Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg is the first book of the Spellbreaker duology. I loved this first book, and I fell in love with Elsie and Bacchus. The story is thrilling, with lots of mystery and a slowly blooming romance.
As always, you can read my full book review of Spellbreaker below, or you can jump straight to the conclusion here and see whether this is a book for you.
Genre: New Adult Historical Urban Fantasy Romance | Publisher: 47North
Elsie Camden, an orphan, discovers she’s a Spellbreaker one day while accidentally dispelling a rune in the workhouse she lives. When the house goes up in flames, she knows it’s her fault for dispelling the magic that was supposed to put it out. Not wanting to get caught, she goes with a woman who recognizes her talents and wants to put them to good use. Not knowing the organization’s name, Elsie calls them the ‘Cowls.’ Over the years, they make sure she’s taken care of, and in return, she helps them push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She’s a real modern Robin Hood.
But, she’s still an unlicensed Spellbreaker: meaning that using her gift is a crime. Every time she breaks a spell, she risks imprisonment and death. So, when Bacchus Kelsey catches her dispelling a rune at his duke’s estate, he’s not amused. However, they do strike a bargain: he keeps her secret save if she helps Bacchus fix some unruly spells. And as they work together, her fondness for Bacchus grows. But so does her worry about the rise of murders of Spellmakers. Not just that, but their spellbooks are stolen as well; someone is clearly gathering a great deal of power. Can she solve the mystery? And can she do it before it’s too late?
A lot is going on in the story, with both a crime-thread and a romance-thread, and even a family-thread, as Elsie is still searching for the family that left her behind. Elsie is brave, and she goes through quite the transformation. The ending was both surprising and pulled off extremely well; it kept me reading well past midnight. Charlie Holmberg expertly increases the tension throughout the story, so when you get close to the end, you just can’t bring yourself to put it down.
Elsie is a great character, kind and brave, and always looking to do the right thing. She is also highly insecure though, certain that there must be something dark and unlovable about her that drives people away. Why else would her family have left her behind? She has found a new family, though, with her employer Ogden as close to a father as could be. And Emiline, the help, is as dear to her as a little sister. And Elsie would do anything for the people she loves; that much is clear.
Bacchus Kelsey is a Spellmaker, returning to London to acquire a Master spell and receive his Master status. He’s from Barbados, which means he sticks out in the mostly white community of London. It’s a thing he’s adapted to. He’s a good person, just grown a bit bitter because of everything he’s had to deal with.
I really love Bacchus and Elise together, and reading about their growing friendship was great. I kept praying for them to just admit their feelings to each other, so they could grow to be something more.
What I really loved about this book was the magic system. There are two kinds of people with magic: Spellmakers and Spellbreakers. While Spellbreakers have a gift they’re born with, Spellmakers need to buy the spells they can learn when they show promise. The so-called ‘drops’ they need to absorb new spells are extremely costly, which means the rich get more and more powerful, while the poor can only move up if they get a sponsor.
It’s a great magic system to show off class-divide and make that a big part of the story. I also loved that the story is set in Victorian England, so it’s really quite a romantic setting as well. Totally perfect for the blossoming courtship between Elsie and Bacchus.
Charlie N. Holmberg has done a brilliant job in portraying Elsie and Bacchus, completely immersing me into their world. Both have a very distinct voice. There are also interesting details, and the author has done an excellent job in increasing the tension throughout the story.
Her prose is easy to read, with a good balance between action and internal reflection. There’s plenty of time spent on the relationships Elsie and Bacchus have with others. This really adds to the increased tension at the end.
Spellbreaker is a great story to read if you love Urban Fantasy, with a thrilling mystery that needs to be solved and a courtship romance. It also has an interesting magic system, showing the class divide in a new way. Spellbreaker increases the tension brilliantly, and the ending is pulled off really well. If this sounds like your kind of story, I highly recommend you read it.