Sure, a monarchy may not be the best form of government, but the best fantasy royalty sometimes makes you believe they’ve gotten it right.
And there is something about fantasy that makes rulers more believable. Sure, fantasy books do have democracies, but the influence of historic monarchies in mythology and folklore has played a role in the current popularity of rulers in fantasy. It’s a genre where we are still processing the implications of empire and monarchy and a ruling class — albeit one with dragons, fairies, and/or magic.
In fantasy worlds that contain royal government structures, there will always be the ones we root to keep the thrones and the ones we root to lose them. The following list is a mix of fantasy worlds where characters are often still finding the path to the throne. Sometimes, royals are usurping the throne or just waiting their turn in the line of succession. Either way, they are using their political power to help the people even when it risks their safety. It makes sense that readers are more likely to root for a member of the ruling class with access to unlimited privilege if that person is very good at their job.
You’ll enjoy seeing the royalty in these books on the throne and cheer when they overcome obstacles from in and outside the court. It’s almost more magical than anything else in a fantasy world.
Fantasy Royalty at Their Finest
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Princess Malini is not a perfect royal princess, but she is the best. In this sapphic South Asian-inspired high fantasy novel, she tries to usurp her brother’s tyrannical rule, and when she fails, her brother imprisons her in an ancient temple. Malini doesn’t give up. Instead, she uses her political savvy to find allies and negotiate an escape. In return for her freedom, she will take the throne and give the people who helped her control over their country. Because of her tenacity, training, and empathy, Princess Malini is an excellent royal.
The Evergreen Heir by A. K. Mulford
The bookish royal nonbinary heir, Neelo, is excellent at their job running the country in their mother’s stead. Although there are many excellent royals in the Five Crowns of Okrith high fantasy romance series, I would have to say Neelo is the best. Due to overindulgence in drugs and alcohol, their mother’s health is failing, their kingdom is facing a threat of attack, and they are managing a looming engagement with their charismatic best friend. Amidst all that, they manage to run a kingdom that prioritizes beauty and revelry as a bookish, introverted heir. They prioritize the health and safety of their people and have a dedication to finding the solution to any problem, no matter how impossible. All that to say, Neelo is an excellent royal.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Perhaps I could have written this list without mentioning Brightlord Dalinar Kholin from the high fantasy Stormlight Archive series because of its obviousness, but I figured why not. Dalinar learns how to transition from life as a warrior to life as a ruler throughout the series. In doing so, he makes changes that better the lives of all his people, not just members of the nobility. By learning how to feel and understand his emotions, he becomes the kind of empathetic royal his people can look up to and trust, even in a world built on battle and conflict.
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem
With an Egyptian-inspired high fantasy world where an heir in hiding works with the heir to the kingdom responsible for her downfall, you may be shocked to hear it is hard for me to pick only one of them as the best royal. When Arin, the Nizahl Heir, finds Sylvia, the Jasad Heir, working as an apothecary’s assistant in a village, he uncovers her outlawed powers and blackmails her into becoming his champion for the deadly inter-kingdom games. Although Arin appears unyielding, he is kind to the people who work for him, and he protects as many people as he can with his authority over Nizahl’s military. Sylvia is currently in hiding, and while she longs for a life of peace, she is willing to sacrifice everything to protect her people. It might be cheating, but in this case, they are both some of my favorite royals in a fantasy world.
The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst
Durst’s The Queens of Renthia high fantasy series has a few excellent royals, but Queen Naelin might just be the best. As the second queen of the kingdom, she helps balance the destructive forces of the nature spirits that live in the world. She balances co-ruling the kingdom and co-parenting her children to the best of her ability, and when the kingdom is threatened, and her children are kidnapped, she does everything she can to save them both. She may be new to her royal status, but in my opinion, she does a brilliant job of it.
Chosen. Again. by J Emery
An ace chosen one in a portal fantasy book like this only comes once. Ari is drawn back into a land full of wizards, magical creatures, and evil to reawaken the farm-boy-turned-king she saved as a teen. Brushing up on her sword-wielding abilities, she not only helps make tactical decisions for a kingdom but helps lift the king’s curse with the help of her longtime friend and current royal wizard. Ari doesn’t want to rule or become royalty, but that doesn’t stop her from generally being very good at it.
Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang
Princess Kaiya’s magical musical talent is powerful enough to save her people and avoid an arranged marriage, too. Even in a Chinese-inspired fantasy world filled with elves, half-elves, dwarves, mystics, orcs, and dragons, her ability to handle difficult situations stands out. Sure, she has her vocal power, but throughout the Legends of Tivara novels, Princess Kaiya becomes the kind of royal who can deal with any difficulty and save the day again and again, even when it endangers her life.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
When a soldier looking to get out meets a princess looking for someone to guide the rebellion for her, political change begins in this sapphic high fantasy world. Princess Luca is some of the best fantasy royalty because, although she knows how to use people for her political goals, those goals aren’t selfish. Instead, the princess looks to get her uncle off the throne with as little collateral damage as possible. Princess Luca is a complicated character who has the intelligence to get her way even in a court where political missteps are deadly. All in all, Luca is one of the best royals we have in fantasy.
The End of The Best Fantasy Royalty?
Not everyone deserves the royal treatment, but I can assure you these royals do. They are among the few members of fantasy royalty who I wouldn’t mind living under. I can imagine I missed a few, but these characters are some of my favorites. If you are interested in fantasy royalty, try these fantasy books about female heirs battling for the crown and teenage lost heirs. You might also be interested in this list of the best magic systems in fantasy.