Cozy Epic Fantasy…say what?

The first time I heard the term “cozy epic fantasy”, I blinked, because at first glance, it sounds like a complete contradiction in terms.

“Epic” fantasy is all about the scale, with huge stakes; the entire world is often in jeopardy. There are three or four major fantasy species, each with their own convoluted histories, too.

The hero(ine) of an epic fantasy always has a quest or a journey ahead of them to resolve the problems of the world. They go There and Back Again.

On the other hand, a “cozy” story is intimate. It might take place in a single setting and focuses on the tribulations of a single character.

The entire world is not in jeopardy. Instead, the stakes are much closer to home–although they should be (in good cozy fiction, at least) of supreme importance to the main character.

Cozy stories deal with the personal issues of the main character, the day-to-day problems of their life, and the resolution of the main conflict, which is always upbeat and positive.

The transition of the main character is supreme in cozy stories, while in epic fantasy, the main character may not change terribly much while they are saving the world as they know it.

Two totally different genres, right? In fact, they’re almost mutually exclusive.

Yet Cozy Epic Fantasy, or just “Cozy Fantasy,” is a hot new Fantasy sub-genre that is getting a lot of attention right now.

What, exactly, is Cozy Fantasy, then?

It takes elements from both genres. Cozy Fantasy is usually set in a secondary world, a la Middle-Earth. This is the “epic” part of the Cozy Epic Fantasy genre.

While you might not get whole chapters on the history of, say, wood elves, the reader can glimpse that there is a deep history to the world by references and implication.

The protagonist does not take a journey anywhere. They don’t get a heroic quest to complete, and the world is not in jeopardy. Instead, the heroine, who is often a non-human character, must deal with something much closer to home; a vindictive landlord, a wayward wizard, finding work.

Part of the resolution of this central problem may involve magic, but it will be low-key, small-spell magic, not world-evolving power-plays.

The reader is given a view of the character’s normal life, and their problems, even though that normal life has little in common with our contemporary times.


I’m intrigued by cozy fantasy and have acquired a couple of the latest titles to try them out. The first on my reader is Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, that tells the story of an orc, Viv, who wants to open a coffee shop, and the issues they face doing that.

You can find a reader-compiled list of Cozy Fantasy titles on Goodreads, here. Some of the titles added to this list I disagree with and don’t think they should be in the list. Their stakes are too high, and the scope of the setting too large a scale. However, once you’ve read a few of the descriptions of the books on the list, you’ll have a good grasp of what is (and isn’t) cozy fantasy.

Then you might be tempted to dig into the genre yourself.


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