If you’ve read A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas and have a book hangover, then you’ve also probably checked out her A Court of Thorns and Roses and Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. These romantic fantasy books have something in common that we’ve been discussing at Romantic Fantasy Shelf: fae!
Fae are a type of fantastical being, usually beautiful, with magical abilities, pointy ears, and an immortal life. They’re often tricksters, living in an alternate realm and making bargains, unable to lie, and sometimes winged. The fae likely come from Irish mythology, although “fae” is often used as a blanket term as well for elves of Norse mythology and multiple types of other faeries from European myths and folklore.
Although we definitely plan to make an elf list, today we’re all 👏 about 👏 fae. 👏
Okay, okay, this one’s a given! But if you’ve read A Court of Thorns and Roses and you’ve glanced at Throne of Glass, hoping for fae, guess what? There are most definitely fae. Celaena/Aelin’s story really blooms over the course of the series, growing in lore, magic, scope, and romance. (A Court of Silver Flames lovers, yes, it gets steamy, but not ACOSF steamy!!!) Celaena starts off as an assassin trying to win her freedom from enslavement, but in doing so, a huge destiny unfolds, full of adventure, magic, surprises, and romance.
Tell us a fairy tale, Ms. Rogerson! Maybe we didn’t ask her directly, but An Enchantment of Ravens is that book. In this standalone young-adult fantasy romance, Isobel is a human who creates for the Fair Folk something they can’t create for themselves: paintings. When she paints mortal sorrow in a fae prince’s eyes, she’s spirited away to his kingdom, where she must use her painting skills to fight the fairy courts. The writing is lush and descriptive, and the story follows more traditional fairytale beats while enchanting you with adventure, magic, and romance.
Remember Puck, one of the OG fae from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare? If you need a refresher, crack open this young-adult portal fantasy, The Iron King: Puck is the heroine’s guardian as she goes into the fae realm to rescue her little brother. It turns out she’s Oberon’s daughter and very powerful, and saving her little brother is only one of her concerns. Add in a smoldering fae prince, Ash, and you’ve got a delicious fae fantasy rich with details from fairytales and folklore. Bonus points: the series has a beautiful special-edition rerelease as extra eye candy.
Rooted in an alternate-history steampunk Scotland, The Falconer spins the tale of Aileana, a daughter working to avenge the death of her mother at the hands of a fae. She casts aside her aristocratic upbringing and embraces the destiny of a long line of female warriors fated to fight the fae to protect humanity. Although the human v. fae setup is familiar, along with a swoony fae hero, Aileana isn’t your typical heroine. She doesn’t have to fight; she chooses to, and she’s proud of it. She enjoys it. This is a heroine who kicks butt with no excuses or qualifiers. If you’re all for this action-packed ride, make sure you have the next book ready for when you hit the cliffy!!!
Do you have a Rhys hangover after reading the A Court of Thorns and Roses series? Take three books of The Bargainer series–you won’t regret it. In this new-adult romantic fantasy trilogy, Callie is a siren who’s been making deals with the Bargainer, a fae who finally comes to collect when his people are being abducted. It’s a mystery he believes Callie can help solve, and it brings these two together in a bond that builds in real time and flashbacks to when Callie was a teen and first began making her bargains. There’s mystery, faeries, and magic to be found here in this portal fantasy, but romantics, this one’s for you: the star element here is the romance! Get ready for a fix of Desmond. 😉
Labyrinth fans, take note: Wintersong is here to deliver delicious Jareth vibes in a fantasy 19th-century Germany, with music given pride of place. When the Goblin King abducts musician Liesl’s beautiful sister, she sets off to the Underground, a realm of various and fantastical fae creatures, to rescue her. This romantic fantasy duology combines elements of the Hades-Persephone myth, “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, and the Wild Hunt of European mythology, and joins it with beautiful prose, romance, spice, and a tale of sisterhood. Wintersong is an emotional ride, so be prepared for a deep, resonant story that’ll give you all the feels.
The Hades and Persephone myth is the backbone of this fantasy romance series that’ll quench your A Court of Mist and Fury thirst! Heroine Vi’s mother is the enemy of fae prince Thiago, and as part of a treaty, she trades Princess Vi to him for three months, hoping to end the war before it begins. Once Vi is there, however, any feelings of enmity soon give way to attraction… This is a dark, spicy series that is a perfect marriage of lush fantasy worldbuilding and fan-yourself steam, with a good helping of court intrigue and action.
Ellie is about to be married off when fae king Rain learns she is his fated mate, seemingly a non-fae human. This epic fantasy romance tale, which has inspired the likes of Sarah J. Maas, spans multiple books as alpha Rain and Ellie try to solidify their bond in time to save Rain’s people. There are folkloric and mythic origins to be found here, yet the Tairen Soul series also explores a unique spin on fae, with shapeshifting to a winged panther form, various elemental magical abilities, and the concept of a “Tairen Soul” with immense power to destroy or to save. C.L. Wilson is a master of both fantasy and romance, with detailed worldbuilding and complex characters, and if you missed her work before, do yourself a favor and jump in with both feet.
If you’re a fan of fae folklore, you won’t want to miss the queen of Celtic fantasy retellings holding court with her brilliantly detailed and well-written Heart of the Fae. The first two books, inspired by Beauty and the Beast, make up a duology within this series, following Sorcha, a midwife and healer, who makes a deal with a powerful fae to save her family and others from a horrible plague. Eamonn is a tortured fae prince under a crystalline curse, and Sorcha must convince him to help her before it’s too late. A brooding Beast hero, a brave and strong heroine, and deep worldbuilding rooted in folklore make this story a no-brainer for your TBR, but add to that Hamm’s gorgeous writing, and you have one you’ll love to read and reread.
Ash begins with the familiar bones of a Cinderella retelling, with Aisling’s father remarrying and then passing away, leaving the heroine working as a servant for her wicked stepmother and stepsisters to repay his debts. She finds solace in fairytales and daydreams, until one day, she actually meets a fae prince, Sidhean, who promises to take her away when she’s ready. A twist arrives in the form of the fae prince’s huntress, Kaisa, who truly awakens Ash to what life could be. But there’s a problem: Sidhean has decided to make Ash his own. This romantic lesbian Cinderella retelling also reads like a fairytale itself, with lovely lyrical writing, and its worldbuilding is dark and full of traditional fae and faeries from folk traditions. If you want a story that’ll hit you in the feels and take your heart on a lovely journey of hills and valleys, you’ll want to add Malindo Lo’s Ash to your list like yesterday.
Not all of the fae are classically handsome or ethereally beautiful. Some interpretations include trolls and goblins, and so we’re more than happy to include this intriguing foray into the fantastic. As a rebellion brews, Cécile, a young opera singer-in-training, looks forward to the day when she will join her talented mother on the stage, but an abduction and a strange mysterious bond take her to Trollus and the enigmatic prince Tristan. With a haunting narrative, fast-paced storytelling, and distinctive setup regarding the trolls and their nature, this romance will give you just what you’re looking for and more besides.
When it comes to a terrifying lover, few fairytales compare to Bluebeard. In this young-adult first-person retelling, Sarah K. L. Wilson spins a story of Izolda, a practical young woman who is willing to marry for practical reasons. That marriage, however, results in tragedy, and she winds up whisked away by a powerful and terrifying immortal who has already gone through fifteen brides! It’s a wild adventure with an unlikely pairing in this sweet romance complete with riddles, chaos, and the fate of the world all in the balance. Perfect for lovers of fairy tale retellings and dangerous romance, you won’t be sorry you took a chance on this extravagant and delightful adventure.
If you love fae and reverse harem fantasy, you could not find a better starting point than The Power of Five. If you love a hot, well-developed fae hero, try four of them on for size. *fans self* These warriors are searching for their “fifth” and are surprised to learn she’s a mortal woman, Lera. This heroine forges her own path, amid fae politics, an unusual bond, every hero’s different approach to the relationship, and a satisfying fated-mates dynamic. Recommended by our own Catharine Glen as the best series to begin exploring the reverse harem genre, The Power of Five has everything you’ll love: fantasy, fae, and romance, with solid character development. Bonus points: it’s complete at four books and three novella collections!
So you blew through Alex Lidell’s Power of Five series above and you want more fae and reverse harem fantasy? Welcome to the Anderelle: Minloa series. Our heroine, Elara, can literally pull stars from the sky and has to hide her powers. When invaders come from the sky, she discovers she’s extremely important to the Seelie fae and must protect her world, its warlords, and her universe. This is a romantic mashup of fantasy and sci-fi, with fae, magic, and space invaders, and faithful to author Catherine Banks’ brand, Elara is a strong heroine and her harem is full of protective alpha men. Some unique sci-fantasy worldbuilding makes this a special pick, but make no mistake: here the juicy relationships and the growing bonds between the heroine and her men take center stage.
This romantic portal fantasy series follows half-elf Arlyn as she goes through the mists in search of her father. Aryln’s mother has just passed, and she must tell her father, who doesn’t even know she exists. Although we’re making a separate Elves list, Soulbound has expansive worldbuilding covering many types of fae, although this first book primarily focuses on elves. Fans of soul bonds and fated mates will especially enjoy the romance here with Kai, but one of this series’ many wonderful elements is the elven culture, especially how they treat familial bonds. Children are treasured, and the parental love in this series is truly heartwarming and a joy to read. Come for the fantasy and the romance, and settle in for lovely worldbuilding to warm the cockles of your heart.
For the sweet-romance fans out there, here is a gem that blends the myths of Hades & Persephone and Eros & Psyche. Valera has spent her life watching out for her beautiful sister and fearing that Brielle may be stolen by the fae as a bride. Instead, it’s Valera who’s stolen by the enigmatic fae lord Erolas. He promises to return her to her sister after a year and a day, if she can manage not to see his face. Naturally, their hearts have something to say about the matter! Valera is a cautious, responsible heroine who looks before she leaps, and Erolas is a kind, loving hero, making for a heartwarming fantasy romance with some warm Beauty and the Beast vibes. Mercedes’ smooth, elegant writing is the bonus enchantment that’ll keep you happily reading long after bedtime.
Do you want some dragons along with your fae in a romantic fantasy series? The Goddess and the Guardians series has your number. When half-fae Diamond’s village is attacked and she learns she has magic, she finds herself under the protection of surly fae warrior Hugo… who’s also under the orders of a queen hating Diamond’s magic. Tomlinson’s fae aren’t the typical pretty boys, but rather powerful warriors. Hugo’s been through a lot, and watching his cold exterior open up as feelings slowly develop with Diamond is a thing of beauty. If you love a protective hero who takes care of his heroine, and mating bonds are your catnip, you need this series in your life. Bonus: The Goddess and the Guardians is complete at four books, so you can binge to your heart’s desire.
Half-fae Devi has a price on her head and is a ward of the Unseelie queen, while hero Vale is the queen’s son. He’s convinced he’s under some spell to become infatuated with Devi, but he still looks out for her. Devi can control all four elements, and a mysterious betrayer is trying to take out any competition to rule all the realms. Against a backdrop of mystery and brewing war, the crown jewel of Frostbound Throne is the chemistry between Devi and Vale! Feisty and snarky, their banter is a pleasure to read, and the depths of the characterization here make you wish you could stay in the story long after you’re done reading. (Luckily it’s a series!)
Fae rules abound in this fantasy Regency tale that follows the adventures of Henrietta Valstar, an illusionist who works with an acting troupe. Her father’s death requires that she return home for the Choosing, in which the land of Stariel chooses its new leader. Hetta, as she is known to her friends, dearly loves to flirt and triggers all sorts of disapproval from her grumpy relations. And what is a good story of fae magic without family drama, intrigue, and romance? This story has it all in spades. And the charming love interest who captivates Hetta’s heart is one who continues to draw her attention. With this gripping start to the series, you’ll want the next books on hand so you can continue on and explore the land of Stariel and all of its mystery and wonder.
Our heroine, Reyna, is a shieldmaiden and abhors fae politics, but when the war can be solved by her marriage to enemy Prince Thane sooner than by force, she agrees, planning to murder him when the time is right… if only pesky feelings didn’t get in the way! If you love books like The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen and The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller, and you like multiple POVs with your fae fantasy, then Court of Ruins is your jam. Blending together half a dozen viewpoints with intrigue, romance, and magic, this series will satisfy your need for epic while serving up a feast of fae for your pleasure. Bonus: the fifth and final book in this romantic fantasy series comes out next month, so you can binge right through!
In this portal fantasy, musician Annika is visiting her uncle in Bulgaria after turning down a marriage proposal and quitting her job. When she accidentally travels to another realm, she meets Talvi, a centuries-old elf (and hot as hell). Annika is unable to return home because the portals have stopped working, and she and Talvi attempt to learn why. The hero and heroine here are not shy about their attraction to other people and each other, and there is steam a’plenty! In this realm, you’ll find an expansive cast of elves, fae, trolls, druids, and more, and Annika herself has mysterious origins to uncover. The chemistry, romance, and adventure here take center stage, and The Flame & the Arrow is the perfect fit if you’re looking for a steamy portal fantasy with faeries.
Fae elements are blended with the dystopian and the science in Æroreh (pronounced like the traditional “Aurora” from Sleeping Beauty). The eponymous heroine received the blessings of the fae when she was an infant. Of course, that comes with some consequences as it means she’s also plugged into the Dream program and coded to bring in the New Dawn Era. It’s the only life she has ever known and which she alone can break to create a new one. This Sleeping Beauty tale of course comes complete with a Félip, the humiliated young man with a frostbite scar on his face. Their connection is swift, their romance every bit as intense as such a retelling requires. As Æroreh learns what she wants and Félip learns to shadow walk, they are drawn ever forward on a path that twines them together in romantic bliss and hope. This is the first book in the Ealdspell Cycle, but it does come to a complete resolution on its own, with the second book set up well enough to give you a taste of the fae delights yet to come in this world.