Succulents and Spells is an adorable f/f contemporary fantasy full of sweetness, magic and monster science!
Book: Succulents and Spells by Andi C Buchanan
Read before: No
Publication date: 21st September 2020
Ownership: Ebook review copy sent free of charge by Witchy Fiction collective. All opinions my own.
I came across the Witchy Fiction author collective on Twitter – a group of New Zealand authors writing inclusive contemporary fantasy romance novellas – and loved their whole aesthetic! They were kind enough to send across one of their first books for me to try, and Succulents and Spells turned out to be exactly as delightful as I’d hoped. Laurel is a witch from a highly talented magical family, who is struggling to find the niche her magic fits into, so for now she’s dabbling in herbalism and hedgewitchery while battling feelings of incompetence. When monster researcher Marigold comes to ask for some samples from Alfred (the pink and yellow monster that lives in the shadows in Laurel’s flat), Laurel is dragged into two things: a magical mystery that could unlock the secret to her power, and a flirtation that could turn into something more…
This f/f romance is so sweet. I loved both Laurel and Marigold, and thought that their scenes together were adorable. This is very much the beginning of a relationship, and is totally PG in terms of the romance, but even though I usually prefer a little more heat, it still feels completely fulfilling and enjoyable! The characterisation is really elegantly done and makes it easy to root for both women to succeed in their goals and get together. Laurel’s frustration with her magic will ring true for anyone who’s made it out into the world and then thought ‘well, now what?’. Marigold is autistic, and though she’s upfront about expecting this to be an issue in her relationship with Laurel, it never is – I’d love to see some own voices reviews, but I thought the subject was handled really sensitively, as you’d expect from an author who is neurodivergent themself. The two of them bring a lot of preconceptions about themselves to their relationship, and watching them support each other to relax into themselves is lovely – I’d love to see more books like this, with strong, supportive f/f relationships!
Though this is only a novella, it throws open so many options for further books in the series, and I’ll definitely be reading anything else in this world, whether it continues to focus on Marigold and Laurel, or spins off to look at some of the other characters. I’m intrigued to know more about Marigold’s research into monster genetics, for sure, even if it’s just in the background! The mix of magic and science really made this stand out for me as an interesting setting. I’m not a huge reader of urban fantasy, but I thought this was a great light-hearted take on the genre – and the New Zealand setting shines, making it very different from another dark magical London or New York. Though there’s plenty of magic and peril, this is a fairly slice-of-life-y book, which is something I love. It would actually be great for those who loved the Tea Dragon books but want a prose book instead of a graphic novel!
If you’re in the mood for a bit of escapism, this is going to be perfect for you. It’s an utterly adorable read, as fluffy as one of the monsters in it, and I’m looking forward to future books in the Windflower series – four out of five cats!