YA Fantasy: Worth Reading? – Romantic Fantasy Books

cover of three young adult romantic fantasy books, Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson and The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I am always on the lookout for great fantasy books and that is the reason I picked these three books up, but they turned out to be romantic fantasy books. I enjoyed my share of romance books back in the day so let me share my thoughts on these three with you.

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

Outrun the Wind is a young adult myth inspired romance-centric fantasy set in ancient Greece. I picked it up because I haven’t read many books based on myths and the premise reminded me of the TV show Xena, the Warrior Princess, I used to watch as a kid. It is set out to be about bad-ass female warriors who fall in love with each other. Is it worth the read though?

Since reading this I’ve read other books based on myths, Circe by Madeline Miller and Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

One of the main characters is Kahina, an ex-oracle from Delhi who joined the huntresses of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, of wild animals,of chastity and childbirth. Artemis has two rules, never disobey and never fall in love. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions but guess what happened?

The other main character is Atalanta, a renowned huntress. According to Greek myths Atalanta participated in the Calydonian boar hunt, which happened because King Oeneus of Calydon had omitted to sacrifice to Artemis. In response to this, Artemis has sent a wild boar to wreak havoc in his kingdom. According to another myth Atalanta promised to marry anyone who outruns her.

The bare bone of the novel consists of the hunt and the race to outrun Atalanta. I don’t want to spoil this book so I won’t go into details, but knowing this, Outrun the Wind sounded like an interesting read.

I think this book is picked because the strong female leads, the female-female romance and the representation. Atalanta is bisexual and Kahina is a lesbian woman of color.

In my opinion this books has failed at a number of things.

  1. The plot was all over the place. For quite a while I could not figure out where all of this was going or what the point was. Also, how could a mere mortal run away from a goddess? I understand that Atalanta was so fast that she could outrun the wind. But how could she outrun the goddess of the hunt?
  2. Written from the viewpoint of the two main characters did not enrich the story because their voices were so similar I could hardly distinguish one from the other.
  3. There was no noticeable character development and next to no world building. I could not see the setting nor could I muster any interest in he characters.

I was extremely bored and my imagination was not needed at all as everything was laid out and fed into my mouth spoon by spoon. Too generic and inauthentic.

VERDICT: I do not recommend this book.

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1) by Mary E. Pearson

I had high expectations of this one because a lot of people rave about it on Booktube and it has a high rating on Goodreads, 4.04/5. I guess I thought this is enough reason for me to pick it up.

In this medieval world princes and princesses marriages are arranged by their parents in order to secure political advantages. There’s nothing unusual so far and the premise looks quite generic. But princess Lia is supposed to have a gift, the gift of sight, which unfortunately has not manifested yet.

Princess Lia feels that is she marries she will participate in her parents’ deceit (of lying about her sight). And she doesn’t want to marry someone she hasn’t met yet, so on the day of her wedding she runs away.

She settles into a new life doing manual labor in a faraway village and then two mysterious good looking strangers appear. One of them is the prince and the other is an assassin sent to kill her. The main plot point of this novel being who’s who. Or who is the princess going to fall in love with?

Here is why this book did not do it for me.

  1. This is supposed to be a fantasy but apart from the mention of a kingdom, vague medieval setting and the alleged power of sight of the princess this book reads like a romance set in medieval times. If I’m promised a fantasy, I want a fantasy!
  2. The love triangle is a trope I am vary of and this one is badly executed.
  3. Plot-wise not much happens and the book has about 500 pages.
  4. The characters are not fleshed out and their behavior is laughable:
  • Lia runs away from a marriage which is supposed to help her kingdom and the future husband’s kingdom to form an alliance against barbarian invaders. But does she feel any responsibility towards her kingdom, no, she decides to run away.
  • The prince despite not wanting to marry either, decides to go find her. Let’s also remember that he agreed to the marriage after his father told him that he could get a mistress.
  • The assassin is a joke. He has countless opportunities to kill Lia yet all he thinks about is kissing her.

VERDICT: This book did not do it for me. I do recommend giving it a try simply because it is generally a liked book on Goodreads and in trilogies book two usually expands the world and furthers the plot. But this first installments’ focus on the love triangle killed the story for me.

If you want to read a great fantasy series with strong female representation and great character development and original world building I recommend N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy, #1) by Marie Rutkoski

I don’t remember how I decided to read this book. I’ve read it some months ago and now I don’t even remember much about it… Yes, it was that memorable. To trigger my memory I checked my Goodreads rating and from the three star I gave it I must have enjoyed it so some degree.

What is a three star Goodreads rating anyway? For me a three star is a bad rating, it means the book was average. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either… It means I enjoyed it to a certain degree. Is it a book I would recommend though?

The Winner’s Curse is well written book. I don’t have any problems with the writing style, the world building nor the plot. The problem is that it is advertised as a fantasy and it’s not. It is a Roman empire like world, the Valorian empire. This empire conquered the Herrani and made it’s people slaves.

Kestrel our main protagonist is the daughter of a Valorian General who spontaneously buys a Herrani slave named Arin at a slave auction. Winner’s Curse is about their relationship. The master/slave relationship develops into friendship and then love. But Arin carries a hidden secret which could destroy not only their budding relationship, but the whole empire.

The first part is really slow paced. Kestrel doesn’t want to accept her fate, which as a highborn Valorian, is pretty much set in stone, she can marry or become a soldier. But she doesn’t want to do either because all she wants to do is play the piano. She cannot do that because only slaves play music. So, she’s in a pickle! There’s a lot of her indecisiveness explored in the first part and the prickly relationship with Arin. The second part is what saves this book, so if you make it past the 100 page mark then the chances of finishing this are high.

I’ve read my share of fantasy novels and this isn’t one of them. I would call it a Roman empire inspired historical romance. So if you’re into romance this is a great series to read but if you’re here for the fantasy you will be disappointed.

VERDICT: I have mixed feelings about it. It was a lukewarm book. Overall, I say if you’re into romance then go for it. Many reviews on Goodreads praise it as one of the best romantic fantasy books.

But if you want more action and more fantasy look elsewhere. I would point you in the direction of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series if you want both romance and fantasy. I’ve seen these two recommended as similar books but in my opinion the Throne of Glass is much more fantasy heavy.

Conclusions – Romance Disguised as Fantasy

I haven’t planned this but now I see a common thread in these three books. They are all romantic fantasy books. I actually read a lot of romance earlier in my life (about 10 years ago) and I still enjoy a good romance every once in a while. The Kiss of Deception and The Winner’s Curse were just average three star reads and Outrun the Wind was a below average, tho star read.

Is average enough? Should I recommend average books? Looking at other Goodreads reviews, there is a lot of praise out there for both The Kiss of Deception and The Winner’s Curse, so I guess I would recommend those two if you’re into romantic fantasy books which are not heavy on fantasy and are not magic focused

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