Fantasy is an extremely popular genre that has been around for years. But the genre is constantly evolving. In more recent years, fantasy has developed a range of sub-genres. Including romantic fantasy! Unlike fantasy romance, which focuses predominantly on romance, romantic fantasy is more deeply rooted in fantasy.
There are several types of romantic fantasy books. Some popular sub-genres include dark, contemporary, sword, and shield romantic fantasy. Similarly, romantic fantasy uses particular tropes such as enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, and damsels in distress.
There are several tropes and themes within romantic fantasy books. But what are the types of romantic fantasy books, and how can you tell them apart? This article will give you everything you need to know about this popular sub-genre.
Romantic Fantasy Sub-Genres
Romantic fantasy has its roots in fantasy. Although it’s a mix of romance and fantasy, the themes within this genre rely heavily on fantasy elements. That means romantic fantasy books will have supernatural and paranormal entities and creatures and comprehensive world-building themes. So, if you’re looking for a fantasy book with a romantic sub-plot, this genre is for you!
There are several sub-genres within the romantic fantasy genre, each with its own unique plotlines and themes.
Dark Romantic Fantasy
Dark romantic fantasy adds a touch of romance to dark fantasy novels. Dark fantasy revolves around fantasy worlds with a darker atmosphere or undertone. Generally, it includes paranormal creatures that may seem more sinister, like vampires and werewolves.
If you think about mythical creatures that lurk in the shadows, chances are that a dark romantic fantasy book has them! Dark fantasy has a small horror element to it, too. The fear helps to further the plot and create terrifying antagonists and villains.
Themes of conflicting emotions are commonly used within this sub-genre. But with the addition of romance, these villains are often the object of the protagonist’s affection. Adversely, the devilish villains are used to create a ‘damsel-in-distress’ moment, allowing the heroic protagonist to save and protect their true love.
A great example of this sub-genre is A Soul to Keep by Opal Reyne.
Contemporary Romantic Fantasy
Contemporary romantic fantasy takes place in the present day. This sub-genre is predominantly rooted in real-world scenarios and environments but with a fantasy twist. For example, the novel takes place in present-day New York, where mythical creatures are a normal part of life.
This sub-genre relies on certain romance tropes where conflict plays a significant role. It typically revolves around a human protagonist, and that becomes entangled with a paranormal being, or vice versa. A great example of contemporary romantic fantasy is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.
Sword And Sorcery Romantic Fantasy
Sword and sorcery romantic fantasy is heavily influenced by magic and violence. The sword and sorcery genre is exactly what it sounds like. It involves spellcasters and noble warriors that must fight for their survival. In this sub-genre, the protagonist is usually a sorcerer or warrior that needs to fight a villain.
When this genre introduces romance, the protagonist will likely need to fight for their love. Another popular plotline is a villainous sorcerer threatening the protagonist’s home or way of life. The Dark Elf’s Mate by Celeste King is a perfect example of this sub-genre.
Popular Tropes In Romantic Fantasy
A trope is a tool used often enough within a genre that it has become a standard that readers expect. A trope can be a character, plot, or theme that readers can easily recognize or relate to. While tropes are used in most stories, they are different from cliches. The difference is that cliches are old, overused, and typically boring.
Enemies To Lovers
A popular trope among romantic fantasies is enemies to lovers. It follows the theme of two people from antagonistic groups, families, races, or species beginning their relationship as enemies. There are various ways in which this trope can be used.
One example is enemies who regularly clash and eventually fall in love despite their backgrounds. Another example is when two people from opposing groups meet, not knowing the other’s background. They are typically already in love when they discover the other’s background. In this case, the couple typically elopes or finds a solution to the hatred together.
A book with a great example of the enemies to lovers trope is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.
Friends To Lovers
A trope often used for its ability to satisfy the reader’s romantic hopes for characters is friends to lovers. This trope typically involves friends who have never experienced romantic feelings for each other. A significant event causes them to see each other in a new, romantic light.
In some cases, the two can remain friends for years. Without knowing it, they have developed feelings for each other over time. They finally realize this and end up together.
You can find an excellent example of this trope in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone.
Damsel In Distress
The ‘damsel in distress’ trope has been one of the most common tropes used in romantic fantasy. The trope has been adapted to fit the idea of a female hero and male damsel, otherwise known as a ‘distressed dude .’ This is due to the evolving social climate, and the way society has come to view gender roles.
The idea of a hero swooping in to save a person in distress from evil plucks at our heartstrings. The protagonist usually rushes into action in this trope due to their love for the ‘damsel.’
In some fantasy romance stories, the love between the two is already well-established. In these cases, the antagonist abducts the protagonist’s lover to trap or kill the hero, knowing they will try to save their romantic interest.
In other versions of this trope, the romantic feelings are not yet shared. The protagonist is typically in love with the person who is kidnapped or in peril. The hero eventually races to save them because of their love for them. Seeing that they have come to the rescue, the ‘damsel’ falls in love with the hero and finally shares their feelings of love.
A book that does a great job with this trope is Scales of Ash & Smoke by Emily Schneider.
Romantic fantasy books are a newly popular genre of fantasy for book-lovers. Over time, some fantasy novels have adopted romantic sub-plots to create a unique blend of fantasy and romance. No matter what sub-genre or trope your romantic fantasy novel follows, it’s sure to tug at your heartstrings.