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?
Goodreads Rating: 4.05 stars with over 9,000 ratings
Genre listing: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Goodreads Challenge: 2/50 books *
* Before this, I reread Grave Mercy for # 3 on the challenge (Reread a book that makes you happy). I didn't really feel like doing a new review on it. You can find the original review here. I proclaimed it as my favorite, I had forgotten why because it's been years since I've read Grave Mercy. Rereading, it reminded me of why I dished out the favorite book label. Assassin nuns who serve the God of Death, yes, please.
2021 Reading Challenge: 1. Read a book obtained from Kindle Unlimited, Audible, Amazon First Reads, Paperback Swap, or the Library (Find the full challenge here)
I was super excited to hear about Spellbreaker. Charlie N. Holmberg's books have really grown on me lately (initially had a love/hate relationship with Paper Magician, but the rest of the series was enjoyable, and I've since liked some of her other works.) So, when it was up for grabs on Kindle First Reads, I had to have it. Historical Fiction and magic? Yes, please.
One of the things that really draws me into Charlie N. Holmberg's books is her use of magic. Anything involving magic will probably be a winner in my book, but there's something almost whimsical about how she goes about magic in her books. It's also really creative and different from most fantasy books. In the world of Spellbreaker, there are different levels of magic users. There are Spellmakers who can create spells and various types of spells. It's the only way for ordinary folk to change their lives by becoming master Spellmakers. There are also Spellbreakers, who do not seem to be as common or favored among the magic population.
Elsie is a spellbreaker, and I loved how the way she broke spells was described. The magic was described in such a way that I could almost visualize the runes she had to untangle and unknot. I found myself really interested in how she knew what to do to reverse a spell and if Spellbreaker's could go through similar training as a Spellmaker.
Spellbreaker took me a little bit to really get into, even though it was just under 30 pages. I'm not sure if this was more just my state of mind or if it was the book, but I didn't get really engrossed by it until I was about halfway through. I wasn't overly drawn to the characters. They were interesting, but I was more interested in the world and why the Cowls were having Elsie do the things she did or who they actually were. The characters were kind of replaceable to me.
Once I got to around forty pages left, I started to get to that point where I couldn't put the book down. Suddenly, things started falling in place, the action picked up, and there was a handful of surprise twists that I was not expecting at all. I definitely couldn't predict what would happen, and the book ends with a massive cliffhanger. I wanted to go immediately into Spellmaker, but alas, I must wait until March.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I think another 30-50 pages or so to really fine-tune some character details would have done the book wonders, but it was still an entertaining story. As it is, it's about 300 pages, and it does move pretty fast. I love the magic in it, and I can't wait to read more in Spellmaker.