Sunday, October 3, 2021

Review: SPELLMAKER by Charlie N. Holmberg


Rating: 5/5 stars

I really enjoyed Spellmaker, even more so than I enjoyed Spellbreaker, and this series solidified for me that I absolutely must read everything by Charlie Holmberg. I’ve finished two series from her now and loved them both, and since she has written almost twenty books, I have lots more on my to-read list that I’m eagerly anticipating. 

This book picks up right where the first one left off, so there will be minor spoilers here for how Spellbreaker ended. (Also, don’t read the synopsis for this book if you don’t want to be spoiled. It reveals a lot of plot points that happen later in the story that truly shocked me since I didn’t read the synopsis before I read the book.) 

Elsie now knows who’s behind the mysterious magician murders and opus thefts, but she can’t publicly reveal how she knows this information without also revealing that she’s an unregistered spellbreaker, which is highly illegal. She must stop the murderer and thief without incriminating herself along the way, but the criminal has other plans: persuade Elsie to join her instead. With Bacchus by her side, Elsie goes on quite an unexpected adventure in this exciting fast-paced romantic historical fantasy. 

I love that this series does not feel too historical even though it’s set in London in 1895. The Victorian England setting here does not play a huge role, which is something I loved since I don’t really care for historical fiction, but I know some other readers will dislike this aspect if they love that time period. Spellmaker was focused on character development and plot development, and the setting really only shows itself in the mannerisms and dress of the characters. 

The Spellbreaker duology has a slow-burn but very swoon-worthy romance. I absolutely loved Bacchus and Elsie together. They didn’t even kiss in the first book but the build-up was tense and watching how their relationship played out in the sequel had me giddy with excitement. It’s completely worth the wait for these two, and one of my favorite romance tropes is involved also!

There were a lot of threads woven together to create this novel. I was worried with so many plot points and questions posed along the way that some pieces would get buried beneath others, but Holmberg does a good job of tying up all the loose ends by the end of the series. One of the worst offenses an author can make, in my opinion, is to leave clues through a book or series that lead nowhere, creating subplots that peter off and posing questions that ultimately go unanswered and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled. It is so frustrating and disappointing. (I’m still mad at Brent Weeks for doing this to us in The Burning White…) So while I was worried this book was headed in that direction, rest assured that all threads and subplots wrap up satisfactorily to create a very satisfying conclusion.

However, even though the ending nicely wrapped up all the plotlines and didn’t leave any questions unanswered, I still really want a third book, set like five years in the future or something. We could see Elsie and Bacchus splitting their time between London and Barbados, maybe with a baby, and we could get to see Elsie publicly embrace her full spellbreaking abilities and maybe solve another crime or two. Charlie Holmberg could easily give us another book, add more canonical details of Elsie’s life in the future, but I doubt this will ever happen. I just loved this series so much, and I love Elsie and Bacchus together so much, that I just want to read as much as possible about them. 

I highly recommend the Spellbreaker duology for those interested in cozy mysteries, historical fantasy, unique magic systems, clean romance, fast-paced plots, and well-written storylines. 

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