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Court Intrigue Fantasy

What is Court Intrigue Fantasy?

Lawyers dueling in court rooms! Jury tampering! Okay, so not that kind of court. More like a royal court— think castles, thrones, and royal successions. Is Scar’s solo from The Lion King coming to mind? Absolutely! These stories have lots of layers and conflict, though not necessarily physical conflict, more behind the scenes conniving and pulling strings. These are complicated stories full of intrigue. Moreover, the characters are clever—usually on both sides of the aisle.

There is a significant level of world-building in Court Intrigue stories in order to create a believable government with intricate hierarchies as well as several nations with complex relationships.

Court Intrigue Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic

    Variable. The level of magic in Court Intrigue Fantasy varies by world and is not a defining feature of the sub-genre. In some stories magic is barely present and not a factor in the storyline; in other stories magic is key to plot development and the possession of power.

    High. These stories do not usually have grand ideas, but there are plenty of social implications involved in the goings-on of a palace court. The idea of power and ideas of black and white are themes commonly explored in Court Intrigue.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

    High. These stories do not usually have grand ideas, but there are plenty of social implications involved in the goings-on of a palace court. The idea of power and ideas of black and white are themes commonly explored in Court Intrigue.

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate-High. Character development can sometimes be overshadowed by world building and plot development. However, characters are significant players in Court Intrigue stories and therefore tend to pop off the page. A common characteristic in this sub-genre is the morally gray areas of people’s lives, which gives readers more realistic characters.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. Unraveling a plot full of twists and turns is the hallmark of the Court Intrigue sub-genre.

  • Level of Violence

    Moderate. Conflict is a significant part of all Court Intrigue stories, but it is not always violent. There are, however, often wars or the threat of war looming on the edges of the story. Sometimes, even, conflicts are resolved through violence, but in secret.

Related Fantasy Subgenres




    Young-Adult Fantasy. There is a strong presence in Young Adult Fantasy fiction of the Court Intrigue sub-genre, often with a heavy dose of romance.

  • Fantasy of Manners. Much of Court Intrigue is also Fantasy of Manners in that both are depicting elaborate rituals and the complicated relationships, especially in regards to class.

  • Historical Fantasy. A Court Intrigue story set in an historical time with fantasy elements is an easy blend of the two sub-genres.


  • Political Fantasy. Court Intrigue is a specific type of political fantasy in that it focuses specifically on court politics, schemes, and intrigues (relating to the rule of kingdoms) while political fantasy might be more broad in general and might not feature a royal court setting.

  • Arthurian Fantasy. The story of Arthur’s birth, concealment, and rise to power is an intriguing one and some of these stories, the ones that focus on the royal court, fall into the Court Intrigue sub-genre.

Court Intrigue Fantasy Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

If you don’t like long plots filled with twists and turns. If you don’t like storylines with multiple players, all of whom are doing a bit of conniving.

Popular Court Intrigue Fantasy Books
  • 1 A Song of Ice and Fire

    By George R.R. Marin. This series is a prime example of the Court Intrigue sub-genre—all that conniving and desire for the throne.

  • 2 The Decoy Princess

    By Dawn Cook. A young girl is brought from the streets and raised as a princess, only later to find that she is merely a decoy for the real one. This is a young adult book featuring a spunky heroine.

  • 3 The Ascendance Trilogy

    By Jennifer A. Nielsen. A young adult series that takes place in a discontent kingdom. Layers of treachery, deceit, cunning plans, and action make for a fast-paced read.

  • 4 Court Duel/Crown Duel

    By Sherwood Smith. A story about a young countess who faces the political intrigue of the royal palace.

  • 5 The King of Attolia

    By Megan Whalen Turner. The third book in The Queen's Thief series, this novel is the story of a palace, from the perspective of a soldier. It is full of palace politics, conspiracies, and romance.

  • 6 The Mists of Avalon

    By Marion Zimmer Bradley. A story of King Arthur's court, through the eyes of Arthur's half-sister Morgaine Le Fay.

  • 7 His Fair Assassin series

    By R.L. LaFevers. A young woman escapes an arranged marriage only to become the handmaiden of Death. She finds herself in the high court of Brittany where romance, intrigue, and treason are mere games.

  • 8 Dune

    By Frank Herbert. A Fantasy and a Science Fiction series, Dune is set in a future where a sprawling interstellar feudal empire exists. This series is a great example of world building with complicated politics and relationships between people, families, governments, and religions.

  • 9 A Song for Arbonne

    By Guy Gavriel Kay. An Historical Fantasy that focuses on the clash between two cultures and features intrigue, romance, mystery, revenge and redemption.

  • 10 The Second Duchess

    By Elizabeth Loupas. The Second Duchess. Enter a complex world of conspiracy, murder, and marriage amongst artists and royalty.