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May 19, 2024

5 Light Fantasy Reads for Those Looking for Escape

by MK French

A dark and twisted fantasy novel can be great but sometimes you just want something lighter with all the fantastical elements of the fantasy genre. If you are looking for some light fantasy to toss in your beach bag take a look at these humorous and romantic fantasy novels.

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Can't Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne

book cover of cozy fantasy mystery novel Can't Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne
May 2024; Bramble; 978-1250333292
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); cozy fantasy

Reyna and Klianthe want to open a tea shop together, but have responsibilities: Reyna is one of the Queen's private guards, and Klianthe is a powerful mage. When Reyna is taken hostage by an assassin, the two are fed up enough to leave. They set out for a small town near Dragon Country and set up the shop of their dreams.  In the meantime, there are mishaps and a Queen throwing a temper tantrum.

Cozy fantasy tales are a fun genre, and this book is directly inspired by Legends and Lattes. There doesn't need to be a world-ending disaster to stop. Sometimes it's enough to realize what makes you happy or to fall in love. Reyna is finally ready to leave her cruel queen when she doesn't care that an assassin almost kills her. The town she and Klianthe choose to settle in is in dispute between the Queendom and another country, right next to Dragon territory. On top of that, they take over an old bandit hideout, setting themselves up for hilarious misunderstanding and found family situations. The supposed rulers on both sides are fun characters when they show up at the shop, and the mystery of missing dragon eggs makes me hope for a sequel. Reyna and Klianthe got lucky at the end, and I look forward to seeing how it shakes out if this becomes a series. 

The Honey Witch by Sydney J. Shields

book cover of romantic fantasy novel The Honey Witch by Sydney J. Shields
May 2024; Redhook; 978-0316568869
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); romantic fantasy

Marigold Claude never liked any of the suitors who tried to woo her and eagerly accompanied her grandmother to the family cottage in Innisfree. She will train to be the next Honey Witch, and no one can fall in love with the Honey Witch. Lottie Burke is a notoriously grumpy skeptic who doesn’t believe in magic, so Marigold can’t resist the challenge to prove that magic is real. She begins to care about Lottie and discovers that a darker magic will destroy her home. Marigold will have to fight for her home and her heart.

In 1831, Marigold's grandmother turned 100 and explained the nature of witchcraft. Honey witches work with bees and plants, bringing life and energy to the land. In balance with this are ash witches, who clear away rot or overgrowth. She begins learning about magic, beekeeping and plants, and healing the people of Innisfree. Lottie is rude and antagonistic, so Marigold challenges her to believe in magic in exchange for a spell to find a soul mate that their friend August wants. This puts them into close proximity, with further risks of exposure to the ash witch.

The beginning moves a little slowly, with a lot of detail regarding how Marigold grew up, what she learned from her grandmother before she passed, and the relationships between people. There is the push and pull of a burgeoning friendship, a friends-to-lovers scenario for Marigold and Lottie. 

Buy The Honey Witch at Amazon

The Dangerous Ones by Lauren Blackwood

book cover young adult fantasy novel The Dangerous Ones by Lauren Blackwood
May 2024; Wednesday Books; 978-1250891075
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); YA fantasy

Jerusalem is a Saint determined to kill vampires, especially after her family had been enslaved and murdered by one. She's forced to work with Ancient Vampire Alexei against the Confederate Army and the vampires who benefitted from slavery. Alexei fights for the Union’s side and hates vampires as well. Jerusalem is determined to help Black people and change the course of the war, destroy the vampire that killed her family, and kill the god that ruined everything.

Saints are humans with extra abilities like speed or strength, and this allows them to use silvered weapons to kill vampires. There are Ancients as well as New Bloods, and the South became home to New Blood vampires using slaves for their blood. Jerusalem is the only survivor of her slave family and escapes north, using her strength to kill Southern vampires. Alexei had once been tortured by an Ancient Vampire when he was turned, so he hates the beings that most are. We see the horrors of slavery as well as his torture by vampires who see humans as little more than animals. It's a bloody and stressful situation, and the mission to kill the vampires responsible for their family’s deaths is a tense and dangerous one, triggering even more problems to overcome. 

This is a vampire story as well as a romance novel, with lots of tropes for each novel type contained in it. As much as there's Black pain due to memories of slavery and the torture that it inflicted, there's also the joys of Jerusalem in freedom and getting the chance to discover what that means for her. She and Alexei are confronted with the misery of the past and strive to keep going forward. That's a great message nestled within an action romance story.

Buy The Dangerous Ones at Amazon

Evocation by S. T. Gibson

book cover of romantic fantasy novel Evocation by ST Gibson
May 2024; Angry Robot; 978-1915202680
audio, ebook,, print (304 pages); romantic fantasy

David Aristarkhov is a Boston attorney moonlighting as a medium for a secret society even though he tried to leave the occult world behind when his father died. The Devil has come to collect on a deal David’s ancestor made, so he reaches out to his ex-boyfriend Rhys for help. To get Rhys to help him, David must befriend Moira, Rhys’s wife. The three must combine their powers to unravel the century-old curse before David's thirtieth birthday, or they won't have time to figure out what they mean to each other.

This is book one of The Summoner's Circle, so there's a lot of groundwork laid into the different kinds of magic, the Society, and the personalities of our main three characters. David is definitely a rigid man in the beginning, full of himself and his own importance. Being a successful lawyer at 29 and raised wealthy can explain some of that, but I found him very unsympathetic at first and wondered what Rhys even saw in him. Rhys has more humble origins, and Moira is full of Southern charm and a gift for Tarot and astrology. I liked her and Rhys right away. Like Moira, though, learning about his family and how he was raised gave context and I felt bad for him. 

The curse hitting David was an interesting one, as was how it was circumvented by his ancestors and in this book. I really enjoyed a lot of the background characters and the relationships in the novel. Moira getting to learn about her own abilities will be fascinating to see in future novels, and I really hope we get to see chaos magic at work. 

Buy Evocation at Amazon

Dreadful by Caitlin Rozakis

book cover of cozy fantasy novel Dreadful by Caitlin Rozakis
May 2024; Titan Books; 978-1803365473
audio, ebook, print (352 pages) cozy fantasy

Dread Lord Gavrax has a castle full of goblins, a princess locked in a cell, and no memories at all. He woke up in a half-destroyed evil wizard’s workshop with no eyebrows, no memories, and no idea what to do next. He tries to play along with his own evil plans while figuring out who he wants to be.

This is billed as "a high fantasy farce featuring killer moat squid, toxic masculinity, an evil wizard convocation, and a garlic festival." As with cozy fantasy novels, there's an undercurrent of humor even when it's a serious matter being discussed. After all, Gav wakes up with no memory, fires in the workroom, and his eyebrows burned off. Then going through the papers, he finds a jar full of replacement eyebrows! He has no memory of himself but still knows magic, the nature of the tower, and then gradually picks up on the fact that he was supposed to take part in a massive ritual. He is the bumbling one compared to the other dark wizards involved, but he isn't interested in the terrorization of the world around him. He wants the goblins safe, the princess to think better of him, and even the villagers safe from the dark wizards coming for the ritual. This makes him likable, and the ways he fumbles through are funny and full of secondhand embarrassment as well.

I found the story really funny and engaging. I was curious about how Gav lists his memory, then how he would survive the plots of even darker wizards, and heroes coming to rescue the princess, and still protect the goblins and village he comes to care about. Everyone has layers of deception, which serves to increase the farcical nature of the story. It's like watching a really clever comedy in text form, and it somehow manages to pull together in the end. Definitely worth the read, and it's lots of fun.

Buy Dreadful at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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