Just too late for Valentine's Day, recommend me some awesome fantasy novels with satisfying romances.
I love fantasy, and I love romances, and I would like to indulge both of these loves at the same time. You know the type: great world-building, interesting politics, and the kind of long, slow-burn, frequently bicker-y romance that ends in a Slap Slap Kiss
(although I'm flexible on that point.) Shouldn't be too hard to find, right?
However, there's something in fantasy that happens a lot that makes me writhe in dissatisfaction. Character romances tend to be one-sided or... just... boring
. Either the characters are mismatched in some way, or once they fall in love they become strangely neutered and bland as the romance takes a completely formulaic tour of sugary love-yous to a final completion. For an example of how things frequently go wrong, I just read Maria Snyder's Poison Study
. Initially I was all, "Yeah! Poison taster and assassin! Awesome!" but all the potential cool is sucked away down a well of, "It will all be okay because we're together now." Where is the difficulty? Where is the conflict? Where are the hard choices and the total badassery and the tandem fight scenes, dangit?
I've seen this
question, but unlike that Asker, I don't explicitly need sex scenes. I do explicitly need romances that are between serious, badass characters who can both hold their own. Romance doesn't have to be a main plot point, necessarily, but I would like it at least to be happening in the background on a noticeable level that scratches that shipping itch. Bonus points for female characters who are not broken women "elevated" by their male partners.*
Things I've read and loved:
Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series (fantastic
romance, but the screwed-up stuff in the couple's past is not swept under the rug and creates fulfilling dynamics.)
Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series (the romantic leads are both hardcore awesome in completely different ways and their relationship never castrated their interesting characters.)
Dorothy Dunnett's The Chronicles of Lymond series (not fantasy, but great historical fiction and once again, the characters involved actually seem worthy of one another and stay interesting.)
Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint and companion novels (another set of excellent examples of believable affection, totally ballsed-up personal dynamics, odd characters, and tragedy.)
*Fantasy romance heroines seem frequently to fall in love with their teachers, mentors, protectors, etc. I'm okay with that, but in my ideal fantasy book there is a woman who is already
awesome without a man and then an awesome man finds her. Or vice-versa.
Thanks for fleshing out my reading list!