Well, I may be posting this review waaaaaaay later than I intended, but at least I can say that Spellbreaker is certainly worth the wait.
When only the rich and powerful of Victorian England can afford to pay to learn magical spells, Elise Camden has one advantage: she was born with the ability to break them. Her unlicensed gift makes her a threat to the corrupt aristocracy and, guided by a shadowy group known as the Cowls, Elise uses her spellbreaking to help the common man.
When she is caught breaking an enchantment by elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey, Elise strikes a bargain: she’ll help him fix spells around his estate if he doesn’t turn her in. Working together, Elise’s trust in – and fondness for – the handsome stranger grows. But as wizards are murdered and their spellbooks stolen at an alarming rate, Elise must uncover the mystery before it’s too late, for her and everything she loves.
Elise hadn’t meant to burn down the warehouse.― Charlie N. Holmberg, Spellbreaker
I found this book while browsing around on Amazon and pretty much immediately judged it by it’s cover: that judgement being that it looked awesome. The whole idea of a magic system based on people being able to buy and sell magic spells was pretty interesting, and it’s also by the same author who wrote Paper Magician: a book I am dying to read. So, my expectations were pretty high to say the least.
And I was definitely NOT disappointed.
What I Liked
- The Characters – There were a lot of really excellent characters in this book, in particular our heroine, Elise Camden. She manages to be a badass Robin Hood-like champion for justice, while still being intensely vulnerable. You just want to root for her at every turn, big and small. Bacchus, the other half of this story, isn’t quite as interesting but the two of them make for a very entertaining duo. Some of the side characters maybe aren’t as developed as the heroes, but never to the point of being distracting. Even the villains of the story are great despite them remaining mostly in the background… for now!
- The Worldbuilding – I
might beam definitely biased here because I’m already a fan of stories set in magical Victorian England, but Spellbreaker is one of my favourites. The story is mostly focused on how magic might affect the division between social classes, something I haven’t seen a lot of before. It’s still got that historical-fiction type of charm, but with just enough magic mixed in there to make it extraordinary.
- The Magic – Speaking of magic, the system is fantastic. There’s the usual bits, like words of power and being born with magical ability, but the fact that all magicians have to pay in order for the chance to learn a spell was actually a very cool element. Add to the fact that there are unique specialties – physical, spiritual, rational, and temporal – and the idea that magicians turn into spellbooks when they die (yes, seriously!) and it all adds up to be very well balanced and consistent without being too scientific.
- The Story – The plot is phenomenal. I was constantly wondering what might happen next, and the overall mystery behind it all is incredibly well developed. Even most of the side plots were interesting, particularly with Elise and her strange past. Everything was wrapped up in a way that made me feel satisfied with how this book ended, but also made me want to immediately run out and grab the next!
What I Didn’t
- The Romance – This is more of a nit-pick here, but I didn’t think the romance between Bacchus and Elise was as strong as the rest of the book. There’s definite chemistry there, and I like both of the characters on their own, but it felt a little less well developed than the rest of the story. That’s understandable, considering there are murders to be solved, but I’m hoping the sequel gives their relationship a little more time and room to shine. They are still idiots in love though, so I’ll still enjoy it either way.
Spellbreaker was a thoroughly enjoyable read with some incredibly clever world building, a solid magic system, and a fantastic heroine that anyone could relate to. I was utterly spellbound (sorry, not sorry) from the first page to the last, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next book as soon as possible.
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Date Published: November 1, 2020
Series: Spellbreaker Duology
Warnings: Some minor violence and death but nothing too intense.
Thanks for reading everyone!