Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Lily Singer Adventures #1
Published by Chenoweth Press on April 30, 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for tea.
By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him.
From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily s mysterious past begins to unfold a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?
I’ve been doing a bit (actually quite a bit) of bouncing off this week. When that happens I tend to turn to Harry Potter fanfiction. There are some truly epic stories that sweep me away instantly. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit like falling into a black hole, and 200,000 words or so later I’m scrambling for a review.
Then I remembered spotting this series in one of those rare Amazon ads that actually showed me some books I might like, instead of the usual ones that make no sense at all. This series was described as being like Harry Potter – also like Gail Carriger’s work, which I also love. So I decided to give it a try as a way to boost me out of that fanfic black hole.
This is fun. I’m not sure it’s like Harry Potter, and I’m sure it’s not a bit like Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate, but it certainly is fun.
If anything, it reminds me a bit of Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, particularly the early parts of the series before things get dark. Not that there isn’t plenty of scope for the Lily Singer series to get dark later on, as urban fantasy tends to do.
The other series that this reminds me of are Maisie Dobbs and Mary Russell. Thematically they are nothing alike, as both of those are historical mysteries, but both of those series begin with collections of the early adventures of their protagonists (Maisie Dobbs and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice respectively) rather than full novels. We’ll see how Lily Singer’s story proceeds.
But this first book, these Beginnings are a load of fun.
We begin with Lily Singer as a contemporary wizard, who also happens to be a librarian and archivist. Which explains the resemblance to Libriomancer right there. But in Lily’s universe, the magic is not IN the books. Instead, the books are a way of recording instructions for the magic.
Which is a bit Harry Potter-ish, but the terms wizard and witch are used differently in Lily Singer’s world. Lily is a wizard because she draws her magic from “the Source”. Her troublesome partner-in-crime, Sebastian, is a witch. Because he gets his magic from trading in favors with magical creatures.
Being a wizard requires power, dedication and study. Being a witch requires a lot of charm, occasionally smarm, and an excellent line in bullshit. It also seems, at least at first blush, that wizards are mostly introverts and witches are mostly extroverts.
And they get along like oil and water. Or kerosene and matches. With Sebastian usually lighting the match. Sometimes even on purpose.
The stories in Beginnings are just that, a beginning for this series. There are three stories in this volume, and they are not all linked to each other per se, but do chronicle the beginning of Lily’s and Sebastian’s working partnership, as well as introduce us to these characters and this version of our world.
All three stories begin in similar places, with Sebastian getting himself into trouble and Lily eventually getting them out. The points of view switch, with the first and third coming from Lily’s point of view, and the middle story from Sebastian’s.
We get just enough of his perspective to see that he’s not quite as devil-may-care as he makes himself out to be. Also not quite as big of a jerk as he often makes himself out to be.
The first story is a ghost story, and makes a terrific introduction to everything. The second leads directly to the third, and it’s a story of Sebastian doing a good deed and having it come back to bite him in the ass.
The third is that biting of the ass, when Sebastian inveigles Lily into a Groundhog Day/Window of Opportunity scenario, with the artifact that bit him at the center of the mess. While relying on Lily to get them both out – now that he’s got her stuck in there with him – we see their working partnership get a few steps further on its rocky road – and get to see more of the magic in this world.
Escape Rating B: It’s light, it’s fun, and I had a great time with Lily and Sebastian. It was the right book at the right time, and I’m glad I listened to the siren song of that Amazon ad. I’m looking forward to picking up their next adventure, Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: Revelations, the next time I’m in a bit of a slump – or have fallen too far down the fanfic rabbit hole.