Ah, family feuds. Perhaps the mightiest source of conflict since the dawn of time, to get a little dramatic about it, but who doesn’t like a bit of in-fighting heightened by the responsibility of defending your blood ties? I wrote a Romeo and Juliet inspired duology about a feud between two warring families because I’ve always been so interested in the matter of ideals and beliefs. At what point do you pick up a sword to right a wrong done to you by proximity of blood? Is someone more justified to act righteously if they’re doing it in the name of family?
Here are five books that investigate what is and isn’t enough to stir a quarrel between families.
Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
There are many Shadowhunter families in the world of The Last Hours series, so we’re starting off this list by veering into conflicts that pull in multiple factions. The Blackthorns are working in the shadows against the Carstairs and the Herondales, setting the scene for a coming battle between those fighting for good and those aligning with evil. All the Shadowhunter books are especially good at telling intergenerational stories, so it’s no surprise that Chain of Iron will continue on this path of setting family against family, with a little more demonic activity in the mix, of course. I’m so excited for how this conflict will play out that I might need to wrap myself in protective gear before the third book comes out so I don’t get hurt. But we all know I will.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
In a setting where our main cast of characters belongs to one of two major warring families, this adult fantasy is a prime example of intergenerational familial feuds. What does it feel like to be born with an allegiance to something? What is it like to want something else, but knowing that it would go against everything you were raised to believe by the people you trust most? With edge-of-your-seat fight scenes and dynamic, complicated sibling relationships, the story hauls the Kauls through a war that will determine their very world, and there is simply no looking away. All good violence is dosed with some good ol’ Godfather-esque threats, and maybe, just maybe, the most intense violence comes from those we thought wouldn’t hurt us.
Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat
Okay, so, technically our protagonist Will is caught in a world split between Light and Dark rather than two specific families, but generations ago this used to be a conflict split between families who chose their sides, so I’m counting it! This is a book that has so much more broiling right beneath the surface, and just as you think you know what the story is doing with its familial lines and relations, it will shock you to your very core. War is coming, and now these descendants of the original conflict are drawing the battle lines once again. Familial feuds already get me right in the gut, but throw in reincarnation too?! Excellent. One of my favorite tropes of all time is “Maybe in another life,” and the conflict here absolutely breathes with that vibe.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
This book is more about an intra-family feud than warring families, but it has the same tension and breakneck angst, so it belongs on this list. After her brother takes the throne and puts Malini in an isolated temple, she must rally her forces and take back the empire for her own means. Filled with the most gorgeous writing and a world that breathes with atmosphere (seriously, you’ll feel like you’ve been pulled right into the story’s busy streets and eerie temple hallways), The Jasmine Throne is a masterclass in craft. Without giving too much away, let’s just say this familial conflict also proceeds in a way that had me screaming and flipping the pages at light speed so I could find out how it all plays out… but it won’t be that easy, because this book is the first of a trilogy!
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
Inspired by the story of Tristan and Eseult, this book follows Branwen, caught in a conflict between two kingdoms at war: or otherwise, two families keeping secrets about the bloody history between them. The classics are retold again and again for a reason, after all, just like how stories of family conflicts have also been played out since the dawn of time, wink wink. The idea of star-crossed lovers colliding against their very family to be together is endlessly fascinating, and this book interrogates all the juicy questions of loyalty and love.
And there’s my list! Hopefully one of these will satiate you, dear reader, with the perfect level of familial angst.
Originally published November 2021.
Chloe Gong is the New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and its sequel, Our Violent Ends. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York pretending to be a real adult. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok under @TheChloeGong or check out her website at TheChloeGong.com.