11 Captivating Fantasy Books With Arranged Marriages to Read

Arranged marriage romances meld the fieriness of an enemies-to-lovers romance with the suspense of two parties forced to work together. Often, the romantic pair come from conflicting backgrounds, their union a case of grudging necessity. The consequences of the marriage failing are intense and, in the case of royal arranged marriages, may even determine the fate of nations. 

Are you curious what suspenseful, high-stakes fantasy books with arranged marriages exist? Well, if so, look no further. This post covered exactly that, whether the married couple comes from rival kingdoms, radically different cultures, enemies forced to marry because of a curse – or just amicable people who decide an arranged marriage makes sense. 

Here are 11 captivating fantasy books with arranged marriages to read:

I’ve included the complete list, along with book descriptions, Goodreads ratings, and both fan and critic comments below. If you’d like to jump ahead to a comparison chart, here it is. Otherwise, happy reading!

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle — a shifting maze of magical rooms — enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

What Do Readers Say?

Average Rating: 3.68

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

First on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Cruel Beauty. The main positive comment that readers had for this book was the impressive character development. Both main characters go through significant changes throughout the story that turns them into flawed, but wise people.

Another thing that readers appreciated about this book was the dark twist it included on fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin, making it very engaging and refreshing.   

Negative Comments

A common complaint about this book among readers was that the infusion of different fairy tales got confusing at times. The book also tries to incorporate a few mythological aspects, which only added to the confusion.

Another complaint that readers involved the pacing being slow at times and wanting the story to progress faster.

Radiance by Grace Draven


The Prince of no value

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

The noblewoman of no importance

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

What Do Readers Say?

Average Rating: 4.06

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Second on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is RadianceFeaturing a slow-burn, friends-to-lovers romance, this book enthralled fans with the sense of authenticity and connection between the two leads. 

Describing their romance as full of connection and compatibility, readers were delighted that Ildiko and Brishen’s relationship was based on mutual respect and an effort to be good spouses to one another. Comparing it to romances that focused on physical attraction, fans said that this was refreshing. Several mentioned that this was one of the few romances they’d read that came across as a convincing relationship.

Others mentioned how much they appreciated that Ildiko and Brishen were both mature, kind people. Rather than resent each other or their arranged marriage, they approached it with a decision to make the best of it. Seeing them support and care for each other won fans’ praise.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy Radiancewhat did they say? For the most part, critics said that there wasn’t much conflict in the book to keep them riveted by what was happening. Some expected drama in a relationship between people of two vastly different cultures, while others said that the characters’ immediate compatibility meant there wasn’t suspense or anticipation. 

Content Note: Readers said that Radiance contains explicit sexual content

Year of The Unicorn by Andre Norton


The orphan Gillan grew up in an abbey in High Hallack, always knowing she was different and never feeling at home.

When the lords of High Hallack pledge twelve brides to the Were Riders in exchange for their protection, Gillan is faced with an opportunity few would consider: to take the place of one of the twelve chosen women and go off to parts unknown to marry one of these strange wild men.

But Gillan leaps at the chance to leave the only home she has ever known in the hopes of finding something she was meant to do. And her rare gift to see through illusions that fool others will prove vital in a journey where nothing is as it seems.

What Do Readers Say?

Average Rating: 3.91

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Third on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Year of the Unicorn. Although not the first book of the Witch World Saga, readers confirmed that this fantasy-science fiction adventure can be read as a standalone, with no familiarity with the prior books necessary. 

So, why did fans love it? Well, aside from action, magic, romance, and fantastical creatures filling Year of the Unicorn‘s pages, it featured a protagonist they couldn’t help but root for. Gillan, an outcast and unaware of her potential powers, sees an arranged marriage as an opportunity to make a better life for herself. 

Part of what made her so likeable was that she didn’t fall into well-worn tropes of being either an extraordinarly beautiful, intelligent heroine with no flaws to overcome; or an immature and helpless protagonist who nevertheless was the key to saving her world. 

Instead, she struck readers as a practical, likeable heroine who inhabited more of a middle-ground: Pretty and intelligent, but not astonishingly so. Likewise, her love interest, Herrel, isn’t the typical shockingly handsome hero, and neither he nor Gilian have a love-at-first-sight relationship.

Walking with Gilian as she makes the best of her circumstances,  discovers her potential, and grows gripped them. Overall, fans described the book as uplifting, while her relationship with Herrel came across to them as sweet and authentic.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, including Year of the Unicorn. What did these readers say? 

For the most part, they focused on the story’s plot. Critics described it as feeling directionless, without unclear motivations behind it. As such, they thought it meandered into seeming ‘side-quests’ and adventures, which these readers found confusing or frustrating.

Others, though, mentioned they thought the characters were missing a certain charm or charisma that would make them captivating. 

Enchanting The Elven Mage by Alisha Klapheke


A human princess. An elven warrior. A marriage that might kill them both.

Today, Aury learned three things: One, she is the princess. Two, she might be a powerful mage. And three, a brutal mountain elf is on his way to the kingdom for their marriage.

Aury can’t escape her newly revealed royal parents quickly enough. If they think she is going to marry some vicious elven warrior mage, they have another thing coming. They claim she’s a mage too, but she has yet to prove it. She heads to the magic military order to get her rune-marked staff and learn everything she can. If she becomes the weapon they need instead of her not-if-she-can-help-it husband, they’ll send the mountain elf packing, right?

If they don’t, she will.

Filip is certain of three truths: One, he is bound to wed a stubborn mule of a princess. Two, the union will give his people the farmland they desperately need. Three, his nightmare of a bride has wild magic that will probably kill him before their wedding day.

But he will die before he gives up on winning her hand.

War is coming, and the first battle will be fought in the heart.

What Do Readers Say?

Average Rating: 3.65

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Enchanting the Elven Mage. Fans described this story as a beautiful and slightly darker retelling of Sleeping Beauty, full of shocking twists and turns that kept them on the edge of their seats.

On top of that, fans praised Enchanting the Elven Mage’s main characters, whose dynamic personalities gripped and delighted them. In addition, several found themselves grinning throughout, thanks to the pair’s witty thoughts and banter with each other.  

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, including Enchanting the Elven Mage. What did these readers say?

For the most part, the biggest complaint readers had regarding this book was the ending. They felt it ended too fast and left more to be desired, especially since this is a standalone novel. Aside from that, other readers pointed to the world building, saying that there didn’t seem to be much. As a result, the setting came across to them as a little plain. 

Promise of Darkness by Bec McMaster


Princess. Tribute. Sacrifice. Is she the one prophesied to unite two warring Fae courts? Or the one bound to destroy them?

In a realm ruled by magic, the ruthless Queen of Thorns is determined to destroy her nemesis, the cursed Prince of Evernight.

With war brewing between the bitter enemies, the prince forces Queen Adaia to uphold an ancient treaty: she will send one of her daughters to his court as a political hostage for three months.

The queen insists it’s the perfect opportunity for Princess Iskvien to end the war before it begins. But one look into Thiago’s smoldering eyes and Vi knows she’s no assassin.

The more secrets she uncovers about the prince and his court, the more she begins to question her mother’s motives.

Who is the true enemy? The dark prince who threatens her heart? Or the ruthless queen who will stop at nothing to destroy him?

And when the curse threatens to shatter both courts, is her heart strong enough to break it?

A fairytale twist inspired by the Hades and Persephone myth.

What Do Readers Say?

Average Rating: 3.85

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Promise of Darkness. Fans were delighted by how action-packed this electrifying story was. Describing it as fast-paced and intense, this novel featured nail-biting adventure on every page.

On top of that, readers praised Promise of Darkness for its fantastic world-building, mentioning that the tale left intriguing breadcrumb after breadcrumb to building, gradually creating a dazzling final picture. They felt drawn into the world and eager for more.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, including Promise of Darkness. If readers didn’t enjoy it, what did they say?

For the most part, the biggest complaint they had regarded the characters. Critics felt their personalities were predictable or that their interactions with other characters were boring.

The ending disappointed others, who described it as a cliffhanger. This isn’t a standalone novel, but these readers felt the ending for this first book could have been rounded out more.

Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, and the golden hawk’s form in which she takes to the sky is as natural to her as the human one that graces her on land. The only thing more familiar to her is war: It has raged between her people and the serpiente for so long, no one can remember how the fighting began.

As heir to the avian throne, she’ll do anything in her power to stop this war — even accept Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind’s greatest enemy, as her pair bond and make the two royal families one.

Trust. It is all Zane asks of Danica — and all they ask of their people — but it may be more than she can give.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is HawksongFilled with lush and captivating world-building, this story captivated fans with its fantastical world. Whether it was the well-drafted descriptions, subtle legends and traditions woven throughout the tale, or different people groups, Hawksong whisked readers into its pages.

The story focuses on the growing relationship between the two leads, Danica and Zane, and how they join their two very different and hostile cultures: avian and cobra shapeshifters. Fans remarked that the two nation’s cultures and traditions were distinct and fascinating, and the gradual trust Danica and Zane created a moving story.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, including Hawksong. If they didn’t enjoy the novel, what did they say?

Overall, some readers found the period and setting of this book unclear since it referenced myths and legends from vastly different time periods and locations. For instance, some said it included legends from Egypt and Greece.

Others focused on the ending, saying it was abrupt and left them with more questions than answers.  

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen


A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.

The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king.

Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Seventh on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is The Bridge Kingdom. Featuring the fan-favorite ‘enemies to lovers’ romance, this story grabbed readers because of Lara and Aren’s intense, slow-burn chemistry, as well as its high-stakes setup of Lara as an assassin. The war between the pair’s authentic connection and Lara’s steely determination to carry out her mission made for nail-biting suspense.

On top of that, others praised its adrenaline-fueled combination of intrigue, espionage, and action, saying it kept them utterly riveted.

Negative Comments

For the most part, these readers griped that the story didn’t flesh out several of the intriguing worlds and kingdoms it mentioned. Critics expected The Bridge Kingdom to elaborate on these places, so it disappointed and confused them when that didn’t happen. 

On the other hand, some critics described the story’s pace as too fast, saying it came at the expense of developing the plot. 

Note: Readers said that The Bridge Kingdom featured profanity and explicit sexual content.

A Deal With the Elf King by Elise Kova


The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Praised by fans as a captivating and fun Hades and Persephone romance, A Deal With the Elf King is next on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages. Whether it’s the frosty enemies-to-lovers beginning, the witty banter, or a likeable protagonist, this story dazzled readers. 

In particular, fans said the book’s both mythical and fun atmosphere made it the perfect quick romantic read. Luella, A Deal With the Elf King’s smart and brave lead, enchanted them with her cheeky dialogue, curiosity, and personality foil for the contrastingly brooding and aloof elf king. 

Related to that, others praised the story’s pace and plot, saying that even with the intricate world-building, the book’s pages flew by at a fluid and organic pace. 

Overall, readers were thrilled by A Deal With the Elf King, saying it was a wonderful story and world to escape into.

Negative Comments

No book is for everyone, and all books have critics as well as fans. What did A Deal With the Elf King’s critics say?

Overall, these readers had two comments. The first was that it was difficult to get a mental picture of what the characters and settings looked like, since they were rarely described. Because of this, it was hard for critics to get immersed in the world or feel the sense of magic and otherworldliness they expected from an elf and fae tale. 

The second comment had to do with the elf king, who these readers said didn’t grab them as a romantic lead. Some described him as bland, while others said that unlike other ‘bad boy’ heroes, he came across as having the typical arrogance but not as having the charm to balance this flaw out.

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen


For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for… 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.94

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Stolen Songbird. This novel tantalized fans with its intelligent and brave protagonist, perilous and intriguing world, as well as its touching romance.

Readers frequently described Cécile as a great protagonist to follow, one who struck a balance between fierce and compassionate. Forced into circumstances against her will, she shows resourcefulness and makes plans to better her situation. Fans praised her as someone easy to empathize with, as well as wonderfully humorous.

Related to that, Tristan won them over as a captivating love interest. An intelligent and witty who cared deeply about his people, he came across to them as a nuanced and complex character who fans quickly grew attached to. The slow-burn, hate-to-love relationship between him and Cécile seemed all the more passionate because it was so rife with conflict. Fans found this absolutely riveting.

Lastly, the darkly mesmerizing world of Trollus delighted readers. Whether it was the palace, markets or social hierarchies, the world stood out as vibrant and mysterious. Stolen Songbird, they said, felt truly magical.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy Stolen Songbird, what did they say? Overall, critics tended to cite either the protagonist or the romantic development as their reasons.

Several found it frustrating that Cécile, after her kidnapping, didn’t do more to escape. They thought she accepted her captivity too easily. Because of this, they lost respect for her.

Aside from that, critics described the romance as transitioning from hostility to love too suddenly. To these readers, Cécile and Tristan didn’t have enough positive interactions for their new feelings to seem convincing.

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn


Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river. 

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right.

But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood and the secrets of the royal family she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books with arranged marriages is Troubled Waters. This novel enchanted readers primarily through Zoe, it’s protagonist, and the authentic romance between her and her love interest.

Fans described Zoe as a refreshing heroine, one that starts off in a vulnerable state but grows into a strong and self-possessed individual. Her journey moved these readers, who found her relatable and appreciated that she wasn’t the hyper-competent protagonist type.

In addition, others said that Troubled Water’s romance caught their attention. They contrasted it with romances in other fantasy books, which they said tended to say relied on ‘love at first sight’ with little substance behind it. Not so with this novel, which fans praised as having two strong characters who have gain trust and mutual respect for each other. These readers praised it as heartwarming.

Negative Comments

What did critics say about Troubled Waters? Well, they tended to focus on either Zoe as a protagonist or the story’s means of characterizing its cast.

For the former, these readers described Zoe as overly favored by the story. For example, some of them said she adapted too easily to the changes around her while others said she’d make frustrating decisions but face no consequences for it. As a result, these readers found her unlikeable.

In terms of the latter, critics said that the book tended to characterize its cast by astrology descriptions rather than showing those traits in action.

On the other hand, other readers didn’t mind being told about a character’s traits, but didn’t like how frequently those traits were attributed to the character’s astrological sign. This group of readers started to feel that the astrological signs dominated characters instead of informing about them.

Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift


Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Susan Dennard, and Mary E. Pearson.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Last on our list is Cast in Firelight. This action-packed mystery story delighted fans with its world and sweet ‘rivals-to-lovers’ romance.

Inspired by India, the story’s world came across to readers as refreshing and tantalizing. Fans were riveted by this setting, as well as the intriguing story elements woven into Cast in Firelight: secret identities, vigilante justice, a pantheon of gods and goddesses, criminal underworlds and more. 

Several described the romance between Adraa and Jatin as sweet and touching as well. Filled with banter and conflict, their relationship grew organically from the moment the two met. In particular, fans praised it for not being ‘love at first sight’, and instead focusing on the two gaining more respect and admiration for the other as they slowly learned more about one another.

Negative Comments

For the most part, these readers said that Adraa and Jatin came across as underdeveloped, which made them and their romance difficult to get emotionally invested in. For some, this was because they didn’t get a clear sense of their backstories or motivations, while others said they had little to differentiate them from standard Young Adult protagonists.

11 Captivating Fantasy Books With Arranged Marriages to Read

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N.S. Mirage

I'm Natalie, an avid fantasy reader here to help readers find exciting, otherworldly books.

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