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Sometimes you’re in a really particular reading mood, and an F / F enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel is the only book that will do. I get you. Fantasy novels are an ideal setting for the enemies-to-lovers trope, because there’s a lot of hay to do with what fantastical elements breed enmity. Rival magic-using factions. Courses that go back generations. Two people questing for the same mystical object with differing motivations.
And if you’re in the mood for that relationship to be sapphic, I get you. Again, fantasy novels can be great settings for WLW relationships, as the stories do not necessarily have to be saddled with the hardships and obstacles that can befall earthly characters. One of the beauties of queerness is the freedom to create relationships in imaginative ways. And imbuing a sapphic relationship with magic is a beautiful notion, mirroring the real-life magic inherent in queerness.
So this list aims to exhibit some of the bounty available to lovers of F / F enemies-to-lovers fantasy novels. You’ll find both YA and adult books among these choices. A word of warning for the romance readers: this is not a list of fantasy romances. No HEAs guaranteed! If that’s what you need, believe me, I respect it! I’ll send you over to my list of queer fantasy romances. But if you’re in for a little uncertainty, and that thin line between love and hate, read on.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
If you’re looking for enemies-to-lovers but also intense sapphic yearning, here’s the book for you. Set in a world inspired by Indian history, The Jasmine Throne makes an unlikely team of a captive, vengeful princess named Malini and Priya, a maidservant hiding her secret nature. It’s a perfect book if you’re interested in morally gray characters and have a high tolerance for violence. And once you read it, you can await the sequel, The Oleander Sword, due out in August 2022!
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
I love a fantasy novel about undoing a curse! So many curses are metaphors for the traumas we carry and have to work through, but in fantasy, they get to be dialed all the way up. Just how I like my drama. In Sweet & Bitter Magic, Tamsin, cursed to never experience love, strikes a deal with Wren, who’s secretly a source of magic. They need to team up to find the cause of a plague ravaging their land, but the real tension plays out between the two of them.
Thorn by Anna Burke
If you’re looking for an enemies-to-lovers tale that isn’t too intense but still explores themes of compassion and loneliness, here you go. A loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Thorn features a monstrous but beautiful Huntress who absconds with Rowan back to a mountain realm blanketed in perpetual winter. With clever backstories for the characters and musings on the power of women, it’s a fresh and evocative version of this tale as old as time.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Note that this is a book dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. It is written with intentional love and care, but be mindful nonetheless. It chronicles the enemy-to-lovers trajectory of Lei and Wren, two young women chosen to be the Demon King’s concubines. In an environment rife with exploitation, they find each other. But they’re also in competition with each other. Set against an opulent backdrop inspired by the author’s roots among Chinese people living in Malaysia, it’s a dark and dangerous tale.
The Fate of Stars by SD Simper
If you’re not immediately sold on an enemies-to-lovers romance between a butch lesbian princess and a bisexual mermaid, I do not know what to tell you. This book is truly, truly enemies-to-lovers because Princess Dauriel was responsible for kidnapping Tallora from the sea, forcing her into bondage. But a common enemy can sometimes unite the greatest of foes, as happens in this book. If you want to read about the power of redemption within an enemies-to-lovers tale, this is the one.
Queen Takes Rose by Katee Robert
Katee Robert’s Wicked Villains series reimagines Disney classics as erotic romances. As the series title suggests, fans of villains are sure to find their favorite among the set. Queen Takes Rosethe F / F enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel concluding the series pairs Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent, called Malone, with Aurora. If you read the previous books in this series, you’ll see their animosity flashing up here and there. But if you want the concentrated dose, this book follows Aurora’s plan to take revenge on Malone, a plan that backfires gloriously.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Ready for some intensity? We Set the Dark of Fire is set in a world where men have two wives, essentially one to be the brains and one to be the beauty. We all know that can not last. In the course of burning it all down, Carmen and Dani, two women who share a husband, discover their feelings for each other. On top of all this, the book offers its dystopian fantasy world as a way to explore themes of immigration. The best books, after all, are the ones that provoke thought while they elicit feelings.
The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska
This is the book to save for the day you want to be swept up in wintery, carnival vibes. With an atmosphere steeped in Polish food, fashion, and folklore, The Midnight Girls follows Zosia and Marynka as they each seek the pure-hearted prince. Not to marry, mind you, but to literally steal his heart. It’s powerful. As their competition intensifies, Zosia and Marynka are drawn to each other, making for intense drama between these two amazing, ruthless, monstrous young women.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This book is so hard to categorize. It’s not quite fantasy, not quite science fiction, but all F / F enemies-to-lovers. It’s also an epistolary novel, a cat-and-mouse game between two time-traveling characters, Red and Blue. They’re on opposite sides of a war, Red from her technological world and Blue from her natural paradise. I spend a lot of time thinking about how our ability to love is what makes everything we do worthwhile. It’s a slightly embarrassing fact, both for me personally and the world at large. But I know this book vibes with that philosophy.
Ruinsong by Julia Ember
This is an F / F fantasy retelling of Phantom of the Opera, and by golly I hope that’s all you need to reel you in. If you’re into the idea of sung magic, you’ll find it here. You’ll also find women vanquishing their enemies while wearing ball gowns. In Ruinsong, Cadence is the principal singer for the queen, torturing her enemies with her magical voice. Remi, Cadence’s childhood friend, has ties to the movement plotting the queen’s demise. Their quest to free the country from oppression ignites the childhood-friends-to-enemies-to-lovers tale.
It’s a true wonder to be in the hands of an author who can swing your opinion on a character a full 180 degrees. Those are the best enemies-to-lovers stories: the ones that take you on the same journey as the characters. And I’m well aware that this list could not possibly satisfy the hunger you have for this classic trope. Luckily, there are even more LQBTQ fantasies that rely on it, as well as a bevy of romances contemporary and historical. I wish you a lifetime of characters you love to hate and subsequently love to love.