Something Close to Magic
Published June 13, 2023
About Something Close to Magic
A baker’s apprentice reluctantly embarks on an adventure full of magic, new friendships, and a prince in distress in this deliciously romantic young adult fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson and Gail Carson Levine.
It’s not all sugar and spice at Basil’s Bakery, where seventeen-year-old Aurelie is an overworked, underappreciated apprentice. Still, the job offers stability, which no-nonsense Aurelie values highly, so she keeps her head down and doesn’t dare to dream big—until a stranger walks in and hands her a set of Seeking stones. In a country where Seeking was old-fashioned even before magic went out of style, it’s a rare skill, but Aurelie has it.
The stranger, who turns out to be a remarkably bothersome bounty hunter named Iliana, asks for Aurelie’s help rescuing someone from the dangerous Underwood—which sounds suspiciously like an adventure. When the someone turns out to be Prince Hapless, the charming-but-aptly-named prince, Aurelie’s careful life is upended. Suddenly, she finds herself on a quest filled with magic portals, a troll older than many trees (and a few rocks), and dangerous palace intrigue.
Even more dangerous are the feelings she’s starting to have for Hapless. The more time Aurelie spends with him, the less she can stand the thought of going back to her solitary but dependable life at the bakery. Must she choose between losing her apprenticeship—or her heart?
I’ve read a couple of books (FIRST & THEN and THIS ADVENTURE ENDS) by Emma Mills, and I loved them both. They’re both contemporary stories, so I was really excited to see how this author writes fantasy.
I loved this. It’s got all the things I love about her contemporary stories (complex, likable characters, great dialogue), plus palace intrigue and an interesting magic system.
There’s a writing device in which the story’s main character starts out believing a lie. The plot of the story forces the character to challenge that lie. SOMETHING CLOSE TO MAGIC might be the best example I’ve ever seen of that particular storytelling method.
Prince Hapless has been told so many times that he’s silly and basically useless that he believes it and doesn’t stand up for himself when people continue to put him down or ignore his ideas/needs because they assume he’s being ridiculous. And Aurelie works for a domineering (and abusive) woman who takes every opportunity to remind her that she’s valueless, especially without the apprenticeship in the bakery. Aurelie knows her boss isn’t a good person, but she does believe those words about her value and about how people will treat her based on that lie.
The story is packed with snappy dialogue. I loved that so much. It’s got an upbeat feel to it mostly, but I definitely cried in the scenes where Hapless and Aurelie are confronted by the lies they believe in all their ugliness. Those scenes were really heartbreaking.
I loved the four central characters: Hapless, Aurelie, Iliana (the bounty hunter) and Quad (the troll). Quad is awesome. Every time something frustrates me or is annoying, I want to dismiss it with, “Mortal invention,” the way she does. Ha!
All in all, this book was such a breath of fresh air. I’ve loved the last two books I read, but I needed the lightness of this one. I’m so glad I read it, and I can’t wait for Emma Mills to write more, whether it’s contemporary or fantasy!
Content Notes for Something Close to Magic
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Iliana is in love with a woman. It’s unclear whether Hapless has some kind of learning disability. It’s never specified, but kind of hinted at?
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A few instances of mild profanity.
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls.
Some characters have the ability to perform magic. A couple characters are not human.
Situations of peril. The prince’s carriage is ambushed, but no one is harmed. Someone forces people to perform magic far beyond their capabilities, causing them harm. A man stabs someone in the chest.
References to drinking alcohol. Hapless tells a story about his brother getting drunk at a party.
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