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#BookReview of Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

  8 Mar 2021 |    4 minutes  |   Paul Mitchell

Book cover of Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

Title:  Spellbreaker
Author:  Charlie N. Holmberg
Date Published:  1 Nov, 2020
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  47North
ISBN:  9781542020091
Series:  Spellbreaker #1
Pages:  300
Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Spellbreaker is set in the late 19th Century in magical England, where magic is practised mainly by the rich. Eleven-year-old Elsie Camden had removed a fireguard spell from the workhouse a month ago and it’s now gone up in flames. Outside while the workhouse is burning a cloaked figure offers her a better life.

“You’re very important, Elsie. I need your help to make the world a better place. I need to use that special talent of yours.”

10 years on, Elsie works For Ogden an artist who plies his wares locally. In the past she has performed many tasks for “the cowls” as she calls them, removing spells in the form of runes from various places surreptitiously. Elsie always receives tasks anonymously, this time she is to remove a spell from the door on an estate in Kent.

At the same time, Bacchus Kelsey has travelled from his estate in Barbados to London. His primary purpose is to become a master aspector, and to be allowed to learn a certain master spell. The Duke of Kent (a friend of his late father’s) has invited him to stay on his estate.

As Elsie attempts to remove the runes from the door, she is caught by Bacchus who threatens to report her to the authorities (unlicensed spell breaking is punishable by death). However, he agrees not to report her if she would help him to remove some old runes so that he can reapply them. Over the weeks, Elsie helps Bacchus, carefully juggling her work for Ogden and travelling to Kent. Bacchus for his part begins to realise that Elsie’s heart is in the right place and that she has done nothing malicious.

While all this is happening, someone is murdering master magicians around the country and their opuses (spells in their raw form) stolen. Who is behind the murders? How are they getting through master magicians defences? What part do Bacchus and Elsie Play in all of this?

My Review

Spellbreaker brings to life some wonderfully creative concepts: Magic is mainly for the rich, and spells are available for a price as long as the aspector can absorb them. Only a few have the capacity to take on the most powerful spells and become masters. On the other hand, spellbreakers are born with the gift, it cannot be learned or absorbed.

England is covered in spells: Magicians can apply runes to anything: allowing doors to be made more secure, buildings more fire-resistant, fields that produce better crops and decorative spells to bring rooms to life. Spells can also be applied to people. Spellbreakers on the other hand can remove these spells. These are all fascinating concepts.

I like Elsie’s character, she’s well defined, her family abandoning her as a child and ending up in a workhouse. Her motivation to help “the cowls” is decent, believing she is working for a good cause. But we don’t really know anything about this secret group, only that they saved her from the workhouse. Bacchus on the other hand is from a different class. he’s a plantation owner from Barbados on the verge of becoming a master magician. So the relationship between the two characters takes a little time to develop.

To be fair, its a bit of a slow burner, the author gradually builds up the tension as we progress towards the end as events happen closer to home. Bacchus also has his own secrets which we learn as the story progresses.

There’s a lot more going on in Spellbreaker that would take days to explain.

Final Thoughts

Well, it’s happened again. I’ve chosen a novel that has no conclusion, it just stops. I’ll have to get Spellmaker to complete the story…

Now I’m quite partial to book series (Bosch, Harry Potter, St. Mary’s and so on), but I do prefer the novel I’m reading to reach some sort of ending.

That said, I enjoyed Spellbreaker, and I’m keen to see what happens to Elsie and Bacchus so it’s highly likely that I’ll buy the next Book. So it’s still a recommend.

What does everyone else think about stories that end abruptly? I mean I read Game of Thrones knowing that there was a second, third and fourth book so it’s not the first time this has happened. Is this a growing trend?


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