Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Review: The Harwood Spellbook Stories by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (October 30, 2018)
90 pages

Description: In the world of the Harwood Spellbook, 19th-century Angland is ruled by a powerful group of women known as the Boudiccate - but in order to become a member of that elite group, any ambitious young politician must satisfy tradition by taking a gentleman mage for her husband.

Amy Standish is a born politician...but Jonathan Harwood is her greatest temptation. On the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined.

It will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.

My Thoughts: Amy Standish is a well-to-do orphan who has been passed around her family like some unwanted parcel. She's never been neglected but no one has ever loved her either. Now she has a change to further her political ambitions as the secretary to Miranda Harwood who is one of the most respected members of the Boudiccate.

Her path is clear. Learn everything she can from her mentor, make the contacts she needs to further her political career, and find a magician to marry. But Miranda's son Jonathan is a possible roadblock on her path to success. He has stubbornly refused to follow the path set by generations of Harwood men before him. He refused to study magic and is instead a notable historian.

Now that the time has come for the annual Harwood ball in the underwater ballroom created by Miranda's late magician husband. Amy has planned every detail including her proposal to Lord Llewellyn, a promising young magician. But before that can happen, she has to deal with a possible failure of the spell that created the ballroom and the political upheaval of discovering that Miranda's thirteen-year-old daughter Cassandra is the one who has inherited the family's magic.

This is a story about love and the things one must be willing to do for it, magic, and politics. It was witty and exciting and romantic. In 90 pages, Burgis manages to create an alternate England with gender role reversals and magic. It was engaging and fascinating.

Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (September 4, 2017)
168 pages

Description: Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancĂ©, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults from the author of Kat, Incorrigible, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets

My Thoughts: Cassandra isn't at all eager to attend the Winter Solstice party hosted by Lady Cosgrave. Since she behaved recklessly and almost died, she can no longer do even the simplest spell. The loss of her magic caused her to break her engagement to Wrexham and is leaving her at a loss about what she will do for the rest of her life.

She arrives at Lady Cosgrave's estate in the middle of a raging snowstorm only to find out that a small group of other guests have gotten lost in the snow. She is one of the people who are tasked to go out to see if she can find them.

While searching, she runs afoul with an arrogant, anti-human elf lord. Lord Ihlmere tricks Cassandra into making a promise to find out who is causing the magical storm which is hurting the elves' pets and ruing their hunt. She has a sennight to find the answer or become the object of the next hunt.

Just when she is rebuilding her relationship with Wrexham, her life might be coming to an end. Of course he agrees to help her and together they interview the extremely quirky weather mages in attendance at the party. But none of them have the capability to do such a complex spell.

It isn't until she finally confides in her politician sister-in-law and her historian brother that she finds an answer to her question. She also finds a new course for her life.

I love the relationships in this story. I like the gender reversals with Wrexham in danger of being compromised by Cassandra and women running politics because men are too emotional. I liked the world building in the story which includes an interesting social order, interesting magic, and treaties with elves.

Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (February 25, 2019)
186 pages

Description: Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she's ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.

My Thoughts: Things don't go easily when Cassandra Harwood tries to set up a school for magically inclined young women. The Boudiccate has very reluctantly given permission for the school but has sent a investigative team including Cassandra's greatest enemy to give final approval.

That is only one of the problems though. Cassandra has been plagued with nightmares of thorn strewn vines entangling and strangling her, her husband has been kept so busy by the Boudiccate that they haven't been able to spend any time together since their marriage, and someone has created an altar and made a bargain with the fae in her library. Oh, and the only wizard she could convince to take a role as a teacher in her school is an arrogant blowhard who couldn't find a job anywhere else.

Cassandra does have the support of her brother Jonathan and his wife Amy but fears that her goal of starting a magic school for young women has wide consequences for their future. Amy has already lost her political career. Cassandra's afraid that her goal will ruin her husband's bright future too. And when he goes missing, Cassandra learns that she doesn't have to do everything herself. It is okay to rely on her family and her young students for help.

This was an entertaining and quite emotional story about love, family, and ambition. I loved a further look into this alternate history world and look forward to more stories set there.

1 comment:

  1. Not my genre but I like to read the reviews of these books.


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