Six Wintry SFF Romances That Will Melt Your Heart

When romance and snowflakes mingle in the air, we cuddle up with our loved ones. And there’s nothing better than a happily-ever-after combined with three of my greatest loves: genre fiction, mythology, and cold weather. Here are some stellar mythological and fairy tale retellings set against wintry backdrops, that will make you fall in love with the protagonists and their loved ones.


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Novik weaves a rich tapestry in thai book, intertwining the harsh lives and cultural concerns of Eastern European Jewish life with the eerie and otherworldly ice kings. These creatures, called the Staryk, are slowly suffocating Miryem’s homeland with winter. Shunned for her family’s moneylending—based on the historic rejection of Jews for engaging in that trade—Miryem sets out to make a success of herself and save Lithvas. But when she develops feelings for the Staryk king while transforming silver into gold—channeling Rumpelstiltskin—can she reconcile her two worlds?

Miryem puts everything on the line for both her countrymen and the Staryk… even as these opposing groups, who also hate one another, do not accept her. Her heartwarming desire to help others, even those who shun her, resonates with historic anti-Semitism, while Novik threads in elements of Eastern European monsters who send a chill down the reader’s spine.


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Paige offers a unique take on the Snow White story with Stealing Snow. Teenagers and BFFs Bale and Snow are both patients at the Whittaker Psychiatric Institute, and the story opens with their kiss, centering the characters strongly in their fairytale antecedents. But rather than creating a happily-ever-after, this kiss fractures a relationship. Just after he embraces her, Bale turns violent, and Snow thinks, Not like a prince at all. Now, Snow must try to make sense of Bale, her own past, and an unknown orderly who hints at a destiny she never imagined…all while venturing into a magical and deadly land named Algid. While some readers might be taken aback by Snow’s feelings for Bale, someone who harmed her, the heroine quickly becomes just one of a vividly-drawn cast of characters who populate her Through the Looking Glass-style journey into Algid.


Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner


Jewish sisters Liba and Laya have lived sheltered lives in this historical fantasy inspired by Ashkenazi history and Eastern European myth. But the “real” world intrudes on their forest home when the sisters discover that shapeshifting ability runs in their family. Liba and Laya must come to terms with their own burgeoning powers while newcomers to town encroach on their haven and everything they hold dear, including growing love. Rossner grounds a thoroughly magical story in well-wrought emotional ties between two siblings who would risk it all for one another. The interweaving of real questions of safety and identity amidst the threat of pogroms ground this fantasy in heartrending reality.


Ash by Malinda Lo

This lesbian Cinderella retelling finds our heroine, Ash, bereft at the loss of her father in her freezing family home. Her truly wicked stepmother torments her; in true meta fashion, our fairytale heroine finds solace in mythical stories her mother told her. But two women entering Ash’s life turn it upside down, for better and worse.

The fairy Sidhean seems to offer Ash everything the orphan could want, but do sinister possibilities linger behind the fae? Grounded in the real world is the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, who ensnares Ash’s heart. But when Sidhean stakes her claim on Ash, the reader is swept along on a magical journey of love, loss, and finding one’s place in the world. Lo creates a sweet-yet-heartbreaking growth journey for Ash, making this book a standout.


Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

This story isn’t rooted in a classic fairytale, but in a legendary period of Russian history. Patrick injects a supernatural sense into the fall of Russia’s last tsars, adding a magical note to the famous Faberge eggs beloved of the Romanovs. At one of the final balls, the Tsarevich Alexei shows his teenage sweetheart Natalya a special egg; as long as it’s in the hands of the Romanovs, the dynasty is safe, Alexei proclaims.

But then Russia falls to the rebels and the egg goes missing. To save her beloved, Natalya must navigate a new world, trek through the iciest weather, and square off with dangerous enemies, even creating bonds with those she never expected to care for. Patrick builds a tale worthy of Anastasia the movie, filled with worlds colliding, passion, peril, and power.


Winterspell by Claire Legrand

This Nutcracker reimagining is an inventive take on a traditional tale. In Gilded Age New York, Clara leads a double life: the mayor’s dutiful daughter by day, rebellious teen taught self-defense by the toymaker Drosselmeyer by night. When her father is kidnapped by supernatural enemies and her sister’s life is threatened, Clara works with the cursed prince Nicholas to get justice for her family…even as a deadly witch queen threatens their progress. The chemistry between the protagonists in the story is electric, the suspense palpable and creepy, and the continual allusions to a story traditionally relegated to just Christmas delightful.


A public historian, Carly Silver has written for BBC News, History Today, Smithsonian, Atlas Obscura, The Atlantic, Narratively, ThoughtCo/ (for which she served as the ancient/classical history expert), Biblical Archaeology, Eidolon, All That’s Interesting, and other publications. She works as an associate editor at HarperCollins and resides in Brooklyn, New York.


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