Books with Magical Towns | Book Riot
‘Tis the season to read books with magical towns. Let’s be honest, I love a book with magic in general. But I’m especially drawn to tales of magical places. Magical families are perhaps more common in books that blend magic into “real” life. They can certainly be great, and there are numerous magical families among the books with magical towns I’ve chosen to highlight. But I have quibbles. Implications that magic is passed genetically aren’t always doing the best job at challenging the status quo, where power, wealth, and privilege are designed to flow along those same lines. If an author isn’t taking care to really push back against those ideas, they can reinforce the idea that it’s good to hoard power.
Magical towns, on the other hand, crop up in unexpected places. They inject wonder into the humdrum world. They can give a broader range of people access to magic, and that’s what I like to see. Magical towns aren’t necessarily all quaint, though. Sometimes a town’s magic is keeping worse things at bay, or maybe the magic isn’t always benevolent. There’s a multitude of stories to tell about what’s hidden — or in plain sight — in these magical towns, so let’s take a look at a few.
Adult Books with Magical Towns
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
If you’re looking for a magical town that’s more “spooky” than scary, Graves Glen, Georgia is for you. The whole town is obsessed with Halloween, they hold a big festival, and the town is located on some important ley lines. The opening book in the series set in Graves Glen follows Vivi, who curses Rhys, her ex and a descendant of the town’s founders. It goes badly. But this is a witchy romcom, so it also goes very well.
Witchful Thinking by Celestine Martin
Freya Grove, a mystical seaside town. Let’s go right now. In Freya Grove, supernatural creatures are just out and about living life. Including mermen. You heard me right. Run, don’t walk, to read a charming romance about a woman who accidentally casts a spell on herself that bonds her to her sexy merman neighbor. It’s the charming childhood friends-to-lovers magical town romance you’re looking for.
Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
Lychford is a cozy English town, but strange things are afoot. A huge supermarket chain wants to expand to Lychford, but Judith, the resident witch or maybe the local crank, knows that will disturb the ancient boundary between worlds. So she has to pull together an unlikely team to hold things together. If you want a novella-length story of a magical town, and you enjoy cranky old ladies, this one’s a gem.
Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
Thistle Grove is another witchy town with multiple founding families. This book has some fun world-building, and Thistle Grove has some of those Halloween Town vibes you might be after. Best of all, the town is host to a spellcasting tournament. That’s what’s bringing prodigal daughter Emmy back to town. She bumps into Talia, who recruits Emmy into a revenge scheme against the ex they share. But then Emmy starts to notice she might be really into Talia, and if you want a romcom with two bi women, this one’s for you.
Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck
As a Midwestern resident myself, I love to see that books with magic towns in the United States are not only set in the South and New England. St. Cyprian is in Missouri! When strange phenomena start happening to indie bookstore owner, Emerson, she starts wondering whether she’s in a magic town, and whether she herself is magic too. She has a lot to figure out if she’s going to face down the ancient evil that awakened in her town.
In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker
I would love to road trip to Yarrow, Kentucky, a town with magical bourbon and a magical shadow garden, each managed by a rival family. The bourbon makes bad memories disappear and the shadow garden yields healing fruits. But something strange happened in Yarrow 20 years ago, something everyone forgot. Kaden Bonner, returned after 20 years away and unknown to his townsfolk, and Irene Haywood, who foresaw a stranger’s arrival in her tea leaves, may be able to piece together the mystery.
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
St. Constance is a tight-knit fishing village on the fictional Caribbean Island of Black Conch. There, a fisherman named David meets Aycayia, a mermaid. She was cursed hundreds of years ago by her own village women who were jealous of her, and she’s been lonely for centuries. The two fall in love and see what it means to escape a race. This story is imaginative and lyrical while it grapples with the legacies of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean.
Young Adult Books with Magical Towns
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Willowbee, Texas, is trying to hold onto its perfect façade. But Elatsoe, who’s there following the death of her cousin, wants some answers about what the town is hiding. She can also raise the ghosts of deceased animals, a skill that’s part of her Lipan Apache heritage. Ellie even has a pet ghost dog. With a story that uses the magical town to create an allegory about colonialism and white supremacy, this book is both touching and a rollicking magical ride.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
La Pradera isn’t exactly a magical town, but hear me out. It’s a magical estate garden that enchants people. It seems to have cursed the Nomeolvides women into staying in their beautiful garden home, and possibly also cursed their lovers to mysterious death. A strange boy who appears in the gardens may be the key to understanding the secrets of La Pradera. If you’ve read any books by Anna-Marie McLemore, you know how lush and haunting they are.
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo
Howler’s Hollow is something like an anti-magical town, because magic is now off limits in the Appalachian village. Too dangerous! But Delpha hates rules and found her family’s book of spells, so you know where this is headed. Katybird, from a rival witching family, wants that book too. They fight, accidentally unleash a hex, and whoops, resurrect a whole graveyard full of ancestors. Naturally, they’ll have to team up to solve it. This book is also remarkable for featuring an intersex character whose story is deftly woven into the plot.
If you find these books appealing, I bet you will also like paranormal cozy mysteries and books that feel like the show Pushing Daisies. Find your ideal magical town and settle in for a good story.