The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Cozy Enchantment Awaits in The Witch's Guide to Magical Innkeeping

The follow-up to Sangu Mandanna's The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches arrives next year, but io9 has a first look.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
An illustration of a woman reading a book in front of a picket fence, house, and man drinking coffee
Image: Berkley

Sometimes you want your fantasy tales pierced with bloody drama and apocalyptic magic; other times, you’re in the mood for something a bit sweeter. There’s a reason “cozy romantasy” is a popular genre, and Sangu Mandanna’s debut The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches enchanted lots of its fans. The author returns next year with A Witch’s Guide to Magical Innkeeping, and io9 has a first look to share today.

Here’s a brief description of the book:

Sera Swan was once one of the most powerful witches in Britain. Then she resurrected her great-aunt Jasmine from the (very recently) dead, lost most of her magic, befriended a semi-villainous talking fox, and was exiled from her magical Guild. Now she (slightly reluctantly and a bit grumpily) helps Aunt Jasmine run an inn in Lancashire, where she deals with her quirky guest’s shenanigans, tries to keep the talking fox in check, and longs for the magical future she lost.

When she learns about an old spell book that could hold the secret to restoring her power, she finds herself turning to Luke Larsen, a gorgeous and icy historian who might be the only person who can help her unlock the book’s mysteries. The fact that he also happens to be her one-night stand from years ago is totally irrelevant.

Running an inn, reclaiming lost magic, and trying not to fall in love is a lot for anyone, but Sera is about to discover that she doesn’t have to do it alone...and that the weird, wonderful family she’s made might be the best magic of all.

Advertisement

Here’s the full cover; the illustration is by Lisa Perrin (@madebyperrin) and the art direction and design are by Katie Anderson (@heart_shape). The excerpt follows!

Image for article titled Cozy Enchantment Awaits in The Witch's Guide to Magical Innkeeping
Image: Berkley
Advertisement
Advertisement

It was hardly ideal weather for the resurrection of one’s great-aunt, but Sera Swan’s magical power, while impressive, hadn’t the slightest influence over the obnoxiously blue skies. Autumn had not yet arrived in the northwest of England, the birds had set up a perky trill in the bright midday sunshine, and there was a corpse in the back garden.

“You could do with a cup of tea first,” Clemmie remarked. “You’re a mess. You can’t go resurrecting people when you’re all blotchy and snotty.”

Sera chose to ignore the insult, and the dubious logic therein. She shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans, tucked her arms close to her sides as if they might protect her from whatever might happen next, and said, without taking her eyes off the body on the ground: “Are you sure this will work?”

“Would I lie to you?”

“You lied to me less than an hour ago. When you told me the Tooth Fairy ate the last of the peanut butter. The Tooth Fairy! How old do you think I am? And last night, you said—”

Advertisement

“Yes, yes, all right,” Clemmie interrupted her hastily. “I may have been known to fib in the past, but new leaves have been turned.”

Sera was quite sure a barren wasteland stood a greater chance of turning new leaves than Clemmie did, but decided not to say so.

Advertisement

With a swish of her bushy red tail, Clemmie turned and trotted back to the house. “Well? Are you coming? Jasmine’s dead and I haven’t got opposable thumbs. That tea won’t make itself, you know.”

It was just as well the inn was empty this weekend and there were no bystanders to observe this scene, for as scenes went, it was decidedly peculiar. It was like the beginning of a bad joke. A corpse, a witch, and a fox walked into a bar…

Advertisement

(Actually, it was more like a corpse and two witches, and one of those witches happened to be trapped in the form of a small, chubby red fox. Sera wasn’t sure if that would improve the joke or not.)

Sera, who was fifteen years old and frankly out of her depth, hesitated beside Great-Auntie Jasmine’s body. Was she really going to cast a spell with nothing but Clemmie’s word to go on? Clemmie, who had turned up out of the blue a few months ago and had yet to offer any real answers about who she really was or how she’d ended up trapped in fox form? She was the very opposite of trustworthy, but Sera was going to have to trust her today or she would lose Jasmine for good.

Advertisement

Sera had plenty of power and not enough knowledge, and Clemmie had plenty of knowledge and not enough power. That was all that mattered right now. And anyway, if Clemmie was lying to her, what difference would it make? Great-Auntie Jasmine was dead. A failed resurrection spell couldn’t exactly make her any deader.

The blue skies wheeled above, still objectionably cheerful. Sera couldn’t believe it had only been a few minutes since Clemmie had found her in the kitchen, said “There’s a situation you have to deal with by the lemon tree, but just so you know, I hate tears and hysterics,” and led her out to where Jasmine had dropped dead in the garden. Sera remembered little of what had happened after that, though her raw eyes informed her that there had indeed been plenty of tears and probably one or two hysterics.

Advertisement

Sera did remember that she’d stood up to go find a phone. The sensible thing to do, she’d reasoned, was to dial 999 and let a grown-up take charge.

Then Clemmie had tutted, stopping her in her tracks. “How tiresome. I expected Jasmine to have more sense and better manners than to die in the garden. On a hot day like this, she’ll get icky very quickly. We’ll have to work fast.”

Advertisement

At which point Clemmie had revealed she knew how to resurrect the dead. As a collector of rare, powerful spells of dubious legality and even more questionable morality, Clemmie knew all sorts of spells that other people didn’t. Sera had known this for some time because Clemmie could not resist telling her at every available opportunity. She had never had the power to cast most of said spells, she’d admitted somewhat petulantly, but that had not dampened her fondness for knowing more than everybody else. Sera hadn’t known that this particular spell was in Clemmie’s hoard, however, because the legality of a resurrection spell wasn’t dubious at all. It was, in fact, very illegal.

“It’s an old law,” Clemmie had said dismissively. “Dating back to the days when witches actually had the magic necessary to cast a spell of this size. None of us have had that kind of power in yonks.” Then she’d cocked her fox head, eyeing Sera with a bright, speculative gaze. “You might, though. You’re the most magically gifted witch the British Guild of Sorcery has seen in generations. You might be able to cast this spell and bring Jasmine back.”

Advertisement

“Tell me what to do,” she’d said at once.

“Don’t you want to think about it first?”

“No.” Thinking was exactly what Sera wanted to avoid. If she started thinking, her heart would crumple at the thought of losing the woman who had been more of a parent to her than her own parents had ever been, who had tucked her in at night, handsewn dozens of beautiful tiny clothes for her dolls, limped painstakingly up the stairs to soothe every nightmare, and made her hundreds of pancakes over the years. No, thinking was out of the question.

Advertisement

“A spell like this will require a great deal of your magic,” Clemmie had warned.

“I have plenty to spare.”


Excerpted from A Witch’s Guide to Magical Innkeeping by Sangu Mandanna Copyright © 2024 by Sangu Mandanna. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.

Advertisement

Sangu Mandanna’s A Witch’s Guide to Magical Innkeeping releases April 2, 2024; you can pre-order a copy here and on Amazon.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.