As I sat to write about the 7 relationships is in the Fantasy Book genre and why they work for me, I discovered most weren’t necessarily “romantic”. For me, my favorite relationships to read about are ones that don’t evolve too quickly but develop over the course of complicated context, survive the trials of their circumstances and oooooze tension.

These are some of my favorites:

  1. A Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom

Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Wylan, Matthias

This may technically count as three but hey, who’s counting, really?

There is something about misfit groups who rally in spite of their diversity and differences who set out on an impossible mission that just gets you rooting for them. Maybe it’s underdog syndrome, maybe it’s just the setup of the story but I loved the dynamics and unique voices and perspectives of each and every member of this group.

Here’s why it works for me:

These are relationships in the truer sense. They are complex, unresolved, broken interactions with people looking to belong. The team relationship works for me thanks to the point of view from which the story is told, being able to see frequently the things that the other characterrs do not yet know.

The slow build and tension of the “couple” relationships are my favorite kind: a slow burn. No insta-lust here.

  1. The Timebound Series (Chronos Files) by Rosa Walker

Kiernan and Kate and Trey

Nope, it’s not a three way and it’s not quite a love triangle. It’s a timey-wimey, mind boggling and complicated relationship that had me guessing through the entire series. Without giving too much away, what initially appears as a typical YA love triangle trope quickly reveals itself to be something more than meets the eye by the end of book one.

Here’s why it works for me:

First, any relationship founded on The Princess Bride quotes is a win in my book.

Second, the fact that this relationship rose above the trope to be something more, earned it a place on my bookshelf as a book worthy of a re-read. A high honor indeed.

  1. FrostBlood

Arcus and Ruby

This book and relationship follows a more classic storyline. It’s a great intro to fantasy for youngsters, and a pretty easy read. However for the fantasy lovers, it probably won’t get any nods for being inventive.

Here’s why it works for me:

In a good love story, both partners are strong and capable, as well as complex and developed. I actually like it best when BOTH are magically empowered in some way, as opposed to one being magical and one being mundane.

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale

Vasilisa and Morozko

Where do I even begin with this book? It TOTALLY knocked my socks off. Now to be honest, I wasn’t on board with the conflict between old beliefs and nature spirits and Christianity, which was generally depicted in the wrong in this book. But the relationships in this folklore based story are complex and feel very real in-spite of their fantastic nature.

Here is why it works for me:

The relationship between the Winter King and Vasya is strange, head-tilting and is unlike anything I’ve ever read. He is not stereotypically good or kind nor is he abusive. He is not necessarily ‘safe’ or ‘admirable’. She is unconventional and does not swoon and grow dependent. Their relationship is unexpected. Their story is larger than they are; they know it and that in itself, is refreshing.

  1. Jackaby and Abigail

Not a romantic relationship but an interestingly platonic yet crackling co-working relationship between a detective of the paranormal and his adventurous and intelligent assistant.

Why it works for me:

There is a chemistry that just works between these two characters who are both young, intelligent and attractive. One would expect them to grow in romantic attraction to each other given the scenario that they live together, work together, understand each other, and are isolated in society given the nature of their work but there is a contentment to care for each other simply as friends. In a world where such mutual understanding is rare, the absence of insta-lust was a breath of fresh-air.  Not to mention that their cheeky banter in light of the macabre experiences they share had me laughing out loud.

  1. Dandelion On Fire

Hardy and Darcy

This book is a lesser known indie, genre-bending blend of coming-of-age, romance, mystery, sci-fi and fantasy neatly bundled as book with a simple dandelion puff aflame on the cover.

In it, we follow socially inept Hardy as he stumbles into a complex plot bigger than himself. Somehow the mysterious girl, Darcy, he has detention with is connected to his grandfather, who is supposed to be dead but definitely still alive, since he takes care of him after school.

Why it works for me:

I find that this days so much YA fantasy fiction quickly erupts into the numbingly stereotypical, raunchy wash-rinse-repeat of everything else in the YA fantasy genre. This explored and followed a real relationship, a friendship budding into romantic inclination in a relatable way. It was awkward. It was heart-breaking. It wasn’t about insta-love. It was about the transition into adulthood and discovery. And it was just good.

  1. The DoorKnob Society by MJ Fletcher

James Nightshade and Chloe Masters

Now I have to be honest, this book is a diamond in the rough. It needs some tender love and care regarding polishing and grammar but if you can look beyond that, there is a really, really good story here that turns every day objects into weapons of mass destruction.

Why it works for me:

Chloe is a strong female lead. Like, kind of a “Rah-rah I don’t need a guy to save the world” type of -gal. But what she comes to discover is that she DOES need a friend who understand how she thinks and that friend happens to take the form of James Nightshade. Their romance is a resistance of feelings, which creates bonkers amounts of tension and the relationship development here spans five books all of which create complex context for their friendship and ultimately their relationship.