In a genre brimming with eternal fates and thwarted prophecies, it’s no surprise that romantic bonds often steal the show in fantasy. I naively expected my debut novel, Raybearer, to fall into this mold: the groundwork was certainly there, being a story in which teens swear to serve each other for life. But no matter how much I highlighted these relationships, the protagonist’s driving motivations continually flew back to her charismatic mother: The nameless, ever-present Lady.
Many of my favorite fantasies revolve not around romantic soulmates, but the companions they’ve had from birth. These protagonists are shaped by bonds they did not have the luxury of choosing, and which pursue them, for good or for ill, all their lives. Here are five fantasy titles that expertly explore traumatic family bonds.