What is fantasy romance?

What is fantasy romance? Good question! Fantasy Romance is an emerging genre, driven by demand from readers like us, but there’s no clear ‘shelf’ that they all sit on…yet.

Fantasy romance is any work of fiction with fantastical, magical, or non-human elements (not set in space, and not with a technology focus, as this would be classified as sci-fi), where there’s a significant romantic element.

There are many sub-genres (and combinations of sub-genres) that we’ve laid out below. Let us know what we missed!

Fantasy romance genres

  • Epic, swords and sorcery (other world, may include witches, dragons, special powers)
  • Epic low magic (other world but with only a little magic)
  • Epic paranormal (other world with vampires, shifters, fae – relationships with non-humans)
  • Epic alternate history (other world that feels like an alternative historical setting)
  • Epic Gaslamp / Steampunk (Gaslamp / Steampunk set in another world)
  • Epic contemporary (other world with modern feel, could additionally have paranormal or swords and sorcery elements)
  • Low fantasy (our world, anything magical, but not necessarily with creatures who are non-human)
  • Low fantasy paranormal (our world, anything magical that includes vampires, shifters, other paranormal beings. Generally known as paranormal romance today)
  • Low fantasy historical (our world, in a real historical period but with magical elements)
  • Low fantasy urban (our world with anything magical that predominantly takes place in an urban setting, often includes monsters / portals to other worlds. Often know as urban fantasy)
  • Time travel (could be epic (other world) or low (our world) fantasy)
  • Low fantasy / epic mix (travel between our world and other world, often known as portal fantasy)

Heat levels

  • Sweet / clean: sweet love story with PG content
  • Smoldering: buckets of heart wrenching tension, at least one (not especially graphic) sex scene, not much coarse language (A Court of Mist and Fury, From Blood and Ash, A Discovery of Witches, The Hating Game)
  • Hot hot hot: generally one to three more extensive / detailed sex scenes, increasing use of coarse language (A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, A Promise of Fire, The Kiss Quotient)
  • Scorching: ALL the sex scenes, much description and detail, lots of coarse language (A Heart of Blood and Ashes)
  • Erotica (not a focus for FaRoFeb)

Age categories of the protagonists

  • Young Adult (YA). This one causes confusion because protagonist age is not the same as reader age… (YA aimed at a younger audience is not a focus for FaRoFeb)
  • New Adult (NA)
  • Adult

Tropes

All the usual romance tropes apply to fantasy romance (enemies to lovers, fake relationships / marriages, brooding (or scary) one loves sunshine one, there’s only one bed etc etc), but there are also structural and situational tropes specific to fantasy romance:

  • Assassin to lovers
  • There’s only one horse
  • There’s only one lake / waterfall / stream in which to bathe
  • We find ourselves alone in a carriage…
  • It’s cold. We should huddle together to stay warm
  • Teach me about / help me control…(my abilities / fighting etc.)

HEA / HFN

In most romance, a happily ever after (HEA) or happily for now (HFN) ending for the two main characters is a sacred requirement. This isn’t the case to the same extent in fantasy romance, with the HEA or HFN often coming at the end of the series, not necessarily the end of each book.

But, as this genre is so new, it’s not clear if this will become an absolute requirement for readers of not…we will have to wait and see!

What did we miss? Tell us on Instagram or in our Facebook group!

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