In April 2023, a fantastical adventure will be hitting the shelves with an 83-year-old protagonist. This debut is one where a geriatric-turned-Chosen-One leaves her nursing home and sets out to take down a sorcerer killing knights who fight dragons. But the abuse in the ranks and the sorcerer’s history makes her question who needs saving. But there are never enough fantasy books on a shelf so today, E.M. Anderson —author of The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher— is sharing five fantasy books they loved reading last year and five they’re excited to read this year. To view more such posts centred around sci-fi, fantasy, or speculative fiction, make sure to check out this collaboration, Spring for SFF. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
2022 was an excellent year for fantasy books. I’m overjoyed to see an increasing number of cozy fantasy and fantasy standalones on the shelves, because I’m too old and tired for series anymore and too distressed by real life for dark stories and global stakes. So if you, like me, are old, tired, and distressed by real life, here are five books I read in 2022 that you might love, too.
5 books I loved in 2022
Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree
2022. Standlone cozy fantasy.
Battle-weary orc Viv hangs up her sword to open a coffee shop in the city of Thune. Too bad an old coworker has turned into an enemy and no one in Thune knows what coffee is.
This is the book that broke my months-long reading slump in 2022! If you asked me where you’d find Remarkable Retirement at the bookstore, I’d say, “In the same section as Legends & Lattes.” This book has some of your favorite classical fantasy elements—adventurers-for-hire, orcs and dark elves, objects of power, swords with grim and grand names—but it’s like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign where your party has decided this funky little sidequest you pursued just for fun is now your main quest instead.
Read if you like: secondary-world fantasy, high fantasy, low stakes, Dungeons & Dragons, sapphics, found family, and coffee.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, Sangu Mandanna
2022. Standalone contemporary fantasy.
The Rules are very clear: witches are safest alone. But 31-year-old witch Mika Moon has irregular ideas. Maybe that’s why she agrees to move into Nowhere House, where she’ll tutor three young witches growing up all together in spite of the Rules.
New comfort book, ho! Like Legends & Lattes, this is exactly the kind of fantasy novel I want these days, and I know I’ll read it again and again. Mika is so incredibly relatable, and there’s a lot in the story about masking (as a witch) that feels like it might be about masking (as a neurodivergent person). But the found family—which is so central to the story and so incredibly well done—is the thing I loved most about this book in which there is so much to love.
Read if you like: fantasy in real-world settings, British settings, secret magic, witches, grump x sunshine, elderly gays, found family, and dogs.
The Stardust Thief, Chelsea Abdullah
2022. First of an epic fantasy trilogy.
Neither here nor there, but long ago…a black-market magic merchant sets off on a quest with her jinn bodyguard, a cowardly prince, and a sullen thief, in search of a legendary lamp that could revive their barren land.
Epic fantasy isn’t usually my thing, but I loved The Stardust Thief. The grumpy girls who are ready to stab first and ask questions later! The soft, sunshiney prince who loves stories with his whole heart! The stoic dad-figure jinn!
The unhinged crack ships I keep coming up with even if the characters never appear on the page together! Aisha, my QUEEN. And like The Very Secret Society, The Stardust Thief features found family that’s sure to grow and strengthen as the series continues.
Read if you like: secondary-world fantasy, epic fantasy, Arabic-inspired settings, royalty, political intrigue, grump x sunshine, stabby women, soft men, jinn, found family, oral tradition, and stories.
Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh
2019. First of a folkloric fantasy duology but can be read as a standalone.
Tobias Finch is the Wild Man of Greenhallow Wood, a legendary figure who listens to, lives in, and protects the wood and those around it. When folklorist Henry Silver takes possession of Greenhallow Hall, Tobias’s world is turned upsidedown, forcing him to confront his troubled past and the dark secret hiding in the wood.
I read this book twice in one month, in one sitting each time. If you followed me on Twitter or Tumblr at that time, you might remember that I literally could not shut up about it. It’s short, it’s moving, it’s got folklore and a gay love story and a sentient forest—what’s not to love? It’s hard for me to choose a singular favorite of any kind in any category, but Silver in the Wood is dangerously close to being my favorite read of 2022 and is definitely one of my favorite reads of all time.
Read if you like: light secondary-world fantasy, something a little darker yet still cozy, sentient forests, grump x sunshine, resigned immortals, folklore, academia, mythical eldritch dangers, autumn and summer vibes, and overbearing mothers with lots of gumption.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, Heather Fawcett
2023. Cozy historical fantasy, first of a series.
Professor Emily Wilde journeys to a small town in the far north to study the mysterious faeries of Ljosland, but her plans are upended by the Ljoslanders’ kindness and tragedies, the arrival of an irritatingly handsome academic rival, and an unexpected incident with dark fae magic.
Okay, I’m cheating slightly, because this one actually released in 2023. But I’ve read it, so pretend it fits with all these 2022 reads. Once again, this is a perfect book for me: it’s cozy, it’s whimsical, it has a grumpy main character moved by the kindness of the villagers hosting her stay, it has varied and mysterious fey beings. Plus it has a big dog who is absolutely the best boy. For all you Howl’s Moving Castle fans out there, the relationship between Emily and Wendell reminded me a lot of Sophie and Howl—although I would not advertise this as a fantasy romance, since the romance is fairly understated.
(If you think of Howl’s Moving Castle and how understated the romance between Sophie and Howl is, it’s a lot like that in addition to sharing that kind of relationship dynamic!)
Read if you like: cozy vibes, academia, curmudgeonly MCs who are a little lonely, gigantic dogs, Sophie x Howl character dynamics, Scandinavian settings, kindly villagers, and various fae.
The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher by E.M. Anderson
You’re never too old for adventure.
When you’re a geriatric armed with nothing but gumption and knitting needles, stopping a sorcerer from wiping out an entire dragon-fighting organization is a tall order. No one understands why 83-year-old Edna Fisher is the Chosen One, destined to save the Knights from a dragon-riding sorcerer bent on their destruction. After all, Edna has never handled a magical weapon, faced down a dragon, or cast a spell. And everyone knows the Council of Wizards always chooses a teenager-like the vengeful girl ready to snatch Edna’s destiny from under her nose.
Still, Edna leaps at the chance to leave the nursing home. With her son long dead in the Knights’ service, she’s determined to save dragon-fighters like him and to ensure other mothers don’t suffer the same loss she did. But as Edna learns about the abuse in the ranks and the sorcerer’s history as a Knight, she questions if it’s really the sorcerer that needs stopping-or the Knights she’s trying to save.
Buy now: Amazon US | Bookshop US
5 books I’m looking forward to in 2023
Flowerheart, Catherine Bakewell
Standalone cottagecore fantasy romance. Out now! Why I’m looking forward to it: literally the title, plant magic, childhood sweethearts to strangers to ??? to lovers, secrets, cottagecore.
Bitter Medicine, Mia Tsai
Standalone contemporary fantasy from a debut author. Out now! Why I’m looking forward to it: a fantastical MC holding a mediocre position in a temp agency, workplace woes in a fantasy novel, crushes working together and falling in love, complicated family dynamics, found family, balance of humor and angst, plus it’s queer.
The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone, Audrey Burges
Standalone speculative fiction from a debut author. Out now! Why I’m looking forward to it: the inexplicable and mysterious connection of two distant people, a tiny house that mirrors real life, family secrets, mysterious houses.
The Ashfire King, Chelsea Abdullah
Second book in The Sandsea Trilogy. Expected early 2024. Why I’m looking forward to it: we don’t actually know much about this one yet in terms of plot or content, but I’m excited to continue Loulie and Mazen’s adventures!
The First Bright Thing, J.R. Dawson
Standalone historical fantasy from a debut author. Releases June 2023. Why I’m looking forward to it: magical circus, post-WWI Midwest setting, time-jumping MC, malevolent ringmaster antagonist, and it’s queer.
E.M. Anderson (she/they) is a queer, neurodivergent writer and the author of The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher. Their work has appeared in Dark Horses: The Magazine of Weird Fiction and SJ Whitby’s Awakenings: A Cute Mutants Anthology. You can find them at andersonboooks.wordpress.com and on Twitter @elizmanderson
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Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the author’s recommendations and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.