Fantasy books all contain some element of the unnatural, i.e., magic. This important type of book includes many subgenres: from high, epic, and heroic to steampunk, urban, comedic, and dark, from magic realism, paranormal, and romantic to historical and juvenile. In all the subgenres, authors often use the secondary plot line of love between the protagonist and another character. Quite natural, since romance is an important part of the human experience. Examples are easy to find.
In J.M. Barrie’s children’s fantasy Peter Pan, the main story of a boy who refuses to grow up is inaugurated by Peter’s visit to the Darling family children. He teaches them to fly to Neverland. His love for Wendy Darling, however, causes trouble: the jealousy-driven misbehavior of fairy Tinkerbell.
In David Eddings’ classic epic fantasy Belgariad series, the main story pits hero Belgarion against the evil god Torak. But Belgarion soon learns he is destined to wed the Tolnedran princess Ce’Nedra as a way to unite kingdoms and realize his status as the Rivan King. The road to romance is rocky, for Ce’Nedra is resisting, willful, and demanding. The developing love between Belgarion and Ce’Nedra drives the hero’s learning about himself and the ways of women.
Dean Koontz’ modern day fantasy Odd Thomas series relies on the love between Odd and Stormy to frame and explain his sadness, resolve, and desire to help avoid tragedy. Koontz keeps this going even after Stormy dies.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels (children’s fantasy read by everyone) deal primarily with Harry achieving mastery as a great wizard in the fight against He Who Must Not Be Named. Woven into the story and developed as the young characters age is the love thread between Hermione and Ron and between Harry and Ginny.
In some cases, the romance angle can dominate the fantasy. Certainly the classic Beauty and the Beast achieves this as the merchant’s daughter finds her true love, proves her worth, and saves the Beast as the adventure is resolved.
In my own YA epic fantasy novel Justi the Gifted, the protagonist Justi must seek another gifted child, Mercerio, to balance his powers (a wild gift of directing flame that can kill). The fact that she is his age and beautiful complicates and changes the whole flavor of his quest.
The love-angle serves an author’s purpose in several ways:
- It seasons the main dish (not necessary, but sure helps) to sustain reader interest.
- It sets up an undercurrent to what is going on with the main plot line (one wonders if Odd who communicates with the dead may also contact his lost love Stormy).
- It forces or modifies choices of the protagonist (Justi has to go after the kidnapped Mercerio immediately; Justi has to join the Zellish battle because Mercerio says so; Ce’Nedra must lead an army to support Belgarion).
- It can spark inner dialog of both characters.
- It helps define your characters by showing them through eyes of another party with interest.
- It provides a second set of gender-specific eyes to view events (contrast Ron and Hermione’s view of Ron’s behavior; Justi sees Mercerio as lacking understanding and she views him as stubborn and unfeeling).
- It may widen your audience, both male and female.
- It may sustain the reader through other, slower plot developments (a romantic moment offers a tangy respite from battles and scheming).
Love may be a side dish, but the meal wouldn’t be the same without it.
What if a gift from a god is damaged?
Barbarians, bringing death and slavery, invade and all but destroy the Kingdom of Zell. The only hope for the people's salvation lies with a young peasant boy. Gifted with a sense of justice by the god Li, this child, named Justi, will grow to be a young man blessed with the power to save the kingdom, meanwhile cursed with a power to kill-a power beyond his control. The prophecy of this wounded land has foretold of Justi's coming and his meeting with another of the gifted, a young and beautiful girl his age who carries a great secret. But those who stop at nothing, influenced by the dark power of Dar, use kidnapping, assassination, and seduction to block their union and prevent them from fulfilling their destiny. With help from many Zellish, Justi must use powers at his command to avert disaster and to face the one fear that has haunted him: killing an innocent.
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About R.R. Brooks: Bob Brooks (R.R. Brooks) spent his career doing pharmaceutical research and development. Now living in western North Carolina, he’s published fiction and nonfiction, including science fiction and fantasy stories exploring strange encounters and issues of doubt and belief (e.g., “To Believe or Not” and “The Diest”). He is the author of the epic fantasy novel Justi the Gifted, released in 2015 by Leo Publishing.
His themes for novels is eclectic. A psychological mystery novel The Clown Forest Murders, co-written with A.C. Brooks will be released in a year or so by Black Opal Publishing. A science fiction tale of espionage is being finalized, and second fantasy novel to conclude the adventure of Justi is underway. He is a member of the Blue Ridge Writers Group, the Appalachian Round Table, the Brevard Authors Guild, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and the N.C. Writers Network. He maintains author’s pages on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.