Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Review: Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg


Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: Spellbreaker (Book 1)
Publication: 47North (November 1, 2020)

Description: A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in an all-new fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood.

Elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey is one elusive spell away from his mastership when he catches Elsie breaking an enchantment. To protect her secret, Elsie strikes a bargain. She’ll help Bacchus fix unruly spells around his estate if he doesn’t turn her in. Working together, Elsie’s trust in—and fondness for—the handsome stranger grows. So does her trepidation about the rise in the murders of wizards and the theft of the spellbooks their bodies leave behind.

For a rogue spellbreaker like Elsie, there’s so much to learn about her powers, her family, the intriguing Bacchus, and the untold dangers shadowing every step of a journey she’s destined to complete. But will she uncover the mystery before it’s too late to save everything she loves?

My Thoughts: Elsie Camden is a spellbreaker. She is unregistered and using her powers is illegal. She was also abandoned by her family when she was six and soon found herself in a workhouse. She was rescued from the workhouse by an organization she calls the Cowls. For the fifteen years since her abandonment, she has been doing jobs for the Cowls which they send her in letters. She sees herself as a sort of Robin Hood helping to make magic available to help people. 

She is caught undoing a spell by Bacchus Kelsey and blackmailed by him to use her ability to help him. Bacchus is in England trying to buy a spell which will help him and his people. Bacchus is the bastard son of an Englishman. He lives in Barbados. As Elsie gets to know him, she begins to like him.

Elsie learns that Bacchus has had a secret spell laid on him which mimics polio and sucks energy from him. The spell he wants to buy would let him remain ambulatory when the current spell holding the polio back wears out. Those who control the spell won't allow him to buy it. Once Elsie discovers it, she agrees to remove it leaving the mystery of who placed the spell on him in the first place. Elsie and Bacchus are also looking into another mystery. Someone is killing magic users and stealing the opus that remains when a magician dies. 

The story had interesting worldbuilding and an intriguing system of magic. I really liked Elsie and understood how she could have been drawn into the conspiracy. Her abandonment as a child made her particularly susceptible to anyone who seemed to want her and value her. 

This is the first of a duology which means that the ending is unresolved. I'm eager to read the next story to learn more about these intriguing characters and see the end of the mystery.

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes I wonder if it's better to be informed or ignorant. Or, rather, informed and depressed, or ignorant and happy."

Elsie nodded. "If only one could be informed and happy."
I got this one from Kindle First. You can buy your copy here.

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