Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings – Book Review

Um, bookish library wizards, snarky witch dudes, and talking cats? Sign me up!

Actually, the talking cat doesn’t show up until Book 2, but that’s all the more reason to read Book 1 – to get to Book 2 faster. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons, too. 😉

In Lydia Sherrer’s Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings (The Lily Singer Adventures #1), Lily Singer is a no-nonsense wizard—yes, wizard—who would rather spend time in the secret magical library archives under Agnes Scott College than getting up to any actual adventures. Unfortunately for her, her friend Sebastian Blackwell is a witch—yes, witch—who is, if not all nonsense, at least nonsense enough to elicit frequent eye-rolls from Lily while still roping her into his latest magical misadventure.

Beginnings chronicles three such adventures which, though written like a collection of novellas more so than a singular novel, thread together to provide fun, fascinating looks at these two characters and their world. The plots are eclectic and often unpredictable—one an emotionally complicated ghost story, another a dangerous gang-related conflict (but still mostly clean enough to stay within the realm of a cozy read), and the last a heart-wrenching tale of mysterious time loops and dangerous family heirlooms.

Lily and Sebastian’s interactions, however, are the essential glue that holds the plots together. The two are polar opposite character types—Lily serious and pedantic to a fault, Sebastian the carefree, infuriating charmer—but their strengths and flaws balance each other out in such a way that they read like an inseparable pair that will probably end up married through the paradoxical unifying power of amused exasperation. Each character hides their own secrets and struggles, too, though. Lily is perpetually bothered by how much of her family’s wizard history was—and still is—hidden from her, and despite his relaxed, appealing demeanor, Sebastian is estranged from his magical family for reasons that aren’t immediately clear to Lily. The mysteries surrounding these characters alone are enough to make me curious to read more of the series.

The magic systems involved are equally intriguing, as Lily and Sebastian use two distinct forms of magic, and they complement each other in unexpected ways.

The magic that defines Lily’s wizardry is derived from a source known, pragmatically, as the Source, and isn’t cast so much as carefully wrangled through clever combinations of runes, artifacts, the user’s will, and a magical ancient language known as Enkinem. Wizard magic itself is likely one of the reasons why Lily is so strict and scholarly; it’s not magic that can be flung about carelessly. It’s magic that has to be studied and meticulously implemented, lest its effects go horribly wrong.

Sebastian’s witchery, meanwhile, derives from the fact that he can see and interact with fey and, more specifically, knows how to trade with them to earn their magical favor. It’s magic that requires charisma, which in turn is one of the reasons why he’s such a mischievous, charismatic character himself. His magical survival requires it. Additionally, when he comes to Lily for help, it’s not only to pester her (though that’s one reason); it’s because her particular type of magic is better suited to certain challenges than his, simply because of the structural differences between the two.

(The magic systems aren’t gendered, by the way, as the book emphasizes early on. Wizards study; witches make deals with the fey; and those are the only relevant separations.)

In short, the complexities of these magic systems are one of the coolest parts of the book, but ultimately it’s a book that hinges on the amusing interplay between its two leads and the surprising complexities of even its minor characters. If you’re looking for a for a cozy, sassy fantasy that puts the smart in smart aleck, Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings is a good place to start. 😄

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