Hello wonderful people! Today I am here with the last review of the year! I cannot believe we are nearing the end of this 2020, that seemed both a never-ending year and a short short one. But here we are! And today, to make this last review special, I would talk about a series! (And ok, it is a duology, so it is a short one, but I have started and finished it this month! Wow!).
I received a copy of Spellmaker (the second book) in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor.
Title: Spellbreaker & Spellmaker
Series: Spellbreaker Duology
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Publication Date: November 1st, 2020 & March 2021
Page Count: 300 & 301
A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.
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?
I have to start with a confession. To me this would have been way better if, instead of two books, the author would have written just one.
Sure, it should have been a longer book, but in the end it would have been more cohesive, and better all around. The main reason for this opinion is that the first book is introductive, and quite a lot so. It takes forever for something to happen!!
In the last 100 pages, given or taken, it happens a lot, and you just can’t stop reading because you need to know how the things would evolve, and all is happening at a really fast pace. But before those 100 pages? Well, not so much happens.
The beginning is slow, and the author takes her sweet time to introduce us to the characters and to her world. And mind me, it is a really fascinating world. The magical system is original and intriguing. And it is interesting to see how magic developed in there, how the magic users, that here are called Aspectors, use it. And the opus idea was brilliant. Every Aspector once he or she dies become a book with all the enchantments they knew in life. It was an intriguing idea, and it is well developed.
But even if this world is fascinating, we get the feeling that nothing is really happening for more than the first half of the book. It is not well balanced. At all. And even if we get to know the characters quite well, I wasn’t really invested in them. I was interested, yes, and I enjoyed them but something was lacking.
To be completely honest this felt a lot like a debut. And I know that this is not the case, but there are some things that made me think of it. First the imbalance plot wise, because I know I have said it time and again, but really, you can’t stop reading the last 100 pages or so, but before that point we get nothing. The plot crawl along, but all is just slow.
And then we have another minor issue, that helped along the ‘debut feeling”: our MC, Elsie, is always referring to the gossip going around her, and it is thanks to the gossip that we learn about the murders that are taking place all around them. Those murders are really important plot wise, they are central to it! And yet for a long time they sit in the background, and this expedient is not smoothly done, in my opinion. It felt somehow wrong to me, strained. Mind me, it is a minor thing, and it wasn’t a big problem while I was reading but it was there, and it buggered me a lit.
I know that I am pointing my finger at a lot of things, but I enjoyed the reading anyway. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, it won’t make it to the list of this year’s favorite (and not for a long shot) and I would forget about it soon. It won’t stay with me, that’s for sure. But I enjoyed my time reading it, and the ending, even if a tad rushed, was good. And it really made me want to keep reading the sequel.
From this point onward I’ll speak about the second volume, so minor spoilers are a possibility for the first book.
And here things get better. Way, way better.
First thing first, the characters really came alive in there. Elsie felt more real here, and I could relate to her way more. And Bacchus and Ogden? Oh my! They finally found some backbone and I was so so glad! I love my characters with some backbone (ok, ok, the more the better, in my modest opinion!) and they finally get there! Also, they all become more real, more relatable and more complex.
In the first book they were almost bidimensional, in there nope! And I was more invested in the story too. In part this is because of the characters (there were a couple of scenes that made me go fangirling around!!) and in part is for the plot. We don’t have any downtime in there. We get a lot happening, and the pace keep up just so well!
The only complaint here is for the ending, because it was a bit rushed, again. But it is a minor thing, because I had a great time reading this second volume, and I devoured it!
So, I think that if we speak about stars (or hearts, or whatever) I would give the first book a 3 stars, and 3.75 to the second. It was mesmerizing in some parts, and I needed to keep reading.
What do you think? Have you read this series yet? Or are you planning to do it? Let me know!