My new project is a romance.
Well, not really, because the genre “romance” inspires visions of well-muscled men wearing half-buttoned shirts and tight pants on the florid covers of paperbacks in one corner of the bookstore.
My book is also a small-scale epic fantasy, about two peoples who are at odds because of a single lie in their mutual past.
Yes, I’m writing a star-crossed love affair. But I think both my lovers will come out of it alive.
Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about love stories and romance, and how those things fit into a fantasy world. This New Yorker blog post called, “Is Anna Karenina a Love Story?“ made me start wondering what love stories in novels tell us about the novel itself. In a fantasy world, does the romance have to crystallize some part of the greater conflict? Or is it just a love story, compelling and satisfying in itself, set in a world of dragons and magic?
I’m choosing option A for my new project, largely because of the nature of my book’s conflict, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right or the only way to do it. Every fantasy-romance is different, and I have to admit that I’ve not often thought that deeply about the love stories in the fantasy novels I love.
What are some of your favorite fantasy love stories? Why? What do the love stories say about the book as a whole or the world it creates?
Here are some of my favorites:
- Phèdre and Joscelin in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Two lovers who come from completely opposite backgrounds and, through circumstance, find each other as the thing most worth saving in their lives. Joscelin may get the short end of the stick in this one.
- Vin and Elend in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Two semi-nerdy super-heroes fall in love and save the world—sort of. I can’t say much more without spoilers!
- Dante Valetine and Japhrimel in Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. This is a fairly typical hunter-meets-demon love story (is that a typical thing, now?) that starts out great and is pretty fraught by the end of the series. Lies and concealment inevitably take their toll on the lovers.
All my favourite fantasy novels have great love stories. I think it’s a necessary ingredient 🙂
Phedre and Joscelin are one of my favourite couples too. Others include Althea and Brashen from Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders, Ammar and Jehane from Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan, Terisa and Geraden from Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need, and Sarra and Collan from Melanie Rawn’s The Ruins of Ambrai… Most of these are kinda old now, I guess. (I haven’t read the others you mention.)
In answer to your question, I think either option A or B are possible, but if the love story crystallizes the central conflict or theme somehow it will resonate more with the reader.
I do hope your lovers both come out of it alive, Kristin!
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