The best underrated humorous fantasy books with mostly happy endings

Why am I passionate about this?

As a fantasy writer, I love to play with possibilities and invent new words for our experiences. I find that humorous fantasy is especially powerful in this regard because it pairs possibilities with absurdity, coming at reality sideways or backwards, putting everyday life into a new and more interesting light. Humor has the unique ability to transcend genres, from thrillers to cozy mysteries. It helps you process difficult emotions, or lift your spirits when the world feels a little too dark. These are some of my favorites within this category, and they all happen to be the first books in a series (you’re welcome). I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


I wrote...

Traveler

By Jinn Nelson,

Book cover of Traveler

What is my book about?

Caught in a cafe that travels to seven dimensions on an infinite loop, Jaz Contra serves coffee while trying to locate the mysterious white-haired man who trapped her there.

When a young shapechanger named Bracken—whose search for his missing aunt leads him to this very cafe—stows away in her basement, Jaz must help him survive until he can return to his own world. Through a series of bizarre encounters with talking tigers, polymorphs, alchemists, thieves, and the occasional grim reaper, Bracken’s efforts to locate his aunt create daily chaos, threatening Jaz’s chances of ever escaping—not to mention the stability of seven universes.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Interesting Times

Jinn Nelson Why did I love this book?

Oliver, a financial analyst befriends a stray cat who begins talking to him one night. And then things start to get really strange.

This is an ‘all the myths are true’ adventure fantasy set in modern-day San Francisco, where absurd things just keep happening while Oliver runs for his life from an inhuman assassin, and finds himself allied with a werewolf with excellent baking skills and a grumpy gunslinger who take orders from an (apparently) immortal child.

I love this story not only for the talking cat (though admittedly it’s what made me start reading), but for the way Oliver is forced to rethink his perceptions of both the world and himself. 

By Matthew Storm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Interesting Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Oliver Jones used to live an ordinary life, until one night a stray cat began speaking to him and things began to go very wrong. Now he is on the run, hunted by an inhuman assassin who will stop at nothing to kill him. His only hope for survival rests with a trio of unlikely new allies: A werewolf with a fondness for Hawaiian shirts, a strange little girl who just might be immortal, and a gunfighter with an anger management problem. For better or for worse, Oliver lives in interesting times...


Book cover of The Undead Mr. Tenpenny

Jinn Nelson Why did I love this book?

This is a fast-paced mystery with a fun twist on the themes of discovered powers and secret magical communities.

While at work in a funeral home, Cassie Black discovers she is somehow bringing the dead to life.

In this world, the undead are charming and magic is replenished by cake, which is just loads of fun to imagine (and makes me want to go bake something in hopes it might unlock my own secret powers).

I really enjoyed the way this story juxtaposes light and dark themes, staying pretty amusing throughout while exploring some painful topics like childhood trauma without traumatizing the reader.

By Tammie Painter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Undead Mr. Tenpenny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Work at a funeral home can be mundane. Until you accidentally start bringing the dead back to life.

"...a clever, hilarious romp through a new magical universe" --Sarah Angleton, author of Gentleman of Misfortune

Cassie Black works at a funeral home. She's used to all manner of dead bodies. What she's not used to is them waking up. Which they seem to be doing on a disturbingly regular basis lately.

Just when Cassie believes she has the problem under control, the recently-deceased Busby Tenpenny insists he's been murdered and claims Cassie might be responsible thanks to a wicked brand of…


Book cover of Dark Lord of Derkholm

Jinn Nelson Why did I love this book?

This is a high fantasy adventure that does hilarious things with classic RPG tropes.

A magical kingdom grows fed up with hosting epic fantasy adventures for tourists from the world next door, complete with Wizard Guides, tavern stays, dragons, and epic battles with a Dark Lord.

Wizard Derk is assigned to be this year’s Dark Lord and—while he’s at it—save the world from these destructive tours.

The story romps across countries and continents, includes plenty of action, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the somewhat messy familial relationships between Derk, his wife, and his children.

This is one of those books that reveals something new every time you read it.

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dark Lord of Derkholm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the next-door world who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they've had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Nw it's up to the Wizard…


Book cover of Gobbelino London & a Scourge of Pleasantries

Jinn Nelson Why did I love this book?

I haven’t found many fantasy books with a talking cat as a lead character, much less as a private investigator, so I was excited to read this one.

Gobbelino and his human Callum run a detective agency; they’re hired to find an evil tome of power that is making a mess of reality.

The descriptions of chaos from Gobbelino’s perspective are especially imaginative; I saw scenes in my mind like a mashup of live action and animation, which was really fun.

Callum and Gobbs have a strong dynamic as partners, aloof yet deeply loyal to each other, which is a strong emotional theme that resonates throughout their capers. 

By Kim M. Watt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gobbelino London & a Scourge of Pleasantries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“What’ve we got?”

“Tigers. Snakes. Alligators. Tears in the skin of the universe.” Susan shrugged. “I think I saw a kraken in the sink, too.”



Find a missing book. That was the job the woman in the Doc Martens gave us.

Easy money, right?

Only now it seems she’s actually an ancient, powerful sorcerer, and the book is a Book of Power that doesn’t want to be found.

It wants to tear reality apart at the seams, and it’ll use anyone it can to do it.

So now we’ve got one spectacularly displeased sorcerer, a hungry, still-missing book, a dentist…


Book cover of The Amulet of Samarkand

Jinn Nelson Why did I love this book?

This is possibly the best known book on my list, yet it took me a long time to discover it.

This is a thriller-style adventure that follows Nathaniel, a young magician’s apprentice on a quest for revenge, who summons Bartimaeus, an all-powerful djinni. Nathaniel (unwittingly) and Bartimaeus (unwillingly) get caught up in a tangled plot of magic-fueled mayhem in which they have to work together to survive.

Bartimaeus’ sarcastic observations and side tangents add an element of humor that keep it from staying dark and somber, while also highlighting the underlying threads of slavery and social injustice in this fantasy world.

By Jonathan Stroud,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Amulet of Samarkand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The first volume in the brilliant, bestselling Bartimaeus sequence.

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation or a few simple illusions. But Nathaniel is a precocious talent and has something rather more dangerous in mind: revenge. Against his will, Bartimaeus is packed off to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, both djinni and apprentice are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, murder and rebellion.

Set…


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams

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What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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