Why I Think Adult High Fantasy Romance Could be the “Next Big Thing”
What is adult high fantasy romance? No, it has nothing to do with sexual content (although it could, that's not a determining factor.) Adult means that the characters are adults, at least in their world. The actual age in terms of years might differ vastly between different authors and series. That's fine. High fantasy was apparently coined by Lloyd Alexander – and it requires either the book be set in an alternative world, or that the “characters, themes, or plot” are of a “epic nature.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Often the two go hand in hand.
What does that mean? Well, a book set in say, Charlotte, wouldn't be high fantasy. I might be [low] fantasy, which is also great, but not what we're talking about here. By adult high fantasy romance I mean books set in an alternative universe, with adult characters, and a romance. Yes, it can and does exist, although there aren't very many out there – especially as compared to other romance sub-genres. However, there are more coming out lately, getting a lot of buzz. Jeffe Kennedy is an author that has a few series, and may I point out The Pages of the Mind as an example, which is the start of one series, as well as a spinoff of another. Grace Draven is another excellent adult high fantasy author, and she recently had a new book out, Phoenix Unbound that is the start of a new series. Then, Jennifer Estep has an upcoming release, Kill the Queen that is also the start of a new adult high fantasy romance series.
Yes, fantasy books often come in series, as in a continuation, rather than each book focusing on a different couple. Not the case in Phoenix Unbound or The Pages of the Mind but it's my understanding that's how it is for Exile of the Seas by Kennedy, or Kill the Queen (Estep).
Another series that definitely needs a shout out is the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas. A Court of Thorns and Roses is great, but then you read A Court of Mist and Fury and fall in love with Rhysand so much and then you read A Court of Wings and Ruin which made me cry. (That one speech near the end. If you've read it … you'll know what I mean.)
Some people think high fantasy, the epic quests and romance don't, or even can't mesh. I disagree. When better than making an incredible life or death journey, spending time together and making choices that can affect the fate of the world than to really learn who you all are, and fall in love? The best and worst of an individual are brought to light, and you can know someone with confidence.
For a while people would say “nobody cares about fantasy” and my response would be … have you ever heard of a little something called Game of Thrones? … Yeah. There's a huge market for it. Add in a definite happily ever after and love? Who wouldn't want that?
The majority of my reading for the past year and more has been high fantasy romance. Ideally adult high fantasy romance, but I've branched into YA a few times because as I said – the adult high fantasy romance market is small. And there are so many readers out there desperate for books. Any time it's been trotted out for discussion on social media there has been a huge amount of feedback and interaction, and everyone agreeing they wish there was more.
Another aspect is … well, our current timeline. Our world is a mess. Regardless of your politics … I think we can agree that things are not great, and a lot of what is happening isn't normal. Not normal politics, not normal weather, not normal policy – just … Not. So wanting to read about an entirely different world is a nice change of pace. People can be any color, or form, or even not people. There might be faes, angels, creatures, demons, spirits, healers, mages, what have you. Magic could be common or uncommon. Blue, green, purple, fuchsia hair or eyes. Anything goes. Your imagination is the limit. (Or that of the authors...)
After RWA (the Romance Writers of America) conference this year I also saw a lot of discussion as to authors writing, or avoiding dark depressing topics. There's a mix of reactions and decisions, and I think both are important. Maybe you only want to read lighthearted fun and “fluff.” There's definitely space for that in adult high fantasy romance. Or maybe you want to read the darkest, grittiest, most despair inducing story – where the character seem to think all is lost, but overcome. That definitely exists too. There are so many stories where characters – especially heroines – weather incredible odds. Which leads me to my next point.
The women are incredible. I've read books where women are princesses, queens, rulers of the world. Going from the lowliest low, to controlling empires. Women coming into their power, be it martial or medical. Healers, wielders of magic or the sword – or both. Women who protect those they love – both men and women. Scholars, soldiers, slaves and more. It's nice to read about something entirely different. Without cell phones and other technology – you can be transported to the other and focus on whatever is happening in the book. And it could be anything from insurrection to ascension of thrones. Or leaving it all to live their own lives in obscurity. A character could be absolutely normal and still beat someone with magic.
It's nice to read something where even despite incredible odds and adversity, you know the characters will prevail and get their happy ending. All will (eventually) become right in the world … and often many characters find their love and happily ever after. It's a good thing.
And from a commercial point of view … I've mentioned Game of Thrones, but look at the Harry Potter franchise. While that's not high fantasy it has a lot of magic. The point is books, tv, movies, people are here for epic stories beyond our real world. Lord of the Rings. Narnia. While romance (the genre) doesn't have to be female centered, it often is, and to my mind that's not a bad thing either. Bring it on. We're here for it, and hungry for more.
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About the Author
Limecello is a Reader, Reviewer, Impoverished lawyer, Imprecator, Foodie, Editor, Blogger, and Discusser of all things random. You can find her online mostly here:
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