Cozy Science Fiction and Fantasy
Sometimes we all need a little reassurance and comfort. Something to help us escape our everyday lives for a little while. Or to remind us that there are still good things in the world. Even our regular, go-to book genres might feel a little too heavy sometimes. If you're someone who enjoys science fiction and fantasy novels but is looking for a gentler reading experience, I highly recommend checking out the growing sub-genre of cozy sci-fi and fantasy.
The term "cozy" doesn't mean that nothing bad ever happens or that everyone is happy all the time. It just means that the bad things aren't the main focus of the story and often happen off the page —more "slice of life" and less "battle to the death." You'll still get robots and witches and spaceships and mythical creatures but with far less violence and intensity. These books also tend to be character driven and prominently feature interpersonal (or inter-species) relationships, especially friendships, romantic partnerships and found families. And, of course, you'll usually get a happy ending.
If you're in need of some uplifting and slightly magical escapism, check out these cozy offerings.
Legends & lattes : a novel of high fantasy and low stakes by Travis Baldree
Worn out after decades of fighting, Viv, an orc barbarian, plans to open the first coffee shop the city of Thune has ever seen. However, her dreams of a fresh start filling mugs instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune's shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve. I loved this book. The subtitle says it all: high fantasy and low stakes. It was a delightful blend of found family feels, quirky characters, gentle queer romance and cozy coffee shop vibes.
The long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers
When Rosemary joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a quiet spot to call home, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy and distance from her troubled past. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a war-torn distant planet. Another favourite of mine, this is the first book in Becky Chambers' Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series.
The house in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
As a case worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, Linus Baker spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. One day, Extremely Upper Management sends Linus to the Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian and the Antichrist. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. Linus's job is to determine whether or not they're likely to bring about the end of days. With an emphasis on learning to love yourself, especially the things that make you different, this book could have been really cheesy, but it's not. It's uplifting and funny and just plain charming.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon has to hide her magic and stay away from other witches so their powers don't draw unwanted attention. But then an unexpected message arrives, begging her to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway. She's immediately tangled up in the lives of her three charges as well as an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers and... Jamie, the handsome, prickly librarian who will do anything to protect the children. Just as Mika begins to find her place with the group, a threat forces her to decide whether to risk everything to protect a family she didn't know she was looking for.
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
In the aftermath of a galactic war, a curious tradition was invented by the remnants of civilization. Once every cycle, the galactic civilizations gather for Galactivision — part gladiatorial contest, part concert extravaganza and part subtle continuation of past wars. This year, a bizarre species has noticed the enormous universe around it: homo sapiens. Humans expect to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes and stoic councils of grave aliens. Instead, they find glitter. And pyrotechnics. And electric guitars. A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies are chosen to represent their planet. And the fate of Earth lies in their ability to rock. This is basically Eurovision in space! It's also the only book on the list that I haven't read yet so I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Have you read any cozy sci-fi or fantasy books recently? Share your recommendations in the comments below.