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?
England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.
Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.
With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.
Goodreads Rating (both books): ☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️
Spellmaker is the action-packed conclusion to the Spellbreaker dulogy by Charlie N. Holmberg.
What I loved most of all about this story is the magic and the system that governs it. Some people make magic (cast spells), and they have to specialize in one particular area, such as physical, rational, spiritual, etc.… Other people can break spells by pulling on the threads of the magic and unraveling it. Spellmakers and Spellbreakers are governed by a mystical body and can be jailed, or worse if they do not abide by their rules. The only issue I had was that I needed a glossary at the end of the novel, as many vocabulary words are foreign to me, such as Opus. An Opus is essential in this world of magic, and I never did catch what it was specifically, which was a bit trying for me. Still, I loved the complexities and attention to detail that went into creating this very imaginative magical system.
I also loved the setting, which is the end of the Victorian period England – a time when proper etiquette and decorum generated by the class structure was of paramount importance. In this story, magic people registered with the atheneum (the magical communities regulatory board) were of a high social class denoted by the title Master. What I particularly loved, though, is that men and women are given that title and treated with an equal amount of respect for having it. During a period in history when women were considered the lesser gender in society, the magical community showed no distinction.
Elsie Camden is the main character and my favorite in the story by far. She is an unregistered Spellbreaker who is self-taught and believes she does side spellbreaking jobs for the greater good. She is smart, quick, and champions all that is right and good in the world. Her heart is pure and not jaded by her early separation from her parents. Her life and her personality are complicated, but Elsie remains steadfast and true through all the adversaries.
The tone and pace are relatively light and quick, with the plot progressing through the many action scenes created by magic. The pages just fly by with each spell that is cast or undone until the outcome is decided. Someone is threatening the very existence of the magical community, and Elsie is the only one who can put all the pieces together to figure out who is behind it and trap him or her (not kill, mind you because that is not even a thought for Elsie, but a life in a magical prison is definitely warranted in her mind).
If you enjoy historical fiction set in the Victorian era and love a complex magical system, you will absolutely adore this duology by Charlie N. Holmberg.