One of my most popular posts on this blog is Looking for Epic Fantasy with great romance? This being the case I thought it was time I did an update post … as I’ve read some more Epic Fantasy Romances since then.
Over the last year, while working on my own Epic Fantasy Romance series, I’ve read three romantic fantasy adventures which were really stand-out for me. I’d like to share them with you (along with my reviews) here.
Epic Fantasy Romance is a sub-genre of Epic Fantasy, but one where the romance and developing love story needs to be ‘as important’ as the adventure story. Many Epic Fantasy novels have love interests or romantic subplots. However, Epic Fantasy Romance takes the romance one step further. Although these stories often have plenty of high-stakes adventure, magic and the forces of good and evil, they are also hugely character driven—which is what makes them so much fun to read (and write!).
Here are three Epic Fantasy Romances you don’t want to miss:
Blade and Rose (Blade and Rose series, Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur
An excellent start to an exciting Epic Fantasy Romance series. It’s often hard to find good Fantasy Romances which aren’t Young Adult or Paranormal. But there’s nothing better than a sword and sorcery adventure with an emotional love story woven through it!
Definitely a five-star read. Here’s what I loved about it:
Blade and Rose is an epic novel – both in size (it’s over 700 pages long!) and in scope. Miranda Honfleur builds a credible world built on European civilisations and an exciting magic system. The characters are well-drawn and with enough flaws to make them seem real. Rielle is a complicated heroine, a mix of strong kick-ass sorceress and painful insecurity. She doesn’t have any trouble attracting men into her life, only she has been terribly hurt by them. When she meets Jon, a man she has sworn to protect, she struggles between her attraction to someone she can’t have, and her own fears of being hurt or hurting those she loves.
My favourite character in the book though (and I’m not sure if the author intended this) is the werewolf, Brennan. He’s a really mixed-up guy, and does some dispicable things during the story, yet we never totally lose sympathy for him. He is conflicted and as the story progresses starts to gain a little self-knowledge. As the series progresses, I imagine he will have a pivotal role … well, I hope so.
The writing flows smoothly and is highly readable. The author doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy description but at the same time manages to create a richly-drawn world that fantasy readers expect!
Any niggles? Only a couple of tiny ones that didn’t detract from my rating. The book was very long … and could have been trimmed in a couple of places without affecting the story. Rielle and Jon’s relationship sometimes felt a little bit like ‘instalove’. I would have liked to have seen a bit more angst and conflict between them in the beginning. However, their emotional journey was depicted well and leaves plenty of scope for the next book in the series.
An engrossing Epic Fantasy Romance read!
Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown #1) by Lindsay Buroker
A fun, lighthearted Epic Fantasy Romance read!
This is the first book I’ve picked up by Lindsay Buroker. I really enjoyed her fluid, fast-paced writing style and the humor that’s laced through the book. The main characters, Jev and Zenia are both fun, flawed and interesting. They kept my attention throughout and the chemistry between them was great.
Although this is definitely a romance, the actually romantic story (sorry, Spoiler!) doesn’t get resolved at the end of this book. We’ll have to read the next one to find out how the relationship develops. I thought I’d be irritated by this but I think that it works as the two leads aren’t ‘ready’ yet to take the relationship further. Although there’s a lot of witty banter between them, they’re both very emotionally guarded and have both had difficult pasts, despite their different backgrounds. I particularly liked Jev; he’s a handsome charmer who came back from war with both physical and psychological scars.
This story has elves and dwarves – the first I’ve read of this type in a while. I cringed initially, but soon realized that Buroker’s elves and dwarves are original enough to to make weigh the story down in stereotype. They are actually a lot of fun in this story.
I absolutely loved the fantasy world: the warm climate surrounded by mangrove swamps and crocodile infested waters. I also enjoyed the magic system, which I imagine will be developed further in the next books.
Loved the cover too!
A fun read for those who like a bit of romance with their Epic Fantasy!
Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
I really wanted to give this novel five stars … as I’m a huge Grace Draven fan. Radiance and Master of Crows remain two of my favorite books!
However, although there were things I absolutely loved about this novel, it fell short of the mark in a couple of areas. That said, it’s a really good read and well worth the (long) wait for!
Firstly, here’s what I loved about it:
The start is great. Draven drops you straight into the drama. A gladiator planning his escape, and a young woman who makes a yearly journey that takes a terrible toll on her. Azarion is the gladius prime, and also the empress’s pet. But he’s the only one who sees through Gilene’s yearly illusion when she joins the other ‘Flowers of Spring’ who must burn. He blackmails her into helping him escape and then abducts her.
I loved the scenes where they take refuge in a haunted city, after just escaping the capital. The city is eerily depicted and the scene where they have to run for their lives from a horrifying creature is really well done.
I liked the shades of LOTR with the barrows—complete with a barrow wight—where our hero and heroine take shelter on the ride to his homeland. I also liked the influence of Game of Thrones in the Savatar (Azarion’s people). Their customs and gods reminded me of the Dothraki a bit.
I loved the ending—really high action and edge of your seat stuff. Gilene finally takes action … and it was worth waiting for!
Now, here’s what I thought it lacked (and I only note these things because I liked the book so much but wanted to love it!):
Gilene is a bit too passive for my liking. For most of the story she’s a captive, and it’s only at the end we see her show some true spine. For the rest of the novel she seems at the whim of others. She complains a lot at the beginning, and it was a relief when she finally changed her attitude toward the hero.
Gilene was also a bit two-dimensional. Out of the two main characters I had more sympathy and understanding for Azarion. We find out about the ordeal of his life as the empress’s plaything but I never really ‘felt’ the hardship of Gilene’s upbringing. She’s described as sour and angry at the start of the story, but she comes across (to me at least) as a little cold.
The love story lacked the sizzle and emotional intensity of Grace Draven’s earlier works. Now, this is something that she excels in so it surprised me. I enjoyed the romance but it didn’t wow me the way Radiance and Master of Crows did.
Even these gripes withstanding, I still really enjoyed the book. Grace Draven is a masterful writer who knows how to bring a richly detailed fantasy world to life. I look forward to more in this world!
Four solid stars
So those are my three top Epic Fantasy Romance reads of the last few months—how about you? Please share your discoveries in the comments below. 🙂