Aurelie possesses the rare skill of Seeking, the art of finding people, but she’s given up on magic—it’s an outdated practice in the kingdom, anyway. Being a baker’s apprentice isn’t her dream, but it’s safe and stable, and she’d be content to remain a baker forever. That is, until a bounty hunter named Iliana visits her shop and asks for help in her quest to rescue Prince Hapless. Aurelie joins Iliana and her troll associate, Quad, and gets swept up into a kingdomwide adventure involving strange creatures, mysterious assassins and royal conspiracies. Their odyssey takes Aurelie far from the bakery and calls into question whether she’s living the life she really wants.
While author Emma Mills takes inspiration from classic fairy tales in Something Close to Magic, she also challenges traditional fantasy tropes. Magic, for example, is seen as antiquated and pointless, and those who practice magic are largely dismissed by society. And Prince Hapless is the story’s damsel in distress, needing the female characters to save him. Mills also gives each character more depth than a traditional fable would, diving into Aurelie’s complex emotions about her future, Hapless’ tense relationship with his role as a thirdborn royal son, Iliana’s hidden past and Quad’s perspective on humanity. Nuanced, profound scenes mingle with lighter, humorous moments, making the characters feel real and their growth believable. It’s easy to root for their success as a team after watching the steady development of their relationships.
Mills’ mastery of language is on full display here, with fun, clever prose and dialogue that are bound to make readers laugh out loud. The banter between characters feels natural, with conversations showcasing Aurelie’s tenacity, Iliana’s wit, Hapless’ charm and Quad’s candor.
Classic fairy-tale settings, compelling mysteries and a charismatic cast of characters make Something Close to Magic an entertaining, fast-paced read, and its ending strikes the perfect balance between satisfaction and the promise of more adventures. Readers will be reminded of The Princess Bride; Something Close to Magic may be a fantastical tale, but it’s also one with relationships that hit close to home.