Succulents and Spells by Andi C. Buchanan

As I have mentioned previously, there has been some delightful fantasy romance coming out of New Zealand recently. One group of authors have banded together to produce Witchy Fiction, a range of light romance novellas about witches set in New Zealand. Of the titles I’ve read so far, my favourite has been Succulents and Spells by Andi. C. Buchanan.

The book is told from the perspective of Laurel, a witch from a large family of witches. She’s not really sure what she’s doing with her life, having not found her magic specialisation and on the verge of giving up on her Masters degree in linguistics. On one of her rare days off from waitressing, she’s visited by Marigold, who asks to take a sample from the monster living under Laurel’s sharehouse.

Marigold is autistic, a PhD candidate in biological science who in her spare time is researching monster genetics. Like Laurel, she is also from a long line of witches, but doesn’t have magic herself, beyond an ability to talk to monsters. What she does have is an abundance of enthusiasm and warmth.

The Witchy Fiction range seem intended as cosy romance, and Succulents and Spells has that in spades. Both of the main characters are charming, friendly people. Laurel is close with much of her large family, who have an online chat to keep in touch and discuss magic problems. She treats her housemates as found family, making sure they sit and have dinner together whenever possible. And she’s constantly helping strangers out with small spells. Being from Laurel’s perspective, we see fewer of Marigold’s connections, though she speaks of her absent family with affection.

There was a bit of class difference between Laurel and Marigold, but although present it was never an issue between them. Conflict is minimal and mostly the result of misunderstandings; tension is brought in by mysteries needing research. Given the current state of the world, this is a welcome approach and was a delight to read. I also appreciated the way the story normalises including one’s pronouns when introducing oneself.

The story is set in Wellington. Having never visited, I’m not in a position to say how well it invoked the feeling of the place. However, I can say that it never felt overwhelming or like I was expected to know a place I’d never been. In fact, the writing style as a whole was excellent, with enough detail to be evocative but without bogging things down. The dialogue felt very natural.

On the whole, I found Succulents and Spells to be light but thoughtful, an uplifting read for difficult times (or any time, really). It’s the first in a series and concludes with a happily-for now, so I’m looking forward to seeing more from these characters.

Published: September 2020 by Contemporary Witchy Fiction
Format reviewed: E-book (epub), 102 pages
Series: Windflower #1
Genres: Fantasy, romance
Source: Kobo
Available: Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Booktopia ~ Kobo

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