By Brittany Holness, Maisie Clarke, Bianca Scasserra, Gemma Mathers and Holly Butterfield
Cosy fantasy has undergone a remarkable surge in popularity, propelled in large part by beloved titles like Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes and its rapid success on BookTok. With these captivating books capturing the hearts of a diverse set of readers, the demand for more enchanting stories within the subgenre has only grown stronger. In this week’s Pride issue, our Trends Team take a deep-dive into the captivating worldbuilding, compelling storytelling and charismatic LGBTQIA+ characters that define cosy fantasy. We’ll explore its rising prominence and the various representations found within cosy fantasy reads, and provide a curated selection of irresistible recommendations that are sure to captivate your imagination.
Stemming from classics such as Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the recent resurgence of this subgenre is easy to see. This closely aligns with the recent rise of cosy mysteries over the past few years, as readers turn to comforting and wholesome reads as a means of escapism. Cosy fantasy sets itself apart from traditional, high fantasy books by focusing on smaller communities and close relationships. Magic is still a key component of these stories; the magical creatures, magic systems and enchanted settings that have remained key components of fantasy for years are still present. But here, the epic battles and complex plots of politics and royalty are swapped with more wholesome, slice-of-life stories focusing on character and community relations. The stakes are lower and the stories are less violent, making them perfect for both older and younger audiences. Strong relationships, whether romantic or familial, are essential, with a number of favourites in this subgenre featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. These are the tales of self-discovery and personal growth that we know and love, now infused with a layer of magic.
The tropes and trends of cosy fantasy lend themselves to the development of its soft and wholesome atmosphere. Often the setting is a small, rural town in which the main character can live out their retirement from a post-war world in favour of a slow-paced peaceful life. The inclusion of ‘found family’ tropes in these worlds adds to the sense of community, creating an inclusive, wholesome world. The big battle is already finished and finally there is a space for the characters to explore the peace now within their grasp. Cosy fantasy is a place where LGBTQIA+ representation thrives; like Legends and Lattes, many of these novels place their focus on strong interpersonal connections between characters without the costly high stakes of classic fantasy. There is less focus on complicated magic systems in favour of mundane, everyday magical items which add a sense of fun and adventure without deadly consequences. After all, the main trend of cosy fantasy is to create a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for the reader.
In exploring cosy fantasy, as aforementioned, it would be remiss not to praise Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree as a novel largely responsible for this subgenre’s rise in popularity. The novel follows a former warrior’s journey from a life of bloodshed to a bold punt at owning a coffee shop. The story focuses heavily on character relationships and takes a heartfelt and charming view on an unconventional dream for those indigenous to the fantasy world. It has become a triumph on BookTok and one that will likely persist with the impending release of the book’s prequel, Bookshops and Bonedust.
There are many more fascinating reads which fall under the cosy fantasy umbrella. If you’re looking for a mature read then TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea is the perfect novel. With features of fantasy bureaucracy and a sweet queer romance subplot, it underpins a seminal message to embrace our true selves and spotlight our differences. Another that will satisfy readers, The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill follows Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, as she is interwoven in a land of tea dragons and meets new people along the way. It’s an endearing read which perfectly complements this genre’s enchanting and inclusive orientation. If this article has stirred your interests, you can also turn to other great LGBTQIA+ reads that sit within the cosy fantasy subgenre! A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers and So This is Ever After by F. T. Lukens are brilliant examples, along with Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne.
Overall, cosy fantasy is a realm where there is an intertwining between magic and inclusivity in order to create extraordinary stories full of wonder and intrigue. This whimsical subgenre – with its rapidly gained popularity – is only on track to attract even more like-minded readers. It is evident that readers are craving tales that celebrate LGBTQIA+ identities in vividly crafted worlds full of possibilities. It is through these delightful narratives that not only solace and escapism are found, but also worlds where all voices are heard and celebrated.