This Excerpt From Cozy Romantasy THE SPELLSHOP Will Enchant You

Around these parts we love fantasy stories, we adore cozy stories, and we can’t get enough of romance. The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst promises to deliver on all fronts. It was the book’s gorgeous Ghibli-esque cover with sprayed lavender pages that caught my eye first. That alone feels like a warm hug. But once I read the description of the book about a librarian who returns to her home and goes on to open a secret spellshop, I became even more curious. We have an exclusive excerpt from The Spellshop that will have you ready to read more.

The cover of The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst featuring an illustration of a cozy flower-covered cottage in the woods
Tor Publishing Group

The story follows Kiela. She was a one-time librarian at the Great Library of Alyssium and worked there with her assistant Caz, a magically sentient spider plant. But her and Caz had to leave the library. Now they’re taking refuge in her childhood home and using some illegal magic to open the island’s first spellshop. Tor describes it as “a Hallmark rom-com full of mythical creatures and fueled by cinnamon rolls and magic.” Yes, please.

Without further ado, here’s the excerpt from The Spellshop:

The Spellshop – Chapter 2

As the sun stained the horizon orange, Kiela sailed toward a little cove on the island of Caltrey. It was just a mile east of the village and its harbor, tucked behind a veil of rocks and trees. She aimed the boat between the rocks.

“You’re going to crash,” Caz observed.

“I’m not going to crash,” Kiela said. “I’m going to dock.”

Inside the cove, there used to be a wooden dock that belonged to her family’s cottage. She remembered she used to squat on the end and watch the fish dance in the water. At low tide, she’d be able to see crabs scuttling over the rocks, and at high tide, merbabies would swim around the dock posts, before they were called out to sea by their parents—a sighting that locals said was good luck. She wasn’t, of course, entirely certain the dock would still be standing, but she supposed she could drop anchor and they could wade to shore. Or she could just beach the boat, provided she could avoid slicing the hull on the rocks.

One hand on the rudder, she guided the sailboat around the rocks and into the cove. Caz clambered up the mast, using his ten- drils to climb, for a better view. With the light so low in the sky, the cove was coated in shadows. The water looked near black, and the trees, with the rocky cliffs behind them, cast even more shad- ows. It was silent, except for the lapping of the waves on the rocky shore and the call of an unseen bird from one of the pine trees. But despite the shadows, it didn’t feel unwelcoming. As they drifted deeper into the cove, it felt as if the shadows were embracing them, in the same way that a thick nest of blankets did on a chilly night.

Kiela spotted the old dock, right where it was supposed to be. It was more rickety than she remembered, though. About a third of the slats were missing, like the smile of an old man who’d lost some of his teeth. Luckily the posts were there, sturdy but coated in seaweed.

Using the pole, she sidled the boat up next to the dock and tossed a line around a post. Yanking on the line, she dragged them closer and tied a bowline knot. She remembered her mother teach- ing her how to make this exact knot on this very same dock. It felt both like just yesterday and a lifetime ago. She shook her head to chase the memory away. Clambering over the crates, Kiela pulled the sail down and wrapped it tight against the boom.

Caz was perched on one of the book crates. “I am not walking on that.”

“You’d rather swim?”

“I’d rather stay on the boat,” he said.

Kiela sighed and rubbed her eyes. She’d never felt this bone- marrow-deep tired before. Even when she stayed up all night with her books, it was never like this. Between the stress of their escape and the effort of their night-and-all-day sail, she felt like a book so well read that its pages curled and spine cracked. “I can carry you.”

He was quiet for a moment, then he said, “That’s undignified.” “You think the shrubbery is going to mock you?”

If he’d had eyes, she expected he would have rolled them at her. “Fine. Carry me. But only if you tell no one.”

“Who am I going to tell? I don’t know anyone here and don’t want to.” She scooped him up, careful to gather all the soil that clung to his exposed roots. It felt like holding a very plump and very leafy toddler. His tendrils draped over her shoulders, and he grumbled as she adjusted her grip. “We’re going to lay low, keep to ourselves, and avoid trouble,” she said. “With luck, none of the locals will even know we’re here.”

Kiela tapped the nearest slat of wood with her toes. It seemed sound enough. Cautiously, she shifted her weight and was pleased when the dock held. Caz’s leaves flattened around her back. She carried him carefully as she stepped from slat to slat, testing each one before she trusted it. At last, she reached the shore.

He climbed down from her arms to the ground. Shaking out his leaves, he groomed himself with a tendril. He looked a bit like a cat licking his fur. “We won’t ever speak of that again.”

“Of course,” she agreed.

She looked up at the knot of greenery in front of them. There used to be a path, with stairs carved into the rocks, but all she could see was a tangle of vines cascading down the hill. Frowning at it, she paced in front of the green. The stone steps should still be there, if she could find— Ah, there!

Kicking away a few vines, Kiela uncovered the first step. “Found it.”

“Found what?” Caz asked.

“The way home.” She felt the word vibrate through her.

Step by step, she climbed, with Caz behind her, clearing the steps as best she could. Some, she was only able to uncover a few inches, but it was enough. By the time she reached the top, the sun was completely down.

Bathed in the silvery gray of twilight, the cottage waited for them. She wanted to feel as if they’d made it—she was home, they were safe, and everything would be easy from now on. But the cot- tage was nearly as enveloped in vines as the stairs. She couldn’t tell where the walls ended and the green began. Her former home looked one gulp away from being swallowed entirely.

“It’s nice,” Caz said.

“Now who’s lying,” Kiela said. “It has a roof. And walls.”

He was right about that. It could be worse.

An owl hooted much too close, and Kiela jumped. Caz skittered behind her. She forced herself to breathe and calm down. It didn’t look as if anyone was living in the house, which was good. She could have come back to find squatters. Or new owners, if the lo- cals had decided there were no more living relatives who might return to claim it. She couldn’t vouch for how many mice, birds, or other critters had taken up residence inside.

She wished they’d arrived earlier so it wouldn’t look so dark in there.

“Should we go in?” Caz asked.

Yes. Maybe. No. She wanted to retreat to the boat, sail back to Alyssium, and sequester herself in her nice, warm, safe cubicle deep within the stacks of books, where she knew what to expect out of every night and every day. If she went into this house, what would she find? And if she didn’t, what would happen then? She hated not knowing which was the right choice.

Have I made a terrible mistake coming here?

The owl hooted again. “We go in,” Kiela said.

They approached the front door. It felt like walking up to the mouth of a slumbering beast. It was ajar, with dead leaves clogging the entranceway. She nudged them out of her way with her foot and leaned against the door to push it open farther. It squeaked loudly, as if it hadn’t been moved in years, which was entirely possible.

Stepping inside, Kiela waited for her eyes to adjust. The last gasps of day shed a grayish light through the few windows that weren’t blocked by vines. It was enough to see shapes: chairs, she guessed, and a table. She matched the shadows to her memories and was surprised to find that it felt familiar, like a half-remembered old tale. The wood-burning stove was . . . ahh, yes, there, squatting like a hulking creature, with a chimney rising from its back. A daybed used to be in the front corner—that’s where she used to sleep—and her parents’ bedroom budded off the back. A kitchen area with a sink and a window that overlooked the back garden should be to her left, beyond the table. She couldn’t see that in the darkness, though, and it made her feel like she’d walked into a surreal kind of dream, with pieces of memories overlaid by shadows. She wondered how Caz felt about this place. “If you’d rather, we could spend the night in the boat, and explore this in the morning,” she offered.

“Sleep on the boat?” Caz sounded appalled. “With fish under us?” “You really have a thing about fish,” she said. “I had no idea.” “You hear stories,” he said darkly.

“Do you? Do you really?” She navigated across the room, leaves crunching underfoot, and found the daybed, exactly where she re- membered it. It seemed smaller, though. And dustier. Lifting the quilt, she shook it, and twigs, leaves, and dust flew into the air. She coughed.

Setting the quilt aside in a heap, she pushed her hands against the mattress. It hadn’t disintegrated, which was a plus. She sup- posed it would hold her, and under where the quilt had lain, it wasn’t that dusty, at least in comparison. It wasn’t as if, after sailing through the night and all day, she was particularly clean anyway.

“Hey, there’s a hole in the floor,” Caz said, pleased. “I can root here for the night.”

Could she sleep here? After their escape and long sail, she should be able to sleep anywhere. If mice or raccoons or whatever murder me in the night, at least I’ll get some rest. Gingerly, she lay down on the little bed. It creaked but didn’t collapse. The quilt was the vel- vety soft of worn cotton, and the mattress cradled her as she sank into it. It smelled like dust and a little like roses. She felt her neck and shoulders begin to unknot.

Outside, the owl hooted softly.

As dawn pried its fingers into the vine-covered cottage, Kiela opened her eyes. And screamed when she saw a man standing in the doorway with a scythe in his hands. She tried to jump to her feet, but the little daybed couldn’t handle the quick movement. It toppled over, and she spilled onto the floor.

The man rushed forward. Kiela screamed again.

He backpedaled. Leaned his scythe against the wall. Held up his hands, palms out. “Sorry. Very sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He had a deep voice, soothing. She’d never seen him be- fore, which wasn’t a surprise since she hadn’t been here in ages. He wasn’t what she’d call handsome, but he didn’t look like a mur- derer either. Not that she knew what that would look like. He was tall, which wasn’t an argument for or against murderer. He must have had to duck through the doorframe. He also appeared stron- ger than the average library-goer. Judging by his arms, he looked as if he could pick up one of her book crates one-handed. Or crush her throat with his pinkie. None of that was at all reassuring.

She got to her feet and scanned the cottage quickly. She didn’t see the spider plant anywhere, and she felt panic rise up from her stom- ach. “Caz? Caz, are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Hands still out, the man said in the same soft, deep tone, “I didn’t hurt anyone. Or see anyone else. There was only you here when I came in.”

Her heart was thumping wildly in her rib cage, even though he hadn’t made any threatening moves beyond coming into the place where she was sleeping and scaring her half to death. It was terri- fying enough that he was large, male, and here. And I don’t see Caz. “Why are you here?” she demanded, trying (and failing) to keep the shake out of her voice. “Who are you? What do you want?”

Mildly, he said, “I had planned to ask you the same questions. This house has been abandoned for years, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t someone’s home.”

“It’s mine,” Kiela said. “My home. It was. Is.” “Ah,” he said.

He waited for her to explain further.

“My name is Kiela Orobidan. My parents lived here, and my mother’s parents before them. I was born here. We moved away when I was eight. Nine. But they never sold their cottage. It’s mine.”


He wasn’t going to say more than that?

She saw a hint of movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced up at the rafters. Caz was there, draped around one of the cobweb-choked beams. He waved a tendril at her, and she exhaled. He’s okay. Just hiding. She wished she could have done that. “And you are?”

“Larran Maver. I live at the base of the cliff, near town. Noticed your boat in the cove and came to see who was using the old Orobidan cottage. Around here, we like to keep an eye out for each other.”

Outer islanders care for our own. She’d heard that dozens of times as a kid. This far away from the cities and the larger islands, they didn’t have much choice, but it was also a point of pride.

She supposed it was a reasonable explanation for why he was here. He couldn’t have known she’d be asleep on a dusty old day- bed. She still didn’t like the way he filled the entire doorway, block- ing the exit. “You mean you’re nosy.”

He smiled, and the expression transformed him from ordinary into stunningly handsome. It was like the sun coming out from be- hind the clouds over a stormy sea. She found herself smiling back without meaning to. As soon as she realized she was doing it, she frowned. “Sure,” Larran said, “that’s one word for it. We prefer neighborly, but ‘nosy’ is probably just as accurate.”

Still could be a murderer, she reminded herself. There was no law that said dangerous men couldn’t also be handsome. On the other hand, he hadn’t moved any closer since she’d screamed. In fact, in retrospect, he’d looked almost as spooked as she felt.

She was suddenly very aware that her hair was matted on one side, and her mouth tasted like peanuts. This wasn’t how she wanted to meet the neighbors. In fact, she’d been hoping to not meet them at all. It would have been simpler if she could’ve stayed unnoticed. Fewer variables; fewer problems. She wished he’d leave.

“What brings you back to Caltrey?” he asked.

Kiela considered a half-dozen answers, but she settled on the one that was simplest and required the least amount of reliving recent traumatic events. “I’d had enough of the city.”


Miraculously, he seemed to find that answer both reasonable and sufficient.

“Would you like help . . .” He looked around the cottage, as if cataloging all the myriad things she could possibly need help with, which was, at a rough estimate, everything. “. . . settling in?”

Absolutely not. The last thing she wanted him to do was stay and help. The entire point of coming to Caltrey was to hide away in a place where she knew no one and no one knew her, and she and Caz and the books would be safe. “Thanks, but we—I have it covered.”

He raised his eyebrows as if he didn’t believe her, but he didn’t argue or try to convince her otherwise, which she appreciated. “Well, if you change your mind, I’m just through the woods, down by the shore.” He waved toward the northwest. “It’s the merhorse farm with the yellow house near the water. Drop by any time.”

She had absolutely zero intention of ever doing that, but she thanked him. Best not to be rude to their new neighbor. Especially if it got him to leave faster.

He left, taking his scythe, and she watched him out the window, through a hole in the ivy, as he strolled away. A few minutes later, the green had swallowed him entirely.

The Spellshop is available on July 9. Get a copy wherever you buy books.

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