In my daily pursuit of happiness and mission to fill the world with happy endings ⛅, I sojourned into the world of cozy fantasy. This particular one of Emily Wilde's is set in 1909 no less.
First off, I don't think I've ever encountered a character with as much agency as Emily Wilde! 😂 The decisions that she makes throughout the book seriously made me so nervous! I was just glad I knew it would all work out in the end. If that's not the purpose of "cozy fantasy", I don't know what is.
Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Enter the world of the hidden folk - and discover the most whimsical, enchanting and heart-warming tale you'll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde. . .
Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world's first encylopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby
But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones - the most elusive of all faeries - she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she'll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all - her own heart.
My first impression was that it's quite slow to start. I struggled through the first few entire chapters of nothing but descriptions of snowy meadows and forests. 😅 The upside is it's got fantastic richly-detailed world-building if that's what you like!
I think Wendell Bambleby is the best character in this book. Honestly, the story started for me only when he arrived. Emily Wilde was quite headstrong, stubborn, borderline annoying. It was sweet how Bambleby just accepted Emily's coldness. But I think this and her awkwardness in social situations and etiquette where she'd rather be left alone to read than converse with others was in perfect contrast to Bambleby's charm!
(Side note: it seems difficult to be a strong FMC nowadays since everyone has a different interpretation for the word 'strong'.)
Are you looking for clean, grown-up fantasy romance? This is THE ONE. I loved the hints of romance here but personally, I need more than this. 😏
The romance in this book was significantly more muted than I was expecting. But maybe it was because I couldn't stop comparing it to Howl's Moving Castle, which in terms of "cozy fantasy" was an easier read for me. The snarky banter is 💯 fun and the chemistry between Emily and Wendell is suuuper adorbs 😍 but IMO Howl and Sophie are still the reigning champs for this couple dynamic. 🏆
So my favorite thing about this book actually turned out to be how Emily's relationship with the townspeople evolves (trope: found family) and how everyone works together to achieve their goals at the climax. Absolutely loved that part! 👍
I found the "journal" style of storytelling cute, but it seemed like the tense kept shifting so I got a bit confused. I also stumbled across quite a few fifty-cent words that I had to stop reading to google. Similar to my problem with some sci-fi & fantasy books, it takes me out of the story if I have to learn an entirely new vocabulary before I can enjoy what I'm reading.
So maybe this cozy fantasy book is actually too cozy for me. (Notwithstanding the surprising scenes when fingers were chopped and faeries were dismembered! 😱 How were those cozy?? 😅)
Overall, if you like rich world-building, low-stakes, slow-paced clean fantasy stories with just that hint of romance, this is a book you should definitely pick up. Then maybe read Legends & Lattes after. I, however, will not. 🤷♀️
Demystifying the "cozy" in "cozy fantasy" ✨
Maybe this new-ish trend/genre called "cozy fantasy" is just so new, even the internet can't pin down a proper definition for it. 😅 So it's difficult to figure what qualifies as cozy.
I was having this discussion with some author friends. We suppose it's because "cozy" is more of a feeling, a vibe, that you get from a book, rather than a discrete set of story elements.
We thought the more common impression of it being only "low-stakes", "slice of life", "emphasis on food" would actually disqualify so many classic "cozy fantasy" books, the main example being Howl's Moving Castle (one of my favorite books! ❤️)
We agreed that our cozy fantasy, rather than "low-stakes", will more likely be "low stress", "low trigger", touch of "slice of life." It could still be sweet and whimsical, or fast-paced and thrilling, but it is mostly about knowing that the book is safe, and you know it's going to work out in the end. 👍
Check out these other fabulous cozy fantasy recommendations! 16 Young Adult Cozy Fantasy Reads to Warm Your Heart
😁 What do you think? Do you like books like these? 🥰📖 Let us know in the comments! Happy reading!
This article was written by S. R. Breaker.
S. R. Breaker is a USA Today Bestselling Author of fast-paced offbeat YA/NA fantasy romance books. She lives in New Zealand with her husband and two kids. Suburban mum by day and author by night, she loves to live vicariously through her characters. They don’t have to vacuum all day long and are almost always guaranteed to survive any fantastical or thrilling incidents, no matter how treacherous she writes them. Visit her epic worlds in books.