The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst

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The Spellshop is a lovely feel-good cosy cottage fantasy, perfect to read on a cold winter’s day, or when the reader is feeling down. Kiela is a librarian at the Great Library of Alyssium, content to live in a small cubicle with her sentient spider plant, Caz. She rarely speaks to anyone, happy to catalogue the spellbooks in her collection. When rebels set fire to the Library, she and Caz, with crates of precious books, set sail for the distant island where she was born. Arriving there, she realises that she will have to make a living for herself. The nobles of the city have been draining the island’s magic for years and using the spells from the stolen spellbooks she quietly sets up a jam shop and tries to improve the islanders’ lives. With nosy and helpful neighbours like the good looking Larran, she discovers that self-imposed isolation is not always possible.

The Spellshop initially reads like a slow burning romance, but once I become immersed in the story the fantastic setting and fabulous creatures took over. I loved Caz the sentient spider plant, who makes funny and helpful comments and is the best of friends. The merhorses that frolic in the bay are delightful and the idea of cute, winged cats lounging on rooftops brought a smile to my face. It was easy to understand why Keila decided to research her stolen spellbooks to help the island’s inhabitants. The portrayal of the shop, with Keila’s delicious raspberry jam and Bryn’s baked goods, was mouth watering and it was delightful to see Keila gradually emerge from a solitary young woman to a helpful, kind neighbour.

Keila knows that sharing magic with common people is punishable with death, but their need is so great that she does so under the guise of selling herbal remedies that heal trees and make plants grow. When danger comes from the imperial capital the islanders’ ingenuity will be tested as they try to keep their home safe.

Perfect for fans of Travis Baldree’s Legends & lattes, fans may also like to read Durst’s Queens of Renthia fantasy series, starting with The queen of blood.

Themes: Cosy Fantasy, Adventure, Friendship, Romance, Mythical creatures, Books, Jam.

Pat Pledger