Escapist fiction is the summertime staple we can’t get enough of. Why? Because there’s just something about taking a deep dive into myth and magic that feels like a vacation. What follows is a roundup of eleven summertime reads that will transport you to ancient mythological realms, alternate timelines where gods wage war, time-traveling circuses and other romantic worlds for an epic getaway of the mind.
Psyche and Eros by Luna McNamara
Psyche and Eros summons Lore Olympus in this romantic Greek retelling of Cupid and warrior princess Psyche. Set in Ancient Greece, Luna McNamara weaves the story of how Eros met Psyche–from the formation of the gods to the princess born to slay monsters. One can’t help but fall for the characters when Eros, upon first looking at Psyche, whispers a hilariously doomed “fuck.” A lighthearted book that gives readers a glimpse into the gendered world of Olympian gods by adding a little bit of a sociological flavor to ancient mythological magic.
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose
If you’re itching for more dragon fiction, the very best is Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape a Dragon’s Breath. When Anequs finds a dragon egg on the shore of her whaling village, she is destined to liberate her people from their colonizers. She’s taken to be trained at a magical dragon academy that is a mixture of Viking and Victorian industrialism. This is for readers wanting revolutionary fire and a taste of romance.
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem
The Jasad Heir is the type of mythological and romantic tale you would bargain your last breath for. Sara Hashem’s Egyptian-inspired debut follows the hidden heir of a destroyed kingdom as she’s pulled into the world of the Nizahl in a game of thrilling politics, rebellion and corruption. Arin and Sylvia’s frantic ambitions to release their fury on the other cool into a slow burn. A book that coils you into its serpentine grasp.
Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall
The Shakespearean Mortal Follies weaves a comical sapphic romance in the year 1814. Robin Goodfellow sews a plot of villains, angry gods and extraordinary romance featuring the dashing Lady Georgiana, “the Duke,” and the cursed Maelys Mitchelmore. If you can expect anything from Alexis Hall, it’s a great read that will make the gods quake in their boots.
The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson
Dawson’s fantasy, The First Bright Thing, follows a time-traveling ringmaster of a magical circus in an alternate 1920s America. As the threat of a vengeful circus king looms, Rin is stuck running from her past and fighting for a life with the woman she loves. Magic becomes a battle of love in a world encouraging abusers to reign free. A dark enchantment.
Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong
Bestselling author Chloe Gong takes on New Adult with a Fantasy novel that’s part Hunger Games and part Gladiator. Inspired by Antony and Cleopatra, this rivals-to-lovers story follows Calla Tuoleimi, a princess on the run and Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat, who form an alliance to win the game. Read Immortal Longings if you like antiheroes willing to kill by any means, kingdoms with rotten hearts and fresh magic systems.
Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross is a Young Adult romantasy set in an early modern world in which warring gods call mortals to the battlefield. It’s packed with the sort of romantic escapism you’d hope: rival investigative reporters who secretly love the other’s writing, a boy following the girl he loves across the battlefield because he just can’t exist without her.
Song of Silver Flames Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao
Amélie Wen Zhao’s Young Adult fantasy, Song of Silver, Flame Like Night, focuses on a fallen kingdom’s cultural suppression by its colonizers. Lan is surviving in a colonized land when promptly attacked, saved by a handsome magician and escorted to a secret order of practitioners. Beautiful and something to behold, this book is best read on a beach or someplace to appreciate the epic nature of a good book.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett is an adventurous romantic fantasy. An anti-social academic on a field research trip, Emily studies faeries and asks the villagers too many questions. Her colleague, Wendell Bambleby, trails after her and helps solve a mystery on this ice-cold destination. Frightening faeries and a wickedly slow-burn romance promise an entry to a faerie portal away from hot summer days. This romantic fantasy is deadly.
The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa
Gabe Cole Novoa swims after Our Flag Means Death with The Wicked Bargain, a lyrical Young Adult fantasy debut. Saved by a handsome pirate of the high seas after a disastrous birthday, Mar’s story becomes one of romance, demonic curses, magic and friendship. Sprinkled with Spanish, the narration read by Vico Ortiz (Jim from Our Flag Means Death) makes this Latinx pirate fantasy featuring a nonbinary character special—and one to read by the water.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
Roshani Chokshi takes a turn from Young Adult Fantasy to literary with a gothic fairy tale. A man, referred to as the Bridegroom, desires Azure, who marries him and tells him not to go searching for her secrets. It’s a stunning tale with obvious care in every word. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride breathes new life into the stories of the monsters and princesses of old.
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