There comes a time in every reader’s life when they seek to embark on a fantastical journey filled with adventure and intrigue . . . but aren’t exactly ready for an impossibly long, exhausting epic. Enter the cozy fantasy: a low-stakes, light fantasy that’s equally as enjoyable without having to keep track of every rock, road, and hillside that has its own name and backstory (looking at you, Tolkien . . . ). If you’ve already read the latest TikTok hit Legends & Lattes, here’s a list of seven additional heartwarming adventures that pair perfectly with a hot cup of tea and your favorite reading nook.
Holly’s Pick: Immerse yourself in a charming, cozy Irish village—which happens to be haunted by ghosts—with Jess Kidd’s HIMSELF. This story is about Mahony, who as an adopted child with no lines to his biological past thought his birth mother wanted nothing to do with him. Until one night, when Mahony is drinking at a pub in Dublin, he is slipped a note that leaves him questioning everything. Mahony travels back to his birthplace to discover what might have really happened to his mother. When he arrives, ghosts rise from their grave and flock to Mahony to tell their stories. As he navigates the village, wards off ghosts, and dives deep into his haunted past, I was cozied up in my reading chair, devouring every page. HIMSELF is a gorgeous Irish tale twisted into a dark, yet humorous ghost story written by an author whose books have never let me down.
Emily’s Pick #1: Imagining the ferryman for the dead as a corporate soldier? Genius! Charlie the Ferryman becomes dissatisfied with his literal dead-end job of sailing the dead across the sea to the underworld. So when he decides to save the soul of Alice Spiegel, he finally feels like his own life has meaning, but Inspector Javrouch, liaison for the Ferryman Institute, isn’t about to let someone break the law. While this book has its dark moments, it’s overall bursting with fun action sequences that’ll keep you engaged through to the end.
In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.
Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people—somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he's acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life—that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute—but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.
When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute's resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he's in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.
Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.
Heather’s Pick: What’s this? A fantasy novel with characters who have down-to-earth problems? Say no more: I’m in! PALADIN’S GRACE by T. Kingfisher may be set in a magical realm where paladins (or knights) pledge their life to protect one of a handful of gods, but everything else about the story is surprisingly human. Stephen, a paladin, is still grieving and struggling to find a new life’s purpose three years after the god he had been serving, the Saint of Steel, died unexpectedly. When he and a perfume maker named Grace accidentally stumble upon the scene of an attempted murder, they band together for (her) safety . . . and to help track down a serial killer. Grace has her own emotional baggage to work through, but even in the midst of all the chaos, she finds comfort in Stephen, whose gentle heart tempers his lethal skills. Yes, this fantasy novel is actually more of a romantic adventure, with a sweet hero who likes to knit, to boot. Doesn’t get cozier than that.
Laura’s Pick: I was certain THAT TIME I GOT DRUNK AND SAVED A DEMON would simply be a humorous book about a protagonist who loves wine, cheese, and demons. And it is, partially. But it also involves incredible worldbuilding and a romantic thread that was delightfully deep. Our leading lady, Cinnamon Hotpepper, comes from a family of spice farmers, and she hasn’t always loved demons—why would she? The goddess who protects her world prevents demons from entering, and Cin is content to live her life without danger or adventure. But when a handsome demon shows up and questions her worldview, she has no choice—literally no choice, I mean, he’s a demon—but to join his quest. This book has everything for a fun-filled fantasy: an adventurer who hates adventures, humor, romance, a hint of danger, and a ton of sarcasm. It’s perfect for the nights you want to curl up with a book in one hand and a drink in the other.
Sharon’s Pick: A philosophical inquiry set in a café, BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD is the book that inspired me to seek out more books in this subgenre. Taking place over a hundred years and set in a back alley in Tokyo, the novel centers around a café that is far from ordinary. With the purchase of a cup of coffee, visitors receive the opportunity to travel back in time. However, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold. Through four perspectives, BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD explores the possibilities and ramifications that come with changing the past and seeking closure.
Emily’s Pick #2: The idea around Karen Hawkins’s Dove Pond series is genius. Set in the fictional small southern town of Dove Pond, each book features a glimmer of magic in the mundane. In the first book, THE BOOK CHARMER, the local librarian can sense the perfect book for a reader. In this second book, which also serves as a standalone, the teas at the local tea shop have been conjuring up some abnormal side effects—producing truth tellers, strange dreams, and more. While Ava Dove, the owner of the tearoom, sets out to find the remedy, other people in the town sort out problems of their own. The story alternates between Ava, Ellen—a grieving architect who is preparing to sell her recently deceased daughter’s house—and Ellen’s granddaughter Kristen, who desperately wants to stay in Dove Pond.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins returns to her beloved Dove Pond series with another “mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author)—but this time, the magic is in the tea leaves.
Ava Dove—the sixth of the seven famed Dove sisters and owner of Ava Dove’s Landscaping and Specialty Teas—is frantic.
Just as her fabulous new tearoom is about to open, her herbal teas have gone wonky. Suddenly, her sleep-inducing tea is startling her clients awake with vivid dreams, her romance-kindling tea is causing people to blurt out their darkest secrets, and her anti-anxiety tea is making them spend hours staring into mirrors. Ava is desperate for a remedy, but her search leads her into dangerous territory, as she is forced to face a dark secret she’s been hiding for over a decade.
Meanwhile, successful architect Ellen Foster has arrived in Dove Pond to attend the funeral of her estranged daughter, Julie. Grieving deeply, Ellen is determined to fix up her daughter’s ramshackle house, sell it, and then sweep her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Kristen, off to a saner, calmer life in Raleigh. But Kristen has other plans. Desperate to stay with her friends in Dove Pond, Kristen sets off on a quest she’s avoided her whole life—to find her never-been-there father in the hopes of winning her freedom from the grandmother she barely knows.
Together, Ava, Kristen, and Ellen embark on a reluctant but magical journey of healing, friendship, and family that will delight fans of Alice Hoffman, Kate Morton, and Sarah Addison Allen.
Sara’s Pick: There have been lots of representations of death over the years: clever and cruel, mischievous and mysterious, all kinds of characters that reap the recently deceased. But UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR brings a new, softer version of Death to take souls to their final resting place. When Wallace suddenly dies, he realizes he never really had a chance to live. So when the Manager of the mysterious tea shop he gets sent to after his death allows him to go back for one week, he means to make the most of it. Quirky, fun, and overall heartwarming, this book is the perfect blend of cozy and mysterious, highlighting what it means to be alive and how to cope with death.
Photo credit: iStock / Ekaterina Naumenko