Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Dead wizards, stolen enchantments, and broken promises force a young spellbreaker out of the shadows in the next thrilling installment of the Spellbreaker series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.
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.
After the joy that was Spellbreaker, I was ecstatic to begin its sequel, Spellmaker and I am glad that it did not disappoint! This story is a continuation of the first novel and although it is not impossible to start with this one, it would be more beneficial to start with the first before moving on to this novel. Although there is some context for the story and characters, the reader would miss out on a lot of the backstory for the events that take place in this novel by skipping ahead. As this is a duology, I was excited to have the story wrapped up, but also disappointed that it would be over as I greatly enjoyed this magical Victorian world.
Now that we know who the main villain is after the first novel ended, the mystery continues for how to actually stop them. Ogden, Bacchus, and Elsie are working together to try and figure everything out while also not trying to reveal themselves to outsiders. Unfortunately, Elsie is discovered and placed in jail early on and the only way out is for Bacchus to work his charm and state that the two of them are to be wed as a cover story for themselves. Although Elsie has an attraction for Bacchus, she fears that he is being tethered to her and is only doing this to assist in their case and to be chivalrous. The two of them have their fake engagement that may turn out to be what they both wanted all along as they continue to get to know each other. It is a slow-burn romance as the two of them have their images to protect and cannot get too close to each other without it being scandalous.
Along with our previously established characters, we are also introduced to a few new ones that become an integral part of the story, such as, Irene Prescott, Reggie, and the Raven. The adventure becomes a giant puzzle with coded newspaper articles, kidnappings, possession, murders, and attacks all coming together to unravel who is behind the attacks formally and why. In addition to the finding the murderer, Elsie has to pretend to be a novice spellbreaker now that her secret is out and has to start tutoring lessons, despite her knowing more than some masters. The pacing is decent for most of this as we build up to a conclusion as more and more pieces are revealed. The ending though does seem rushed once we get closer to the climax as it seemed that the pacing suddenly sped up when there weren’t that many pages to go to wrap everything up. I wish the book either picked up the pace earlier or added more pages so the ending could have gotten the attention it deserved. There is no epilogue so maybe some of this could have been assisted by adding one just to further add some wrap-up to the story.
The characters to continue to grow as we get to know all of them better. Elsie continues to be a delight to read as a strong character who is both independent, while also wanting acceptance. She continues to get herself in some sticky situations, but instead of sitting back and giving up, she tries to find a way to get herself out of them. Bacchus has some obstacles to overcomes after some secrets are revealed and it was interesting to read about him working through everything while also being an excellent support system for Elsie. He cares greatly for her and wants to do everything he can to make sure that she stays safe and is happy. The motivations are there to also catch the murderer, but his main priority is Elsie. It was very sweet as he let her be her own person and was there to support and not control her. Ogden really comes into his own in this novel and becomes a fairly prominent character. As a continued father figure for Elsie, he wants to support her in this quest while also having his own motivations to join in the search.
Overall, this novel was very entertaining and was an excellent conclusion to the duology. I would absolutely love more books set in this world as the magic system of the spellbreakers and the different types of spellmakers is fascinating. I would re-read this series in a heartbeat as it was a great read. The stories are not complex, but they captivate the reader enough to want to read more. As this novel had a little more focus on the romance between Bacchus and Elsie, there were moments where I felt that there was a little too much and some of the time could have been better spent on the main plot. I absolutely loved the romance, but I believe there could have been slightly fewer sentences dedicated to it and it would still have the same effect. The pacing is faster overall compared to the first novel as the mystery is moving along plus the forwarding of the romance, so it misses the ease of the first novel at times. It is one reason I liked the first slightly better while still loving this one. Once again, I will say that I would love more novels set in this world whether it be an additional novel featuring our same characters or a whole new spin-off series. A great end to an excellent and entertaining duology!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, 47North, for this enjoyable ARC to read. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**