I think a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this one, and that’s fine. I don’t mind, in fact, I’d love to hear from you. However, in my view, fantasy romance stories are incredibly one-sided. What do I mean by that? Well simply that in romantic stories that involve a human and either supernatural elements or fantastic creatures (Elves, Dwarves, Fae, Warlocks, Witches, Wizards, etc.), the human is almost always female.

I could list off an example, but instead, I’d say, just go to Goodreads and run a search for fantasy romance and see what comes up.

It’s usually a very typical scenario:

Human/Part Human female works in a field that exposes her to the supernatural. That person becomes aware of another world or the existence of fantasy creatures, at which point, she meets up with one who becomes her guide to the world. The two become enthralled with each other while the plot unfolds.

So why is that? Why is it that most of those romances place the female in the role of the human and/or the character that we’re supposed to relate to? There could be a few reasons for this… let’s look into them a little bit. Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting that there is some conspiracy among fantasy authors, or that the system is sexist, or any sort of wild tin-foil theories. I think it’s simply a product of circumstance. However, the fact remains… if you’re looking for a story where your main human character is male and the elf/fae/etc. is female… outside of Lord of the Rings and one or two other titles, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find anything.

I think the biggest reason is the author. Yes, let’s just get this out of the way. When it comes to fantasy, a lot of people see themselves in the main character. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just what typically happens. I’ve done this, and I’m sure plenty others have as well… this is often the source of some interesting fanfics and ships from established titles. However, that’s a conversation for another day. So given that, it makes sense that the gender of the author would play into what character takes on what role. Given that the majority of fantasy writers in areas of romance are female… the overwhelming majority of stories like this are going to feature a human or part-human female protagonist.

Other reasons could also be the dynamic of the relationship between the characters, the atmosphere, and scenario, but that seems to be the biggest thing.

So what do you think? Could there be other reasons? Let me know in the comments, and let me know if you’ve seen/read stories that break this chain.


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21 Comments on “Opinion: Fantasy Romance is One-Sided.

  1. Romance in Fantasy is an interesting topic that can be discussed from several viewpoints. I’ve seen opinions that romance (sub)plots in Epic fantasy are endangered species because of male authors going into darker subgenres with higher death count (and less romance) while female authors go for Paranormal/Urban Fantasy that have either the case described by you or wild love triangles. Or both.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think it’s not necessarily a sexism thing, but more of an ingrained belief that human female = more vulnerable character whether physically or emotionally or both. If the male character were human while the female is *fill in the blank paranormal creature*, I imagine some writers (of both genders) might worry about their lead male coming off as weak or wimpy compared to the lead female.

    Another trope worth mentioning is: If the lead male needs training, his mentor will almost always be another male. There could be exceptions to that rule hat I just don’t know about. So, take this comment with a grain of salt. 😀


    • I could see someone making the argument the other way as well though, in fact, I heard an argument a while back where, in video games, they like the female protagonist being from another race because she’d be more naive or something like that..


  3. I suspect, particularly in urban fantasy and paranormal romance, the reason is both the author and the audience. Most authors in the paranormal romance genre (and related urban fantasy) are women, and are writing for women, so female main characters are the norm in those cases.

    One notable exception that comes to mind (in “straight” fantasy) is the Dragonlance series–for the Tanis (half-elf)-Laurana (elf) relationship, the Raistlin (human)-“Can’t recall her name, if she had one” (Irda) relationship, brief as it was, and the Gilthanas (elf)-Silvana/D’Argent (dragon) relationship.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Tanis & Laurana, as well as Gilthanas and Silvara, are in the Chronicles (the first three books, starting with Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Margaret Weis & Tracey Hickman). They’re somewhat tangentially brought up in the Legends as well, but those focus more on Caramon and Raistlin.

        Raistlin and the Irda are more difficult. I think it was mostly discussed, semi-indirectly, in the short story “Raistlin’s Daughter” (either in the Tales collection or The Second Generation, I can’t recall which), though Usha, his supposed daughter from the union, is a main character in Dragons of Summer Flame.


      • But, it’s been roughly 20 years since I read most of the series (that was available back then, pre-Summer Flame, didn’t read anything post-Summer Flame).


  4. I agree that it has to do with the Author’s character in some way. There have been some stories where the male MC is tutored by a female though. The fantasy novels based on Wizards of the Coast setting are an example. I think it all begins at the first page, the introduction of the plot. Most start of as humans, like you said, but I think its because its easier to relate to the character of a human. Especially in the age of romance fantasy.


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