Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

A category of swords and soulmates: the increasing popularity of 'romantasy' books.

A category of swords and soulmates: the increasing popularity of ‘romantasy’ books.

On Monday night, author Sarah J Maas made a surprise appearance at a New York City bookstore where fans were eagerly anticipating the release of her new novel, House of Flame and Shadow. Dressed in a Valentino bouclé tweed skirt, Maas was met with screams and excitement as she made her way to the stage just before midnight.

“Wow, you all are incredible! It’s not often that authors receive a rockstar welcome like this. However, Maas’s books, including the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, have sold an impressive 37 million copies globally in 38 different languages.”

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros.

Display image in full screen mode.

A new wave of highly successful writers, including American novelist Sarah J. Maas, are creating a genre known as “romantasy”, which combines elements of romance and fantasy in their novels. Another popular author in this category is Rebecca Yarros, whose book Iron Flame broke records at Waterstones by becoming their top-selling pre-order title in just one day, four months before its release in November.

The origin of the term “romantasy” is uncertain. While Bloomsbury claims to have created it to describe the genre that Maas was leading, it was already listed on Urban Dictionary in 2008. Recently, it has become widely used on social media and in promotional materials for fantasy romance books.

The success of Romantasy authors can be attributed to their immense following on social media. Bloomsbury, the publisher of Maas’ books, reports that videos featuring hashtags related to her books have accumulated over 14 billion views on TikTok alone. On “BookTok”, the section of the platform reserved for book-related content, fans share their rankings of book series, speculate about future plot developments, compile their favorite quotes, and showcase outfits inspired by books.

Such novels are typically set in fantastical worlds, with fairies, dragons, magic, but also feature classic romance plotlines – enemies-to-lovers, soulmates, love triangles. “Romance readers have discovered that romantasy has all the tropes they adore, but set in a world they can escape to and get lost in,” explains Ajebowale Roberts, an editor at HarperCollins.

Nisha J Tuli, a Canadian writer, characterizes her romantasy novel, Trial of the Sun Queen, as a combination of “The Bachelor” and “The Hunger Games.” She explains that the genre allows for high-stakes romances that are not possible in a typical office romantic comedy. She particularly enjoys the element of falling in love with someone who has committed heinous acts, a dynamic that can only be explored in a fantastical setting.

Bypass the promotion for the newsletter.

Romantic fantasy novels often contain graphic sexual content, commonly referred to online as “spice” or labeled as “smut” in a positive light. Kerri Maniscalco, author of Throne of the Fallen, believes that these books provide a safe and unapologetic outlet for readers to explore their own fantasies. She also notes the growing trend of readers openly discussing and embracing the sexual elements in these books. HarperCollins’s Roberts acknowledges the rising demand for spicy new adult books and mentions their upcoming Midnight Collection, a dedicated list of romantasy titles set to be released in the spring.

According to Kathleen Farrar of Bloomsbury, the popularity of this genre could be attributed to its portrayal of daring heroines and multifaceted female characters. These narratives have captured the attention of a significant female audience, who may have previously felt excluded or overlooked in the world of fantasy literature.

According to Christina Clark-Brown, who shares her book suggestions on the Instagram account ninas_nook, Romantasy empowers women to achieve everything they desire. It doesn’t portray women as helpless damsels in need of saving, but rather as strong individuals who can embark on incredible adventures and discover love with a partner who is their equal in every aspect.

Georgia Summers, author of The City of Stardust which debuted in January, states that there is a trend in fantasy literature to normalize queer relationships and include diverse characters, breaking away from the traditional white male-dominated medieval village setting.

Although most popular romantasy books tend to feature white and heterosexual protagonists, Tuli notes that this is gradually changing. She emphasizes that all of her main characters are girls of color, a rarity in this genre currently. This has been a significant aspect for her since the beginning, as she had never come across such representation in her reading until five years ago.

The Midnight Collection is launching with Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana, which features an all-Black cast. “The Midnight Collection was born out of real reader demand and our readers come from all walks of life so it’s only fitting that our list reflects the depth and breadth of the diversity of our readers,” says Roberts.

The increasing popularity of romantasy could be indicative of current trends. According to Maniscalco, “Given the current global landscape of social, political, and economic factors, as well as the ongoing pandemic, readers are seeking an outlet to escape.”

Summers states that during the early 2010s, a popular subgenre of fantasy known as “grimdark” featured gritty and dark stories like Game of Thrones. However, there is currently a trend towards “cosy fantasy”, “romantasy”, and “fairytale fantasy” which have a more uplifting tone.

The author states that these books provide readers with a feeling of optimism. In recent times, when hope seems scarce, fantasy has experienced a sudden surge in popularity.

Source: theguardian.com