Spellmaker (Spellbreaker Duology, #2)

By Charlie N. Holmberg

Rating: 4 stars

Picking up directly from where the first book leaves off, the second volume of this “duology” deals with Elsie’s spellbreaking ability becoming public. Bacchus Kelsey, the young master spellmaker who’s well on his way to falling in love with Elsie, persuades the justice system to let her go and that they are, in fact, engaged to be married. Of course, Elsie now thinks that Bacchus has thrown away his future life and happiness for her freedom. Hilarity ensues.

The misunderstandings and Elsie’s obsession with everyone leaving her can be frustrating at times, but it’s all the sweeter when (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say) they’re resolved and expressions of love are exchanged. The rest of the plot proceeds, with the villain, now known to be Master Lily Merton, continuing her spree of killing (or trying to kill) spellcasters for the magic they leave behind when they die. The mystery of the stranger who Elsie meets in the first book is unravelled and we find out how it ties in to what Merton wants.

And honestly, if she was less psychotic, I’d be very sympathetic towards Merton. She really does have a zeal towards social justice, it’s just that she doesn’t mind murdering and enslaving to do so. I would have liked to get to know our other characters a bit better than we did. We found out at the end of the last book that Elsie’s employer, Mr Ogden, isn’t a low-level physical spellcaster as she’d thought, but a master-level rational (affecting minds) caster. I would have loved to find out why he had hidden this over the years – it’s known that has abilities, but he pretends his powers are very different to what they are, but why would he do that?

And then the new characters, Reggie and Irene, get welcomed into the group with a nod, but get very little character development. I would especially have liked to see more interaction between Reggie and Elsie. And Irene accepts all the events that she gets caught up in with equanimity. I’d love to know more about her character and why she’s so eager to be involved. Oh, and it’s sort of hinted that Elsie’s spellbreaking powers are different or possibly stronger than most spellbreakers, but this isn’t really explored in any great depth.

While I appreciate fantasies that don’t feel the need to bloat into multi-volume doorstoppers, I do think that this story would have benefited from a bit more depth (although that could still be the after-effects of binging Neal Stephenson‘s Baroque Cycle). Still, the complaints are fairly minor: the story moves at a brisk pace, with revelation piling upon revelation. The major characters are well-developed and likeable, and it’s a fun story to read. While I can see that this is a good point to leave the story, I’d love to spend more time with Elsie and Bacchus.

Book details

ISBN: 9781542022576
Publisher: 47North
Year of publication: 2021

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