Swords and Swoons

Georgetown LibraryRead FeedStaff Picks

Swords and Swoons

Young Adult high fantasy -- with a dash of romance

Swords, magic, political intrigue, and assassination attempts are just a few qualities that can make for an exceptional fantasy novel.  Romantic plotlines, when done well, add levels of tension and emotion that make the best high fantasy even richer and more emotional. 

The love stories in these books are not necessarily the major story arc, but they won’t disappoint if you like a side of swoons with your action and adventure.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In the Seven Realms, there are people who have graces, or magical gifts. Katsa’s grace is to kill, which she must do at the bidding of her king. What Katsa’s king doesn’t know is that she is involved with a cCouncil that takes on missions such as rescuing Prince Tealiff, king of a nearby kingdom. Along the way, Katsa meets Po, and although Katsa can beat Po up, he has powers of his own, and when Po uses his power, Katsa uncovers secrets that could destroy all of the Seven Realms.

Graceling has strong world-building and interesting characters.  Katsa and Po’s romance has a playful element, but it also forces them to face truths about themselves and one another. Pick this one up if you want a feminist romance with an unexpected ending.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
As a young child, Finnikin swore to protect his kingdom, but when members of his family and kingdom are brutally murdered, he is exiled. Ten years later, when Finnikin learns that the heir to the throne could still be alive, he sets out on an epic quest with the novice Evanjalin, who has a few secrets of her own.

Marchetta’s fantasy is perfect for readers who crave politics and family dynamics. If you like your romances twisty and with a slow burn, Finnikin and Evanjalin’s story will definitely appeal to you.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
The godstone in Elisa’s belly means that she is destined for greatness, and for the first 16 years of her life, Elisa doesn’t understand how she’ll ever be able to do anything great. When she is married off to an older king, Elisa starts to learn more about her godstone, and about how dwellers of a nearby desert are being attacked. Before Elisa is in her new home for too long, she is kidnapped and taken to the desert, where she learns that her involvement in the war is greater than she realized.

Elisa is forced to grow as she faces all of the challenges brought on by her godstone, such as being with a husband she isn’t attracted to. Eventually, she finds her first love in an unexpected place. Politics and magic are at the forefront of this story, but readers who want a sweet romance will also be satisfied.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
One day at auction, Kestrel buys a slave named Arin on a whim. What she doesn’t know is that this auction was pitched specifically to her. Soon Kestrel starts to fall in love with Arin, a secret she must keep from everyone else in her household. Arin has secrets of his own, about who he really is.

If you’re drawn to stories with forbidden romance, The Winner’s Curse is definitely for you. Rutkoski’s novel is also a great pick if you want a novel that thoughtfully deals with issues like war and slavery.

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Caleana Sardothien is one of the most infamous assassins in Adarlan.  She goes from fighting pirate lords to the edge of the desert, all at the will of her master, Arobynn. Her co-assassin, Sam, is one of the only people she can trust. When Celeana goes against the wishes of Arobynn, the consequences prove to be unimaginable.

Having known each other from a young age, Caleana and Sam have a complex but deep romance. Maas’s collection of novellas reads like a complete novel, and is perfect for readers who want to see a feminist, kick-butt protagonist in action. It’s worth noting that this set of novellas serves as the prequel to Maas’s Throne of Glass series.