“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas dominates the fantasy romance book genre and quickly rose to The New York Times’ bestsellers list after it was published in 2015. Maas’ books are published in 37 languages, have sold more than 13 million copies and include the author’s young adult series, “Throne of Glass,” and the more contemporary fantasy “Crescent City” series.
In March 2021, Hulu announced an upcoming adaptation of “A Court of Thorns and Roses” — with Ronald D. Moore of “Outlander,” fame tapped as producer — and ever since, the fae-centric fever has been heating up.
It’s been two years, and there’s no word yet on when the ACOTAR television series will be released, but that hasn’t stopped fans from building fake casting lists on TikTok and debating whether or not Hulu will do the series justice.
Personally, I think it will, given the streamer’s success with adapting Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale” and Sally Rooney’s “Normal People.” The delightful and irreverently funny series “The Great” was adapted from a play, and creative people within Hulu are also involved in the upcoming ACOTAR series.
If you’ve read ACOTAR, then you definitely should read Maas’ two other series, “Crescent City” and “Throne of Glass”; they may be more connected than you think. In the meantime, for readers who have finished Maas’ canon of books, here’s a list of similar fandom favorites, indie-publisher twins and a few promising ones yet to be released.
‘Seven Faceless Saints’ By M.K. Lobb
The market tagline for this new young adult debut is “There’s a holiness in revenge,” which is enough to pique my interest. “Seven Faceless Saints,” the debut from M.K. Lobb, is quickly capturing fans of the dark fantasy genre and is being touted as a similar read to bestselling authors Leigh Bardugo and Kerri Maniscalco. It opens in the city of Ombrazia, where saints and their devoted disciples rule with ruthless power, doting on their favorite citizens and leaving the rest to barely survive. Rossana Lacertosa is a citizen of the city, but after her father’s brutal murder by the Ombrazian military, she’s pushed into exposing and destroying the powers that be. She finds herself growing into her powers as a disciple of Patience, joins a rebellion and is forced to face the boy who obliterated her trust and heart, Damian Venturi, the now-youngest guard of the Palazzo military. All the while, a murderer stalks citizens of Ombrazia, and the Palazzo military seems keen to ignore the climbing body counts, except when a prized disciple of Death becomes a victim.
The ‘Myths Of Airren’ Series By Jenny Hickman
The latest book in the “Myths of Airren” series by Jenny Hickman, “Prince of Deception,” is told from the point of view of the “wicked” half-fae Prince Rian. Hickman is perhaps better known for another series, “The Pan Trilogy,” but if you were to prize one series on this list, this would be the one I’d stake my heart on. Prince Rian has a penchant for swearing, debauchery, fine clothes and strawberry tarts. He’s also got a dungeon. Favorites aside, the characters in Hickman’s latest series are a motley crew of dysfunctional, hilarious and at times terrifying companions. The Gancanagh, an Irish folk legend with a lethal kiss, is Rian’s half-brother and is more than happy to use his special talents to assist his brother in a “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-meets-“Romeo and Juliet” scheme to achieve multiple ends. Rian is the epitome of the morally gray love interest: a self-confessed murderer with an entire castle worth of emotional issues. He’s also funny as feck, and his devotion, which completely baffles and irks him, for his human Aveen might just be the death of him.
‘The Blood Trials’ By N.E. Davenport
Readers who loved Maas’ earlier series, “Throne of Glass,” will enjoy N.E. Davenport’s “The Blood Trials.” A blend of action, fantasy and science fiction, Davenport’s duology is a gritty and enthralling debut, leaning more new adult than young adult in genre. Fans of ACOTAR may find a kinship between Davenport’s main character, Ikenna, and Maas’s Celaena Sardothien. Ikenna is the granddaughter of the Legatus of the Mareenian Empire, and after the death of a close family member, she is out for revenge. She enrolls in a military academy hoping to earn a coveted place among elite Praetorian warriors, an initiation not everyone will survive. She faces brutal and physically demanding tests while enduring racism and hiding a potentially deadly secret – Ikenna possesses forbidden blood magic. Ikenna’s strength and loyalty are tested, but she will do whatever it takes to avenge her family and leave a blazing trail of vengeance in her wake. Kindred Stories is an independent bookstore in Houston that provided this fantastic recommendation.
The ‘Autumn Of The Grimoire’ From The ‘Sisters Solstice’ Series By J.L. Vampa
J.L. Vampa’s series is gothic, mysterious and filled with a well-rounded cast of characters. A perfect read for fans craving the “enemies to lover” trope, spell-binding love scenes and strong female main characters. During a gathering among sisters who happen to be witches, the Grimoire (ancient book of spells) commands Agatha (the witch of Autumn) to go back in time and marry a self-absorbed, albeit incredibly good-looking, prince to save a kingdom of people. This is the very same prince who, upon first meeting Agatha, she could barely stomach. She’s willing to do anything to help the people around her, but having to team up with the pompous prince might be too much for the witch.
‘The Wolf And The Wildflower’ By Ella Fields
Ella Fields’ “The Wolf and The Wildflower” is a deeply emotional and dramatic book filled with unrequited love, jilted lovers, fated mates and a “Court of Silver Flames” level of heat. Imagine if the initial couple in Maas’s ACOTAR had married, and then ultimately broke their bonds through affairs — unforeseeable but destined to happen? In a sea of poorly written fantasy romance being churned out for the ravenous masses right now, Fields is a cut above, writing believable dialogue and gut-punching emotional plots. The spice level is high and passionate from the beginning, keeping you completely enthralled by the relationship of the main couple. Scythe, an alpha-male shifter, and Aster, a fae, meet in a rowdy bar one evening, their differences as immediately obvious as their inexplicable attraction. They fall deeply for one another, despite being from warring territories, with Aster clearly running from her past and Scythe providing the security and space she needs. For fans of alpha males, fae queens, twists and spice, Fields’ standalone “The Wolf and the Wildflower” will captivate you.
‘The Last Tale Of The Flower Bride’ By Roshani Chokshi
“The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” is Roshani Chokshi’s adult debut and reads like a gothic fever dream. With Sapphic undertones, secrets and the unraveling of a marriage in an atmosphere that is sumptuous and a little frightening, you will be bewitched by this dark fairy tale world. Chokshi weaves a labyrinth of past and present narratives, making for a sumptuous and chilling story reminiscent of some of the more macabre fairy tales of the past, like “Bluebeard.” The fairy tale aspects will appeal to fans of ACOTAR, along with the many twists, so it’s best to keep the details short. “The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” is a dark and bittersweet coming-of-age tale. Chokshi’s young adult series “The Gilded Wolves” is also incredible for fans of decadent escapism and mystery.
‘The Serpent And The Wings Of Night’ From The ‘Crowns Of Nyaxia’ Series By Carissa Broadbent
Think “Hunger Games”-meets-ACOTAR in Carissa Broadbent’s latest series about a human raised among vampires. Fans of Maas’s work usually encounter suggestions for Broadbent’s earlier books, but her “Crowns of Nyxaia” series has had a recent slow-burn effect on book circles. In the first book, a cast of mythical creatures and powerful vampires are broken into a rigid class system of three vampire houses, with humans at the bottom. The female main character, Oraya, is the adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king and is keenly aware the world around her is dangerous. Her only chance to become immortal (and unbreakable in her vampire-dominated world, like her adopted father) is by entering the Kejari: a tournament held by the goddess of death. Oraya must compete among nefarious warriors from all three vampire houses. She’s forced into an alliance with the ruthless Raihn, a winged and roguishly handsome opponent. The trials bring the two closer, and Broadbent leaves readers on a cliff-hanger with a final twist. The second book in the series, “The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King,” will be available in March 2023.
‘The Witch Collector’ From The ‘Witch Walker’ Series By Charissa Weaks
Charissa Weaks’ “Witch Walker” series is a sexy, spell-binding fantasy romance. The main protagonist, Raina Bloodgood, is a beautiful magical being who is unable to speak, so she communicates using a form of sign language and weaves spells with her hands. She’s beloved by her family and even has a romantic tie to the young local blacksmith — but Raina is focused on revenge. She’s determined to kill the Witch Collector for kidnapping her sister and the Frost King, who the witches are sent to after being collected. Enter Alexus — tall, dark and devastatingly handsome — who also happens to be the Witch Collector, riding into Raina’s town not to collect any witch, but specifically her. Before Alexus can collect Raina, her village is brutally attacked. Plans go horribly wrong for them both, and after the carnage of the attack, Raina is forced to realize that much of what she once believed isn’t true. She’s forced to ally with Alexus, at least temporarily, with the goal of reuniting with her sister. But through their travels, a closeness begins to form between the pair. There’s something very haunting about book one, and the next in the series amplifies the romance and action.
‘The Winter Knight’ By Jes Battis
Similar to Maas, author Jes Battis has a knack for reinventing fairy tales and lore in modernized worlds. “The Winter Knight” is a fantasy/sci-fi/LGBTQIA+ novel closer in tone to “Crescent City” and features Arthurian legends reborn into an upbeat queer urban fantasy and mystery. King Arthur’s knights of the roundtable are living in a modern Vancouver, but when a knight ends up suspiciously dead, a murder investigation begins. Hildie, a Valkyrie (the famous women warriors, who also have a place of pride in Maas’s “A Court of Silver Flames”) is assigned to the case. On the prime suspect list is Wayne, an autistic college student and the reincarnation of Sir Gawain. Wayne is suddenly dragged deeper into his medieval family history because of the murder, all while attempting to form a new relationship with the dean’s charming assistant, Burt — who also happens to be a murder suspect in Hildie’s investigation. Wayne and Hildie decide to team up and follow a path of clues left by fallen knights, tricky runesmiths, the Wyrd Sisters of Gastown and more, including a beast straight from Wayne’s nightmares. “The Winter Knight” is a fast-paced, urban fairy tale and mystery with queer and trans heroes, forcing the reader to wonder, who gets to become a fairy tale legend? And why can’t we rewrite antiquated ones?
“The Winter Knight” debuts April 4.
‘Queen Of Myth And Monsters’ From The ‘Adrian X Isolde’ Series By Scarlett St. Clair
The USA Today bestselling writer Scarlett St. Clair, author of “Hades X Persephone Saga” and “King of Battle and Blood,” is well-known for her dramatic retellings and world-building, intense fantasy romance. Her most recent in the “Adrian and Isolde” series, “Queen of Myth and Monsters,” begins with all of the vengeance, spice and amplified drama of the first installment. Princess Isolde, recently orphaned and now the newly crowned queen, finds herself finally accepting, or at the very least believing, truths about her past. She is fiercely devoted to her king and husband, the vampire Adrian, while they are forced to play deadly court politics, endure two opposing goddesses and fight off a crimson mist destroying everything in its path. While threats increase and threaten all of Cordova, Isolde’s trust in Adrian is deeply tested as she learns more about his brutal and complicated past. St. Clair has yet again created a scorching and highly binge-able series for fans of fantasy romance.
The ‘Legendborn’ Series By Tracy Deonn
New York Times bestseller Tracy Deonn’s young adult contemporary fantasy “Legendborn” series is full of twists and magic. For fans of Maas’ “Crescent City” hoping for something less adult, “Legendborn” is a wonderful duology filled with mystery, a contemporary setting and an intense magic system. At only 16, Bree Matthews’ mother dies in an accident, causing her to emotionally detach from everyone around her. She decides to join a residential program at UNC-Chapel Hill for bright young students, but on the very first night of the program, she witnesses a terrifying attack by a flying demon succubus. A secret society named the Legendborn, which hunts magical sinister creatures, arrives to stop the demon. Noticing Bree, a member of the society attempts to erase Bree’s memory of the event — except it backfires. The attempted mental wipe-out instead unlocks memories of her own magical abilities and past. Bree then finds herself tied to the group and teams up with former Legendborn member Nick to discover secrets about the society and Bree’s past. Expect plenty of ties to King Arthur’s court and a brewing magical war between demons and the order. In book two, “Bloodmarked,” the action ramps up, as does a love triangle — especially once Selwyn, the dark, curly-haired mage with complicated ties to Nick, spends more time with Bree.
‘The Poppy War’ By R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang’s entire work is more than well worth diving into — “Babel,” her bestselling high-fantasy new release, will haunt you, but the author’s first series, “The Poppy War,” is a fantastic series for fans of “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” It is a brilliantly imaginative and epic historical military fantasy inspired by Chinese history. When the orphan Rin aces the Keju, an Empire-wide contest to find the most talented youth to join the Academies, it shocks everyone. Rin, after all, is an orphan from Rooster Province whose guardians had planned on marrying her off for their own insidious gains. After winning, Rin is relieved to finally be free of their plans and to attend Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan. But Rin’s new life won’t be without new hardships because being a dark-skinned peasant girl at Sinegard means she is an immediate outsider. Subjected to racism, sexism and jealousy, Rin finds strength within herself, tapping into a lethal, unearthly power — an aptitude for the nearly mythical art of shamanism. She dives deeper into her gifts with the help of a possibly insane teacher and with the use of psychoactive substances, which help to reveal that the gods she believed long dead are very much alive. Military action begins to increase in the Nikara Empire, with the Federation of Mugan just across the sea beginning to ignite the Third Poppy War. And Rin’s new powers might play a pivotal role in the upcoming bloodshed.
‘A Crown Of Ivy And Glass’ From The ‘Middlemist’ Trilogy By Claire LeGrand
Popular fantasy author Claire Legrand ventures out of the young adult world with her latest adult fantasy, “A Crown of Ivy and Glass.” This bewitchingly dark fantasy-romance combines the pomp and high society of “Bridgerton” with the action and fantastical setting of “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” In “A Crown of Ivy and Glass,” three noble Ashbourne sisters battle to protect their land from an invasion of creatures from the realm of the gods and the birthplace of magic — before the boundary dividing the two worlds disappears forever. The first book in the trilogy follows Lady Gemma’s Ashbourne’s story; she’s beautiful, wealthy and hails from a family blessed by the gods. But underneath her perfect existence is a darker reality of sadness and regret. The Ashbourne family isn’t as happy as they seem. They’ve lost one daughter to battle along the boundary lines; they’re in a blood feud with the Bask family, and Gemma appears to be without magical abilities — her body reacts to magic like it’s poison. In a world where magic is frequently encountered, Gemma is chronically ill and desperate to feel in control of her life. Then she meets the handsome and disgraced Talan d’Astier, who is on a quest to redeem his family’s honor. The pair strike a bargain: Talan will help Gemma slay a demon responsible for the Bask blood feud, and she’ll help Talan navigate high society. All the while, attacks on her world increase and only pull her closer to Talan. Early readers have compared the Ashbourne sisters to Maas’ Acheron sisters from “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” but LeGrand’s story is decidedly its own.
“A Crown of Ivy and Glass” debuts May 9.
‘The Shadow In The Ember’ From The ‘Flesh And Fire’ Series By Jennifer Armentrout
Jennifer Armentrout’s “From Blood and Ash” is on many ACOTAR fan’s reading lists, and for good reason — epic world-building, sexy main characters who throw dart-like jabs, twists, broken loyalties and terrifying creatures abound. And the prequel spinoff series, “Flesh and Fire,” is just as engrossing. The series begins with the female main character, Seraphena — a princess offered up as a bride to the Primal of Death. The Primal seemingly rejects the marriage (despite the years-in-the-making marriage treaty between Sera’s family and the Primal), leaving Sera shunned by her own family, who believed the marriage would provide an opportunity for her to assassinate him. Yes, Sera is more than just an offered-up, pretty bride — she’s been trained her whole life in the deadlier of arts. There is a plague destroying Sera’s country, and her family believes the Primal of Death is the cause of it, but when he rejects her, she becomes little more than her family’s court assassin — slinking in and out to do their bidding against various enemies. Sera isn’t the woe-is-me virginal woman in distress; she’s lethal, headstrong, and after a night of witnessing a multiple-victim homicide, she’s suddenly in very close proximity to what she thinks might be a god she can’t seem to shake. The second book, “A Light in Flame,” ended on a cliffhanger, and the next book in the series will not be published until Dec. 12.
‘Gild’ From The 'Plated Prisoner’ Series By Raven Kennedy
Like Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” Kennedy’s bestselling “Plated Prisoner” series will also be adapted into a TV show. Mandalay Television has optioned the five books the series, with executive Vanessa Johnston leading the development, according to Deadline. This series is routinely and emphatically brought up in fantasy romance groups across social media as a must-read after completing Maas’ work. The “Plated Prisoner” books — “Gild,” “Glint,” “Gleam,” “Glow” and “Gold” — are a reimagining of the myth of King Midas and center on Auren, who was almost entirely turned to gold at Midas’ touch. The king keeps her in a gilded cage within the frozen mountain castle of Highbell, where everything is made of gold. Midas touched Auren as a sign of his favor and to demonstrate his power, and he keeps her there like a prized trophy — until violence and turmoil threaten his kingdom of Orea. A truth is revealed, and Auren no longer trusts all she’s been led to believe. The final book in the series, “Gold,” will be published on June 8.
‘Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia Of Faeries’ By Heather Fawcett
Heather Fawcett’s new fantasy series about a curmudgeonly professor, Emily Wilde, is rich and enchanting, with a good amount of humor. Cambridge professor Emily, along with her large dog, Shadow, journey to a remote northern town of Hrafnsvik to study faerie folklore, and while there, ultimately discover dark fae magic, friendship and even love. Emily is the foremost expert on the study of faeries, genius and meticulous with her work; she’s determined to write the world’s first encyclopedia of faerie lore. As talented as she is with her studies, she’s better at books than people and prefers the company of her dog, her work and faeries. She keeps her distance from the village townsfolk, or hopes to, and certainly does not want to interact with her academic rival, Wendell Bambleby, who unexpectedly is also in Hrafnsvik. Wendell is dashing and handsome and effortlessly charms everyone around him, except for Emily. While Wendell attempts to meddle in Emily’s work, she only gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the most elusive fae of all, the Hidden Ones. But there’s something else Emily begins to wonder: Who is Wendell, really, and why is she inexplicably drawn to him?
‘The Veil’ by Ivy Brannon
“The Veil” is an intense debut fantasy romance from Ivy Brannon, full of similar tropes and characters that fans of Maas will enjoy. The beginning of the book is brutal and violent, and trigger warnings should be heeded (attempted sexual assault and violence, to name the first few), but Brannon’s initial foray into the fantasy genre is filled with strong characters, a fast-moving plot and a morally gray love interest that make “The Veil” utterly binge-worthy. Legend says the veil meant to separate the human world from the dangerous world of the fae is lifted once a year on the holiday of Samhain. And on that night, anyone — or anything — can pass between the two realms. It’s a legend Lina thought to be nothing more than a myth, until the night her brother is stolen. Lina’s crossing into the fae lands lead to her required stay for a year, but she’s focused on finding her brother despite the terrors around her. In this new territory, Lina allies with the powerful and distractingly handsome fae king, all while monsters threaten her life and war threatens all creatures. Readers of Brannon’s debut can expect a fated “enemies to lovers” plot, multiple love interests, action and violence, and entertaining banter between characters.
‘Shadows of the Lost’ by Maxym M. Martineau
“Shadows of the Lost” is Martineau’s latest fantasy romance. This book is an LGBTQIA+ epic romance with an intense plot and a bit of spice, along with some heavy angst. Paranormal elements intertwine with the magical when Gaige, who is a Charmer, dies and is brought back into something much darker by his close friend Kost. Fighting with the turmoil of his past life and what he’s become, Gaige is suddenly lost to the shadow realm, and Kost is the only one who can bring him back. But bringing Gaige back will take more than what either has bargained for, they have to learn to trust and perhaps even love one another again for a happily ever after.
“Shadows of the Lost” debuts June 6.