or desires, comes across more like he’s asking “Are you sure the answer to this calamity is sex?” than throwing stones about how she finds her pleasure when the matter comes up. (Remember, he starts off a chaste guardian that errs towards restraint rather than passion.)

That D’Angelines keep certain things private, but don’t stigmatize an individual’s desires, has been refreshing to me since I first read this book almost twenty years ago, and remains a message that’s relevant today. I like that sort of inclusion in my fantasy stories, and in Kushiel’s Dart, Phèdre not only understands her desires, she expresses them, and isn’t rebuked for it. Because the narrative voice always makes me feel one with Phèdre when reading the book, that transfers a powerful feeling of validation to me as the reader.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that I love Phèdre’s story, and I love the emotional roller coaster it takes me on. But as a responsible reviewer, I can’t conclude without an honest assessment of a few potential distractions from the book’s glory.

Some Possible Cons…

I mentioned before the flavor of most of the sex in the book, which won’t be to everyone’s taste despite being handled tastefully. The book is also long, nine-hundred-and-one pages long, which puts the paperback in the category of self-defense brick. The story is gorgeously written, but with so much of it, I find that every time I read the book new details come to my attention. Also, there’s the pesky problem of not being able to put it down, and my poor wrists trying to hold open this mass-market paperbrick.

None of the above is reason not to pick the book up, as there’s so much to the story to enjoy, but you have been warned.

Now, because this review has been lengthy (and hopefully without too many spoilers), I’ll give a bit of a summary.

TL;DR

Kushiel’s Dart is the story of Phèdre, who was marked at birth by the god Kushiel in Terre d’Ange. This romantic epic fantasy:

  • involves political intrigue;
  • includes sexytimes in which pain brings the protagonist pleasure and sexytimes in which sex brings the protagonist pleasure;
  • is told from the protagonist’s point of view in first person narration;
  • has a well-detailed and fleshed out fantasy setting;
  • has a bright and interesting cast of characters; and
  • has a swoon-worthy, slow-burn, antagonists-to-lovers romance within it.

(Also, you could defend yourself in a dark alley with the paperback version.)

Did I miss your favorite part? Have you been in love with it as long as I have, or is this your first introduction to it? Let’s chat in the comments about it!

You can get your copy here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roz has a degree in both theater and comic books from different ends of the country, and has been telling stories since she was chasing fireflies barefoot at dusk and tormenting her cousins by enforcing a storyline on summer games of tag. She enjoys video games that rival epic sagas in length, writing books with heroines that require her to spar through her fight scenes with friends, and a good cup of tea.

Reach her at:

Roz’s latest release is Partner to Trouble, which is the third installment in her fantasy romance series, Shieldsister. The series starts with An Evening’s Truce:

No amount of coin will convince Belisare to use her magic, but that never stops her lover Gio from trying to change her mind. 

With hard times thinning the ranks of her pack of mercenaries, Belisare doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to romance, and even less on making the coin to keep them all going. Rather than spend her nights cold and alone, she’s hung on to her erstwhile lover, Gio. Rather than disband, she’s taken one last, desperate contract before winter to try and make ends meet.

When convincing the lads of the plan goes poorly and Gio shows up in her tent, Belisare is more than happy for a few hours of distraction. But are Gio’s nighttime attentions meant to help her unwind or are they yet another attempt at convincing her to use the magical ability she keeps firmly suppressed?

Appropriate for fans of KUSHIEL’S DART and OGLAF, the SHIELDSISTER series is for mature readers only, and is certainly NSFW.

Content Warning: Steamy love scenes, occasionally naughty language, and busty ladies in armor wielding swords. Intended for mature audiences.

Ryan Muree: You were the CHOSEN ONE!

Since I’ve been a bit controversial with my previous blog posts, I volunteered to talk about one of my most favorite tropes in fantasy ever – THE CHOSEN ONE!

Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

//swoons

It doesn’t matter which form it takes—chosen for this destiny, chosen for that fate, chosen to be with this guy/gal, chosen to destroy that world, chosen to save it. I don’t care if the character was chosen to eat a very specific pizza just to have the best damn meal of their life…

Chosen Ones hit me in the feels.

And I believe it’s because this trope hits on key threads all humans can understand.

Chosen Ones have a place and a purpose. There is no meandering through life and adventure when there is something to be done. The understanding is that there is a goal, a destination, and the Chosen One will reach it at some point or another.

Chosen Ones are typically being guided, or they feel like they are. In relation to that “no meandering” part, this implies a higher self, a god, or a guardian of some sort protecting them, looking out for them, walking them on a specific path meant solely for them. And it’s usually used in an endearing way like a parent-child relationship.

Chosen Ones usually only have to have faith in themselves. And when they do, the pieces they were missing magically fall into place, and they are victorious.

Chosen Ones are born special. Whether or not they know they are, being a “chosen one” means they were an outlier at some point, and it usually goes back to just being born that way. (Most recent example would be The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. No spoilers. This is literally given away in the trailer.)

Neo in The Matrix Trilogy

Reading about Chosen Ones is a guilty pleasure for most of us. Sometimes, it hits us in our most vulnerable spots. Some of us don’t want to hear that we’re regular, average, carbon-based organisms no more important than the amoeba in that rain puddle in the street.

Some of us are bothered by the idea of nothing guiding our hand or looking out for us. We recognize our own fragility, our own weaknesses, and we rightfully mistrust ourselves in a lot of our decision making.

It takes us decades to trust our own intuition, thoughts, and beliefs. For some of us, it takes us our entire lives if at all. And a lot of us want to believe that we can do great things for humankind as a whole. That even if we’re alone in the great wide universe, that we are made of star-stuff, and that’s pretty special.

 “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” 
― Carl Sagan

The market, especially books and YA, has been inundated with a million Chosen One stories. My guess would be that we have Harry Potter and the resurgence of superheroes to thank for it. And the idea of Chosen Ones has been spat on a lot for being too fictional or too lazy.

And there’s something to be said about how easy it can be to be born special with a preordained destiny. I mean, that’s partially why we read it, so that criticism is probably fair.

I have yet to write a Chosen One despite loving the trope. I find it just as important to show that characters with grit, determination, and motivation can achieve great things. That despite a million and one pitfalls, they get right back up, not because their destiny says so, but because they must. I like showing that if there is nothing guiding us, we can still do the right thing. We can trust ourselves to be our best, to overcome, to persist.

…Characters with grit, determination, and motivation can achieve great things. That despite a million and one pitfalls, they get right back up, not because their destiny says so, but because they must.

But I think the answer has to be balance and acceptance, right? We need both, and I give you permission, as a totally regular person, to love both.

If someone needs to read about someone facing fears and struggles without knowing the outcome, then so be it. If someone needs to believe they’re special to do what’s right, does it matter? If someone loves destiny and fate and guiding forces, does it hurt anything if they’re believing it while helping humankind? I think that loving Chosen Ones means they enjoy living vicariously through characters who don’t have to jump through the same hoops they do to figure out life.

And isn’t that what all stories are supposed to do? Help us figure out life?

Let me know in the comments if you love Chosen One stories, and why or why not!

About the Author

Ryan grew up a military brat, managed to teach middle school in Texas for a spell, and finally settled in the southeastern US with her husband, their daughter, and two black cats. She loves writing determined heroines who answer the call for wild adventures across rich lands with grit and smarts. When she’s not inventing worlds for her characters, she games, draws, paints, and uses too many exclamation points.

Reach her at:

If you dig fantasy and enjoy YA adventures, Ryan wrote a non-Chosen One epic fantasy with a strong leading lady called The Last Elixir.

Shenna is forced to watch her loved ones disintegrate before her very eyes. 

As an apprentice potioner, seventeen-year-old Shenna has been training to cure the Necrophaise disease for most of her life. The answer is an immortality elixir, and the key ingredient is rumored to exist outside the walls of Eien in the war-torn and deadly land of Revellis. 

When her fellow potioner returns from Revellis empty handed and near death, Shenna volunteers to be the next potioner to search for the ingredient. Her mentor warns her it’s a suicide mission, and the search proves her right. Desert beasts hunt Shenna for the water in her body. Armies kill and destroy everything in their path. And a Revellian conqueror is hungry to inhale Shenna’s essence. 

But Shenna is not without allies. She meets new friends, and a questionable, yet handsome, thief promises to steal her heart… eventually. As the Revellian war closes in around them, Shenna must rely on her potions and her friends if she hopes to survive and keep Eien from vanishing into light and dust.

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited! (Bundled box set of the series is available too!)

What to Read if You Love Beauty and the Beast

If you’re anything like me, you love a good retelling. One of my all-time favorite Disney movies is Beauty and the Beast, and finding an exceptional retelling of the classic or a book heavily inspired by it is a rare treat. Here’s a list of Beauty and the Beast inspired books as suggested by our readers in our Romantic Fantasy Shelf Facebook group and some of our top picks, in no particular order.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Not strictly a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it still hits all the right notes: a girl locked in a castle, and a beast with a curse to break.


“I could not stop reading until I finished the last book and I still beg for more, as any good series would leave you wanting.”

Amazon Reviewer

Beauty by Robin McKinley

A masterfully written and sweet retelling perfect for lovers of YA fantasy.

“This is a beautiful retelling of a classic story with great imagery, a strong heroine and fantastic language in the telling.”

Amazon Reviewer

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

An old West twist on the classic tale by one of romantic fantasy’s master storytellers.


“An intriguing retelling of a tale as old as time – Beauty and the Beast gets new life in this version.”

Amazon Reviewer

Entreat Me by Grace Draven

A beautifully rendered, brutal, and sexy tale perfect for adult fans.


“An expertly done fairytale, so that the tale sucks you in and has you turning the pages well past bed time.

Amazon Reviewer

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Weaving in Greek mythology and other folklore, this is an exciting retelling with a compelling arranged marriage element.

Cruel Beauty had me hooked from the first sentence and as soon as I finished reading, I was depressed that it was over. If you’re a lover of retellings, dark romance, and a courageous heroine, then this is one book you do not want to miss.

Amazon Reviewer

Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast

Dark, sexy, and steeped in mythology, this is one readers rave about.

“ For [anyone] who is a fan of classic fairy tales with a twist, I would say stop waiting and read this book!”

Amazon Reviewer

No Man Can Tame by Miranda Honfleur

RFS Book Club Winner February 2019

Beauty and the Beast inspired with a unique twist with dark elves, clever world building, and a slow-burn romance that will leave you aching for more.

For those who enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings or high-fantasy romance stories, I definitely recommend No Man Can Tame. It has all the appeal of both the genres beautifully woven together in a satisfying and charming package

J.M. Butler

Check out J.M. Butler’s full review right here.


Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm

RFS Book Club Winner February 2019

It hits all the beats of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, with a fresh setting woven with Celtic mythology.

For those who enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings with a darker and grimmer edge or Irish mythical retellings, this book is likely a good match.

J.M. Butler

Check out J.M. Butler’s full review here.


Stolen Enchantress by Amber Argyle

A mash-up of Beauty and the Beast with the Pied Piper makes for a unique twist.


“Argyle paints a breathtaking, Avatar[-esque] world in this incredibly well written story. “

Amazon Reviewer

The Fury Queen’s Harem by Meg Xuemei X

The tables are turned in this reverse harem: the girl is the beast and there are three men to break her curse.

“I was completely captivated. Meg Xuemei X has done an incredible job at writing a one of a kind story that is sure to pull the reader in within the first few pages…”

Amazon Reviewer

Enchant by Demelza Carlton

An adult retelling, filled with great characters, twists and turns that readers adored.

Enchant is the perfect name for this book. It completely captivated and enchanted me from the beginning to end.”

Amazon Reviewer

Dragon and the Beast by Amberlyn Holland

Dragons, intrigue, magic and romance. This book has it all!

“I could not put it down.”

Amazon Reviewer

Beauty and the Goblin King by Lidiya Foxglove


A sexy retelling you don’t want to miss!

“It’s steamy, sexy, and makes you want your own goblin king.”

Amazon Reviewer

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

Lyrical prose, amazing characterization, and Gaelic mythology: what more could you want?

“I pretty much loved everything in this novel and think I was sucked in from the very start.”

Amazon Reviewer

Shadow & Thorn by Kenley Davidson

A thief, an exiled prince, and a whole lot of intrigue, magic, and romance.

“Written with such insight and intelligence there were just too many gems to count.”

Amazon Reviewer

Fausta Borja’s Beauty and the Beast

A steamy gothic romance retelling, with strong French influences.

“If you [want] a raunchy fairytale, this is for you.”

Amazon Reviewer