I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Something Close to Magic by Emma Mills
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published by Simon and Schuster on June 13, 2023
Also by this author: First & Then, This Adventure Ends, Foolish Hearts, Famous in a Small Town
Format: eARC (384 pages) • Source: Publisher
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
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’m a huge Emma Mills fan. Every New Years Day for a few years in a row, I would hang out and read her next release that day, basically in one sitting, to start the New Year off on the right foot. I think I still have one contemporary romance from her backlist to read but I was really excited to see her foray into fantasy… especially one that sounded on the cozier side!
I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into this. I think the problem was mostly having to read on my iPad because of the file type but I also just wasn’t hooked like I thought I would be. Her writing style is really different here and fantasy-oriented. I never would have guessed it was her writing without knowing. It just took a little getting used to! There are some elements of her signature clever dialogue between the characters though, so that helped!
The story centers around Auralie, a baker’s apprentice in a small village, who suddenly finds herself hanging out with trolls and princes and bounty hunters. They go on a little quest at the beginning and then there’s an interlude of letter-writing (cute!) before some fun drama and action at the end. I’d definitely say this qualifies as a cozy fantasy because it’s breezy and fun to read while not having high-stakes action and worldbuilding.
The second half of this book honestly REALLY took off for me. The trouble I had trying to get into the first half? It was like the complete opposite for the other half! The banter and friendship between the characters was so enjoyable to read. I loved watching Auralie come out of her shell and realize she deserved more from her life. The romance was cute – it was definitely centered within the story as a main plot point but the friendship vibes were more enjoyable for me personally. I was rooting for everyone so hard. I know this is a standalone and I think that works well, but I could absolutely seeing this become a fun companion series where Quad and Iliana get their own stories and adventures!
I think I would still recommend this for fans of Emma Mills who also like lighter fantasy novels. The more I read, the more it felt closer to her contemporary books in terms of dialogue and conversations between characters. I would also recommend this to anyone looking for a cozy *young adult* fantasy. We’ve seen these take off in the adult space a little more lately, but this hits it perfectly for a YA audience.