Spellmaker is the second book of the Spellbreaker duology by Charlie N. Holmberg. I loved the first book and couldn’t wait to get my questions answered. Spellmaker did not disappoint.
Naturally, this review can contain spoilers about the first book, so if you haven’t read that one yet, you can see my review of Spellbreaker here.
I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
And, as always, you can read the full review or jump to the conclusion here.
Genre: NA Historical Urban Fantasy Romance | Publisher: 47North
Spellmaker picks up where Spellbreaker left off: Elsie Camden knows who is behind the murders of the spellmakers and the thefts of their opuses. She just can’t do anything about it or risk being exposed as an unregistered spellbreaker. But when she refuses to join forces with the assassin, her secrets get out anyway, and Elsie is thrown in jail. Bacchus Kelsey is willing to do whatever it takes to get Elsie out of jail. He succeeds, helping Elsie become registered, but there’s one caveat: they need to get married to prove the story Bacchus made up. Between faking her lessons and questioning Bacchus’s true feelings for her, Elsie still plans to bring down the assassin who put her in jail. She needs to thwart the plans of the criminal. But she needs to be careful, or she might play right into the assassin’s hands.
In my opinion, Spellmaker was even better than Spellbreaker. There’s a lot more tension, especially with Elsie getting thrown in jail right at the beginning. A lot happens in the story, and it’s certainly never boring. All the while, you’re wondering how they’re going to stop the criminal, will they all make it out alive, and are they putting trust in the right people?
The ending was great, and everything really came together. It’s pretty obvious from the start that Elsie will use the opus spell she kept, but the question is: how and on who?
The only thing that I missed is that we still don’t really know by the end why Elsie is special, how she’s a powerful Spellbreaker, and what actually happened to her parents. So not all tied endings, but it didn’t feel unresolved somehow. Perhaps there will be another book or a spin-off?
I really love Elsie and Bacchus. They have really nice chemistry. And Bacchus was just so sweet to Elsie. He’s really trying to make her see that his feelings are genuine, even if she thinks she’s not worth it to be loved. He helps her grow, just as she has made him see the world a little differently. I think they really bring out the best in each other.
I especially love Elsie’s portrayal because she’s very competent and can clearly take care of herself. She’s powerful, smart, and brave and can get out of pretty much anything without much help. She’s a real force to be reckoned with.
Besides Elsie and Bacchus, There are some new characters as well, one of which is Irene Prescott. She’s Elsie’s new tutor so that Elsie can become a registered Spellbreaker. Elsie has to pretend she’s not as advanced as she really is, which led to some funny scenes. I definitely liked Irene; she’s an honest, thoughtful character.
I’m still very much in love with this world that Charlie Holmberg created. Its romantic setting in Victorian England is perfect for the blooming romance between Elsie and Bacchus, and it also sets immediate challenges. After all, it’s a society not very used to other races, so we see how Bacchus struggles with that. It’s also a society very much divided in classes, which we see translated perfectly in the magic system. I still find that very ingenious.
In Spellmaker, we learn a bit more about Spellbreaking since Elsie now actually has a tutor. It’s very contrasted to the intuitive way Elsie has learned it. We can actually see that Elsie actually has a lot of magical potential; she can untie spells considered very strong. I just can’t get enough of this world just yet, which I think says all you need to know about how I feel about the world-building.
The writing flows well, and I think we get a good mix between thoughts, feelings, dialogue, and action. It never felt to me like the story slumped, which means that there wasn’t much telling in it overall. Charlie Holmberg focussed clearly on showing us characterization more through action than by only telling us what’s in their minds, which made the characters that much stronger.
Charlie also uses all the five senses in Spellmaker, which makes everything seem more real. I especially like how these senses are also linked to the subtypes of Spellmakers.
Spellmaker is a great sequel, and the duology as a whole is definitely worth reading. It has a good pace, a lot happens in the story, the world Holmberg build is amazing as I absolutely love the magic system, and the characters are well-rounded and complex human beings. We get some answers to questions we had since Spellbreaker, and there is a nice conclusion at the end of it all. However, some new questions do arise, and some are still left unanswered. So, who knows: perhaps there will be another book?
The spellbreaker duology is definitely worth a read if you enjoy a good murder mystery, an original magic system, and a slow-developing, blooming romance.