The title surrounded by pink and orange outlines of various characters and scenes on a dark blue background.

About the Book

Title: Something Close to Magic
Published: 2023
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Colorfully On Target
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: Cozy Fantasy
Bonus Factors: Found Family, Letter Writing, Magic
Relationship Status: BFFs 4 Life

Cover Story: Colorfully On Target

This follows plenty of fantasy trends right now, but I do think it caught my eye well enough, and I like the little pictures of the characters hidden between the bright lines, like a Magic Eye painting.

The Deal:

So far, Aurelie’s life can be summed up as “not quite enough” – not enough money to keep her in school, not enough public interest in magic for her to learn it well, and not enough love or support from her parents to keep her from having to fend for herself.

When a mysterious stranger shows up at the bakery where Aurelie apprentices and asks her to magically seek someone for her, she initially says no…but the promise of extra money and a bit of adventure to break up the day eventually sways her.

Soon Aurelie is swept up in more than she thinks she can handle: kidnappings, assassinations, and lost princes, oh my!

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

I think Aurelie and I would get along well as friends; she’s got a dry sense of humor and an excellent work ethic, and we’re both a bit gun-shy when it comes to snap decisions. But what she could really use is a reliable, slightly older and cool adult around to help her realize that there’s a decent compromise between the safest—and most restricting—life plan and finding a reason for living. Also, someone needs to tell her when she’s being fleeced, because her boss, Mrs. Basil? A big eff you to that lady!

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Prince Hapless is the opposite of a Mysterious Loner Dude—he loves talking to people, wears his heart on his sleeve, is very into fashion, and, well, the name “hapless” is pretty apt at times. I’m all for a good MLD, but love interests like Hapless can be such a breath of fresh air sometimes. I love that he adores Aurelie just as she is, and he’s surprisingly perceptive under his silliness. Aurelie, in turn, is also charmed by him, but she’s convinced herself that there’s no way a baker’s apprentice and a prince can be a thing, and she’s understandably annoyed by how clueless Hapless is regarding the differences in their social status. I quite enjoyed all of their interactions, like this:

“It’s not such a hardship, is it?”

Maybe hardship wasn’t quite right, but disaster might work. Or catastrophe. Aurelie couldn’t tamp down a growing sense of panic. “We’ve been flung asunder! We have no idea where we are!”

“I’d say we’re at least a little sundered. Eastern Meadowlands and all—”

Aurelie climbed to her feet and cast a frantic look around, as if some other seeking circle with transportive abilities might reveal itself just down the path. It did not.

“Yes, on account of the roofing and the random trees,” she said. “I swear, you must’ve taken the same strange course in annoyingly targeted clue-finding as Iliana—”

Hapless smiled, bright and brief, and then tried to look as if he hadn’t.

“What?” Aurelie said. “What is it?”

“Nothing. It’s just—you’re funny, is all.”

“I’m not trying to be funny.”

“Maybe you can’t help it. My sister says natural gifts just… manifest.”

Talky Talk: Cozy Fantasy

I am not completely “all in” on the current trend of cozy fantasy, but I can’t really figure out a better way to describe this book. Simple fantasy? It reminds me of some YA fantasies that I would’ve read as an actual teen that maybe didn’t have the most complicated plots, but made me so happy. The worldbuilding is fairly “generic medieval” (magic sort of exists, we’re still riding around in coaches, and have royalty) but the characters are where things shine; they were endlessly amusing and all a bit cheeky in their own unique ways so as to still be distinctive. It gave me The Princess Bride vibes (while…not really being like that story at all).


“Act like a normal human being. And treat him like one as well. Royals are no different from us.”

“Oh really? I don’t remember ever being gifted a dukedom for my birthday.”

“Well, I’d say a dukedom is more suitable as a solstice gift,” Iliana said, and then broke into a grin. “You know, sometimes you get this very specific expression that looks as if you’re trying to immolate me through sheer will.”

“Believe me, if that were something I was capable of, I would’ve done it by now.”


“We’re going to sleep here? In the Underwood?”

“No, I figured we’d just hover somewhere above it,” Iliana replied.

Aurelie opened her mouth to say something that probably wouldn’t have been particularly dignified, but Quad interrupted.

“It’s quite safe,” she said, and then cast a look around. “At the moment.”

There’s stakes, but they’re fairly low, and there’s a strong feeling that we’ll get a happy ending, so it’s a good story to pick up when you don’t need something stressful and want to smile. There’s also a great moment of schadenfreude at the end that reminded me of the end of Ever After—and, ultimately, that’s really what charmed me about this book: it reminded me of all my favorites in a way that felt comforting and still fresh, all wrapped up with well-written prose.

Bonus Factor: Found Family

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

One of my favorite tropes, especially in fantasy. I adored everyone in their little group, from the aforementioned Aurelie and Hapless to Iliana and her amazing coat with the magical pockets (my kingdom for a well-tailored coat and a cold enough place to wear it) and forest-dweller Quad with her amusing and blunt observations where everything she doesn’t care for is dismissed as a “mortal invention”. I liked that we had just as much emphasis on Aurelie and Iliana’s friendship as on the romance, because friendships are just as important as anything. Is there a spot in the gang for me?

Bonus Factor: Letter Writing

Close up of a person's hands while writing a letter

There’s a part in the middle where the plot moves through a series of letters between characters and it’s a clever way to transition through time to set up the rest of the book.

Bonus Factor: Magic

Open book with moving pages in front of a glowing blue sphere and twinkle lights

I liked the idea that Aurelie’s world is basically “over” magic because it’s kind of an outdated and laborious way of doing things, as supposedly anything you do with magic comes back to you twofold (e.g., you create food for yourself and then later you’re extra hungry). It seems it may not work that way for everything, but because it’s largely fallen out of fashion there’s so few people who know magic well enough to use it correctly.

Relationship Status: BFFs 4 Ever

We didn’t spend that long together, Book, but you made me so happy that I’m kinda just ready to declare my undying love for you, and no I will not be answering any questions about it.

Literary Matchmaking

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1)

One of my gold-standard YA fantasies from when I was a child, reading Mills’ book brought me back to that feeling of falling in love with Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce.

Nettle & Bone

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher also has a modern classic tone with a found-family of travelers.

The Afterward

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston goes into what happens to a merry band of friends and adventurers after the world is saved.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Something Close to Magic is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.