Literature is all-encompassing, but one just doesn’t realise how immersive it can get. Not only does it borrow from reality, but it also draws from folklore, mythology, people’s random thoughts and dreams. The latter gets explored in detail until a whole topic – or even a sub-genre – is birthed! You will see such a discourse around fictional creatures, such as vampires, werewolves, and faeries.
What is Fae?
Faeries, also shortened as fae (or fey, fay, fairy, and fair folk), is a mythical creature appearing in folktales mainly across Europe. There is no single source of their existence – just a scattered map of different theories that make up this supernatural spirit. They are mostly found in nature – remember Tinkerbell and her group of fairy friends? – living with flowers, in water, and on trees. The term faeries is also used to describe other similar supernatural creatures, such as gnomes and goblins.
When you think of faeries, you may imagine them with big, glittering wings and a halo on their heads. But apart from the human features, fantastical powers, and supernatural essence, their appearance may differ from author to author and book to book. They can be bigger than humans or tiny enough to fit in the palm of the hand. They can have eccentric clothing or all-white attire; faeries may live between humans or their faraway fairyland.
What is Fae Literature, then?
Fae literature essentially comprises novels where the main characters – or the main plotline – are faeries. Due to the faeries belonging to the fantastical realm, faes are primarily spotted in fantasy novels and series. As mentioned earlier, the depictions of fae and their society can differ from writer to writer – and here are two examples of how vastly it can be opposite!
For example, in The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, the faeries live in their Faerieland, able to travel to the human world and back. Since there are many fae species co-existing here – land folk, sea folk, and half-dead folk – readers see many differences in appearance. Mostly though, Black depicts them with wings, smooth, ageless skin with unusual colours, and some animal-like features.
These creatures wake up by sunset and go to sleep in the early morning. They can’t lie here – and so, use their wits and words to twist whatever they want to say. The nobles in their society are called the Gentry, who are beautiful, learned, and twice as deceptive and snobbish. They have unusual marriages, with conditions to end easily. They also face difficulties conceiving, so often, readers will see the supernatural creatures taking human consorts to produce hybrids.
Another example is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas, one of the most beloved works of Fae literature. It displays an elaborate and immersive world of faeries, the immortal magical beings living in Prythian and other neighbouring kingdoms across the Wall. While there are many faeries, the two main types are high fae – humanoids made to be the rulers – and lesser faeries – un-human-like creatures appointed to carry out other tasks. There are also special faes, such as mind-controlling faes, shadow-controlling, and seers.
Humans in this universe have preconceived beliefs about faes, such as they can’t lie, dislike iron, can’t cross the Wall, love silver, and ash wood stops from healing them. However, only one of them is true – the ash wood one. The rest of them are in place to keep humans afraid of this species. This calculated circulation of rumours is enough to show just how cunning and sly the faeries here are.
Why are Fae books so addicting?
Faeries have been around for as long as you can remember. But what makes them so appealing, even after their ancient origins, is, firstly, their creative presence. Faeries lure readers as well as writers to think and imagine, and there are no bounds in this imaginative play. You can repeat or borrow the types of faes already in this world, but your pen will still paint them in a vividly different light.
While the term fae is an encompassing one, this particular entity has provided comfort to everyone, from children to old people. Children are partial to it because of the fantastical world they introduce them to, while older generations remember faeries’ stories from their childhood. As a result, this transcendental quality is often seen in the type of books faes appear in – which can range from children’s stories to adult novels.
Putting the concept of faes in different genres – such as romance, mystery, thriller, or YA – gives the book a more nuanced, versatile shade. It makes the books newer, more approachable, and consequently, addicting!
Top 5 Fae fantasy books released in 2023
- Bonded by Thorns – Elizabeth Helen
Published on: February 7, 2023.
Elizabeth Helen weaves the magical world of the fae with a steamy romance in Bonded by Thorns, the first part of Beasts of the Briar series. The protagonist is Rosalina, a beautiful yet awkward bookworm living in a village with her father. All is well until her father visits and gets imprisoned in the fae realm. With a brave face, she replaces herself in the situation and is now a captive of the four sexiest faes – who turn into beasts every night! It’s because the four faes are cursed – and it will only break if they find their mates… or true love.
Sounds familiar? Bonded by Thorns is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but with a steamy, adult twist! The fae realm is well-thought-out, with the four men portrayed completely different from each other. These four need their centre – and that balance is brought by Rosalina, who is curious and clumsy, brave and sweet.
Many things happen all at once in the narrative. For example, there is the Prince of Thorns out to destroy the faes, the four faes’ quest to break their curses, and Rosalina’s struggle to free herself. While it is hashed out properly, all these take a backseat when love (and lust) blossoms in their hearts… and paves the way to reverse harem. Because why choose between the four?
- King’s Bride – Beck Michaels
Published on: February 27, 2023.
Beck Michaels’ King’s Bride follows the steamy romance of Sunnëva, the beauty of the village and Jokull, the beast Fae king. In this story, Sunnëva sneaks into the king of the Everfrost’s castle to steal the magical roses. Why? Because her brother is ill and only those roses can cure him! And as all the beauty and the beast stories go, he demands marriage in exchange for the stolen rose.
But that’s where the resemblance with the fairy tale stops. Sunnëva plans to kill the king – the only way she can escape her forced marriage – but her plans go haywire when secrets are uncovered. Secrets, lies, and mysteries surround the king, who is actually a god.
The chemistry between the main pair is as endearing as it is steamy. Even after it is a forced marriage, there is respect, understanding, consent, and a budding attraction! But what’s more impressive is the excellent worldbuilding. It is perfect, with great care taken to explore the presence of magical creatures, such as vampires, demons, and faes!
- Kingdom of Blood and Salt – Alexis Calder
Published on: March 30, 2023.
In Alexis Calder’s Kingdom of Blood and Salt, you will see a handful of supernatural species, including vampires, wolf shifters, dragons, and of course, faes. Athos, the last human city in the world, is in a treaty with the Fae kingdom. Every 9 years, humans are to be sacrificed in exchange for Faes protecting Athos from other supernatural creatures. It is in this setting that we meet Ara, the human princess, fearless, passionate, and against these sacrifices.
When the Fae king sends his team, readers meet the leader, Ryvin. He is morally grey, mysterious, and obviously attracted to Ara. But they are enemies, and so, their attempts to resist the other begin. And you all know how that goes! Their enemies-to-lovers arc starts with denial but ends with hate sex and a budding fae romance. It is budding because this is just the first part of a romance trilogy – so buckle up because the story of Ara and Ryvin is far from over.
Kingdom of Blood and Salt is filled with secrets, politics, royalty, twists, betrayal, a unique portrayal of the fae world, and of course, spice. Overall, the book promises a lot – and delivers it well.
- A Shadow Crown – Melissa Blair
Published on: May 9, 2023.
A Shadow Crown is the second instalment in The Hafling Saga series by Melissa Blair, letting the readers dive deeper into the world of the beloved halfling and King’s Blade, Keera. But in this one, she is just pretending to be on King Aemon’s side when she really is working with Prince Killian and his Shadow, Riven. The three heads have come together to finish the king’s reign, but no rebellion is complete with some twists of its own. And this part is full of it, putting Keera into the eye of a storm!
There are a lot of species overlapping, which will take you a while to make sense of. But that’s just one of the signs that the author has taken a lot of time to craft this intricate world. You will find mortals, elves, halflings, as well as dark and light faes, complete with their own set of culture and quirks.
Our bisexual protagonist is paired with Riven here. Everyone has already met this broody fae in the first part; in this one, Blair explores their relationship more deeply. Theirs is a bonded pair, made all the more special by the way they stick together even in the tumultuous surroundings. And, of course, there’s spice, too, for hardcore romance lovers!
- Court of Monsters and Malice – Eliza Raine
Published on: June 2, 2023.
If you have been following Eliza Raine’s The Shadow Bound Queen series, you must know the third instalment has dropped already! Court of Monsters and Malice is inspired by Norse mythology, and you will see its shadows in the narrative here and there. To sum up the first two books, Reyna is a valuable human slave to the Gold Court, from where she is stolen by the ruthless Fae Prince of the Shadow Court, Mazrith.
Their secret-riddled, enemies-to-lovers relationship blossoms as the mystery deepens, which brings the readers to this third book. While the mystery has simmered down a little in this one, the danger still lurks around the two. Reyna is not sure who to trust – even Mazrith! But she finds out his secret and who he really is – and the world tilts off its axis in a second!
Court of Monsters and Malice picks up flawlessly after the second book, complete with its court politics, trials, and found family. Reyna and Maz are still serving their readers a delicious slow burn. But Raine compensates for their slow romance with the ethereal fae world. It is one of a kind, where the legendary mythical tree, Yggdrasill, poses as the one place for all the courts.
The popularity of the fae concept has recently risen through the years and will continue to do so as more and more people become curious about it! If you are already a fan of fantasy, then reading fae-ntasy novels will definitely be an upgrade!