Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Hello, I am a Witch and my Crush Wants me to Make a Love Potion!
There has always been a witch in the hut in the forest, and after her grandmother's death, Rose is the last one. People treat her with caution or disdain, but she tries to pretend she's used to it and it doesn't bother her, but on a trip into town shortly after her grandmother died, she can't quite take it. On that day a knight named Harij Azm stands up for her, and she falls in love. She decides to keep that safe in her heart and carry on, but then four years later, Harij shows up at her home – asking for a love potion?!
It's right there in the title: Rose is a witch whose crush asks her to make him a love potion. Fortunately for readers, there is more to the story than that, but Eiko Mutsuhana's sweet romance novel is based around Rose's misconception that Harij (the crush in question) wants the potion for himself. It's in the development of Rose and Harij as characters that the story lives or dies, and while Rose's crippling insecurity may be an issue for some readers, for the most part, this is a slow-burn that's worth waiting for.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the world building surrounding witches in general and Rose in particular. Witches, according to the rules of the fantasy realm, are exempt from the laws of man, treated as Other in all ways because of their ability to make potions and medicines. (In a nice piece of world building, we learn that the latter is being taken over by doctors and pharmacists, putting witches on the same level as herbalists in Medieval Europe.) But witches are in fact human, with the only difference being that they have traded their ability to lie for the power to do magic. This is a fascinating trade-off because of what it implies: obscuring the truth means making people believe in something that isn't real, and because magic is generally counted as “not real,” it is on the same level as a lie someone wants to believe in. It implies that maybe witches' magic isn't actual magic either, but operates on a psychosomatic level when really all Rose and her fellow witches are doing is mixing up herbal remedies and telling people what to believe about them. This is somewhat undermined by a few scenes, such as when Harij witnesses Rose gathering moonlight into a jar, but as a baseline for the basics of witchcraft, it's still an interesting way to look at things.
In any event, as a witch, Rose has been labeled as Other by the non-witch population, and since her mother has been dead since she was a child and her grandmother has recently (four years before the main story) died, she's now completely on her own. Rose's personality has been affected by the idea that she and her family aren't considered human, and when combined with her natural shyness and her grandmother's dislike of crowds, she's grown up to be a slightly prickly individual. She's not tsundere – even when the romance is moving forward she doesn't change into a sweeter, softer person – instead she's just not sure how to interact with people who are being kind to her or even sure that she merits that sort of positive relationship.
Needless to say, this makes Rose the greatest obstacle to her own romance. Even when we readers can see Harij giving off clear signs that he's falling for her and would move things ahead if she gave him a positive signal (with the utmost respect, of course, because Harij is the ultimate knight in that regard), Rose can't bring herself to notice and naturally puts the worst spin on things. That this doesn't come off as her simply being a pessimist is a strength of the writing; Mutsuhana does a good enough job with Rose's own anxieties and ingrained beliefs that we can understand why Rose can't see Harij's feelings. Harij, for his part, pushes his own emotions away because he doesn't want to impose on Rose, and if he realizes, or rather, admits that he's developing a crush on Rose, he feels like he'll act on it and drive her away. And since Rose is prepared for him to just up and vanish one day and go back to the regular world of people who aren't witches and is more self-reliant and skilled than most women he's met in his upper class life, he's getting some very confusing signals.
All of this does mean that the romance is a slow-burn, and that may make the book as a whole too much of a slog for some readers. Rose herself could also be an issue, because she's so down on herself and certain that she deserves the treatment she gets at the hands of most people that she can be a bit of a hard sell for readers who prefer a heroine with more agency. But she does come to change her views through her interactions with Harij, and there's really something to be said for a story that allows the characters time to truly get to know each other before they tumble headlong into love. It's worth the time it takes for them to reach the point of happily ever after in their own awkward way.
Despite a slow pace and some linguistic quirks – Rose claims to be foulmouthed, but she really only swears in her head for most of the volume or out loud when she's upset or angry, which is what swear words exist for – Hello, I am a Witch and my Crush Wants me to Make a Love Potion! is a nice story. Its world is interesting, Rose and Harij develop fairly naturally over the course of their interactions, and the ending is rewarding. If it isn't perfect, that's okay, because it's still a pleasant book to spend your time with.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Illustrations are quite pretty, Rose and Harij (and their romance) develop naturally as the story goes on. Interesting world building.
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