The world and the characters in Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings are so much fun that it really annoys me how short the stories and the book are. To some extent, the two main characters are pretty standard. Lily is bookish, socially awkward, and talented with magic; she’s a wizard. Sebastian is friendly, good looking, a troublemaker, and has little magic talent, but he is a witch. This to me is a tradition buddy mystery-solving/adventure team. What makes them fun is their dynamic and how it comes from the magic system in their otherwise normal/real world. Neither of them has much experience with the other’s magic system, which keeps things interesting.
In this world wizards are born with the ability to use magic by being able to tap into something call “the Source”. I wish there were more about this since it’s the basis for the magic system, and it’s pretty vague. All lot of things are vague even for the characters, and for Lily that bothers her. She wants more information about how magic works, and what her parents might have known about it. Sebastian is from a wizard family, but has not connection to the Source, which is an embarrassment to his family. Being a witch means that he relies on making deals with supernatural creatures like pixies and fairies. The two of them are friends, in spite of how different they are. Then there’s the fact that Lily’s mentor Madam Barrington is a relative of Sebastian’s, which makes things a little awkward at times. The Beginnings volume is basically two short stories with an “Interlude” to connect them. In both main stories, Sebastian come to Lily with a magic-based problem he doesn’t have the ability to fully solve. Hijinks and danger and Lily’s annoyance with Sebastian ensue.
I like the characters, and the real world Atlanta setting, and the premise of a magical system. I also like that there are currently 3 more volumes in the series, and two more forthcoming in 2019 according to the title page’s facing page. The comparison with Harry Potter might almost work if Lily and Sebastian didn’t live in the real world, and use things like Internet dating and cars.
The reason I picked this up was that I’d seen a comparison with Gail Carriger and Terry Pratchett, both of whom I have greatly enjoyed int he past. While I do see how the comparisons could be made, there is a level of fun and intrigue similar to Pratchett and a level of manners and character similar to Carriger, but in both cases these features are watered down. The other label I’ve seen is “cozy fantasy adventure” which absolutely fits.
I enjoyed the stories, and I will locate the others, but there’s something unsatisfying. The thing that bothered me is how incomplete some aspects of the story felt. The format of short stories doesn’t allow for world development, and this world really needs that. Then there’s the feeling that this should be a novel since the stories with the interlude are more or less chronologically continuous. But the book is too short to be a novel. I’m all for blurring genre lines, but trying to do a short-story novel doesn’t totally work here. I’m sure more will be revealed throughout the series since Lily is being set up to investigate the questions she has about how magic is taught and how it works and its history. Sebastian makes for a good friend and sidekick, and he’s a good mix of fun to balance Lily’s serious, even though he shows a capacity to be serious too. I really hope things stay in the friend zone with these two because I’ve seen so many promising friendly partnerships like this ruined when the partners decide to take things romantic.