Embracing Complexity: The World of Polyamorous Fantasy Romance

Polyamorous fantasy romance is a gripping and sultry genre full of nuanced relationships and complex emotions. Read on to learn more about the genre and get some recs!

Fantasy Recommendations Romance

Have you ever followed a main character through a love triangle and just wished they could have it all? Ever wanted to pull your hair out when they couldn’t choose between gorgeous lover A or B? We’ve all been there. But what if they didn’t have to choose? Lovers of fantasy romance will absolutely adore this up-and-coming subgenre. Let’s take a deeper look into the steamy, mystical genre of polyamorous fantasy romance. 

Understanding Polyamory

Poly fantasy romance combines the fantastical worlds and magical challenges of the fantasy genre with the complex emotional entanglements and romantic relationships of the romance genre. More specifically, polyamorous relationships.

To start, lets break it down. What exactly is a polyamorous relationship? The answer: its difficult to be exact. Polyamory is a wide and varied romantic relationship style, with countless possible configurations of partners. But the essential qualifiers of a polyamorous relationship are simple; when someone engages in romantic relationships with multiple partners at once, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved, that’s polyamory! Some of the possible configurations include the classic triad (which is the most popular in the genre so far), V-shaped relationships, quads, and larger polycules that can contain any number of partners with varied degrees of emotional and physical intimacy. 

A man and two woman under the covers
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The complexity of polyamorous relationships is highlighted in this genre as readers enter two worlds that may not yet be familiar; the fantastical world the author creates on the page, and a romantic life of non-monogamy. 

Poly fantasy romance takes readers on a journey through imaginative worlds and enthralling emotional relationships through the experiences of nuanced characters addressing the reality, with its joys and sorrows, of loving multiple partners simultaneously. There will be blood, sweat, tears, and scenes that you’ll probably want to read in private, all set to the backdrop of a fantastical world.

Common Themes and Tropes of Poly Romance

Readers can expect to encounter a blend of classic tropes from both genres, complimented by new takes on themes that are highlighted in polyamorous relationships. The combination creates stories rich with prophecies, chosen ones, the battle between good and evil, forbidden love, and soulmates. As well as more specific tropes such as non-hierarchical relationships, diverse relationship dynamics, and erotic exploration. Although relationship hierarchy is a well-traveled trope in the romance genre, the interconnected web of emotional and physical relationships between characters in polyamorous relationships begs much greater exploration. 

Three people holding hands
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Enemies to lovers is an especially popular trope in the genre and adds a juicy sense of tension to these stories as characters are thrust into situations that make them reconsider their feelings, and reshape their ideas of how romance can function beyond a monogamous relationship. The emphasis in polyamorous relationships on communication as characters navigate their tangled web of emotional vulnerability adds a whole new layer to an already complicated relationship dynamic. Secrets and communication are brought to the forefront, as the relationship style requiring some degree of openness clashes against the fantasy genre, where secrets are often held close.

History

You might be wondering, when did polyamorous relationships first emerge in fantasy novels? The answer is probably more recently than you think. However, just as with monogamous romances, it can be difficult to define exactly what qualifies romance, and our attitudes towards how it is represented in literature are ever evolving. But, for our purposes, the earliest fantasy novel containing a polyamorous relationship is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley published in 1982. 

This retelling of the Arthurian legend is undeniably fantastical as it delves into the stories of Morgaine (often referred to as Morgan le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere). The story is told from the perspectives of the two women, positioned to be perfect contrasts of one another, as they navigate the political and cultural turmoil of their time. 

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, book cover.
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Remember earlier when I mentioned that our perspectives on romance are always evolving? Well, this polyamorous fantasy retelling is a far cry from the steamy, sultry romances of today. Polyamory does not take a forefront position in the plot, but there are instances of characters having multiple complex emotional and romantic partnerships. The novel explores themes of love and duty as the characters seek to navigate their personal desires and societal expections. 

As society progresses, and people are encouraged more and more to consider and explore non-monogamy, this writer believes (and hopes) that more unconventional and wonderfully complex relationship styles will be brought to the already vibrant fantasy romance genre. 

Ready to dive in yourself? Here are some recommendations with vibrant worlds and enthralling characters that are just, everything. 

In Flames by Nicole Northwood

In Flames by Nicole Northwood, book cover.
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Seraphina Fox, skilled matchmaker, accidentally uses her matchmaking ability to pair herself with her two captivating dormitory roommates, Alexi Bonneau and Dario Accardi, and she thinks she’s made a huge mistake. As she tries to untangle her web of attraction, she discovers that her ability is much rarer than she thought, and the three find themselves drowning in buried secrets, a love affair, and a task that could cost Sera her life.

A Garter as a Lesser Gift by Aster Glenn Gray

A Garter as a Lesser Gift by Aster Glenn Gray, book cover.
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Gaiwain has never been one to refuse a bet. When he stays the night in a peculiar manor, he can’t help but accept the wager of the lord of the house. Everything the lord catches on his three-day hunting trip, in exchange for Gawain’s word that he will return everything that is given to him in the manor. Seems easy enough, until Gawain receives his first gift, a kiss from the lord’s stunning wife. Enjoy a fresh take on the classic tale Gawain and the Green Knight.

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian and Iona Datt Sharma

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian and Iona Datt Sharma, book cover.
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As far as Layla and Nat are concerned, the only thing they have in common is their boyfriend. Until a magical experiment goes horribly wrong and Meraud goes missing, and the clock is ticking too fast until Meraud is gone forever. Despite their mutual dislike, the pair may be the only people capable of following the cryptic clues and returning him home. As they encounter wild obstacles and face the unknown together, Layla and Nat must find common ground and find Meraud before the winter solstice. Or else it will be too late.

Evocation by S.T. Gibson

Evocation by S.T. Gibson, book cover.

When your ancestors make a deal with the Devil, there’s not much you can do when He comes knocking. David Aristarkhov, psychic prodigy turned swanky Boston attorney, has no complaints about the high-class life he’s built for himself. Until his fate changes and time is running out for him to save his soul from the Devil himself. When he reaches out to the only person he can think of who might be able to help, his ex-boyfriend and rival Rhys, things get even more complicated when he realizes he has to communicate with Rhys through his wife, Moira. As the three are thrust together, they must sort out their feelings for each other before David is lost to the Devil for good.

Whether you’re a seasoned fantasy romance reader, or looking to dip your toes into the waters of a fresh, exciting new genre, polyamorous fantasy romance is definitely worth your time. This writer’s TBR list is chock-full of the stuff!


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