I’ve been on the search for fantasy books with no romance or little romance. Books where the female lead and the male lead end up as really close friends after going on an adventure, where a gang of misfits save the day, or sisters band together to protect each other and their kingdom.
Fantasy books that are free from the tropes of insta-love or badly written love triangles, books where the story is mainly about friendship, family ties, and self discovery while romance takes a backseat.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve got no issues with romance in fantasy books and other genres. I’m down for the slow-burn romance or enemies-to-lovers trope. But sometimes, I’d rather the books just focused mostly on the friendships, family ties, and other bonds formed in the story.
I’m not alone in this, as I’ve gotten similar sentiments from other bookworms. Maybe because a lot of what we read or watch in mainstream media have instances where the romance just felt forced and unnecessary, or it feels added in as an after thought to keep readers engaged.
So if you’re also on the look out for fantasy books like this, here’s a list of fantasy books I’ve found so far that contain no romance whatsoever, or a little romance that’s more in the background than the main focus of the story. This is in no way an exhaustive list, as it turns out finding a diverse range of fantasy books with little to no romance isn’t that easy.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Kate Harker and August Flynn want very different things in a city fractured by violence and monsters. Kate wants to be a monster slayer, ruthless and hard, while August wants to protect the innocent in the city…but he’s a monster with a terrifying power. After a failed assassination attempt, the two must team up in order to survive and save their city, while facing their inner demons.
If you like books with monsters, magic, and no romance, this just might be for you.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Follow the misadventures of Nimona, a shapeshifter who wants to be a villain, in this graphic novel. Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart are on a mission to show the people in their kingdom that their heroes aren’t a good as they think they are. Simple plan right? But as the two villains wreak havoc, things start to spiral out of control as Nimona’s power and mysterious past starts to come into question.
David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
The gods have fallen from the sky and taking up residence in Lagos, Nigeria. David Mogo, a demigod, makes a living by capturing gods and godlings in the half-deserted Lagos. After capturing a particularly strong god for one of his clients, he is pulled into a sinister plan that would leave Lagos destroyed. He decides to right his wrongs with the help of his foster father, a wizard and another high god.
As you can guess, dealing with hostile gods in a deserted city doesn’t really leave time for romance, so there’s barely any romance in this novel, just a hint of one between side characters.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Okiku is a ghost who hunts murderers, specifically those who murdered little kids like her. Doing this frees the ghosts of the victims and grants them peace, and for centuries, she drifts around doing this. Until she meets Tarquin, a boy who houses something so sinister within him, and in the process of helping him, she’s forced to face her own demons. This creepy and quite gory novel has no romance whatsoever.
The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang
For centuries, the Kaigenese empire has been protected by a group of powerful warriors. Mamoru Matsuda longs to join these warriors and defend his homeland. But the arrival of an outsider brings about some shocking discoveries, as Mamoru learns that his country might not be as great as it seems.
Misaki struggles to forget her past and tries her best to be a good mother, but with the looming danger and her husbands indifference, she just might have to pick up her sword again, as internal strife and threats of an invasion blossom.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Alex is called the most powerful Bruja in her generation, but she’d rather be anything but that. She hates magic and would go to any lengths to get rid of her powers, including performing a spell to get rid of her powers at her Death day celebration.
The spell backfires horribly, causing her entire family to disappear. She has to venture into Los Lagos, a realm where the dead wait for what is to come next, to save her family. This book about witches and magic has a splash of romance but focuses more on family ties and discovering oneself.
A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
A retelling of the 1001 Nights Arabic tale, this novel follows a lady who decides to offer herself up to Lo-Melkhiin in place of her sister. Lo-Melkhiin is a king who is feared for picking new wives and killing them. She is ready for death, but as she tells the king stories each night, she lives to see the next day and sets out to find a way to end his reign of terror. I loved that this book focused mainly on the strong ties between the sisters, the community, magic, and the symbolism of the story.
The Obsidian and Blood Trilogy by Aliette de Bodard
In this trilogy, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, has his hands full. From a missing priestess, to a nobleman torn to pieces to a prisoner of war dying from a mysterious magical illness. He has to investigate these matters, while dealing with tension and political intrigue of the royal court and the gods, in a world where human sacrifice and the blood magic keeps the land fertile and the sun in the sky. Heavily influenced by Aztec mythology, this trilogy filled with magic, gods, and murder keeps you at the edge of your seat, with barely any romance.
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston
In a world that is rapidly changing for the worse, Djola, an exiled spymaster, is desperately searching for a way to save his homeland.
Miles away, Awa, a young sorcerer, tries to find her way in the world. As the world falls apart around them, Djola and Awa just might hold the key to stopping the madness.
If you’re looking for more books with little or no romance, here’s a list of YA books from different genres you might be interested in.