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Book Review: Spellbound (ARC)

Expected publication: September 3rd 2021

Author: Rebecca L. Garcia

A dark and twisted fantasy standalone romance, where hate and love collide in a world filled with snarky witches and vengeful gods. Perfect for fans of To Kill a Kingdom and Kingdom of the Wicked

Grieving being torn from her beloved sister, who remained behind in the human kingdom, Elle makes it her life purpose to become a keeper in her cursekeeper coven.

But this calling won’t be an easy one.

The magic possessed by her small coven of four casts them as outsiders throughout the kingdom. Yet when witches are found murdered in the woods, the cursekeepers quickly become the town’s only hope.
Many believe the murders are the work of a god. An old one returned in search of vengeance. Elle, on the other hand, suspects Viktor, the new warlock to town, is somehow linked to the violent deaths. However, his agenda doesn’t stop there.

Infiltrating her coven.
Charming everyone around him.
Threatening her plans to become a keeper.
This rivalry quickly becomes personal.

When the truth behind the murders surfaces, Elle finds herself thrust into a dangerous new world, trapped between twisted hearts and terrifying beings. With the victims piling up, she must decide who to trust and who to protect before it’s too late.

Embraced by Darkness is a collection of standalone books set in the same world without an overarching plot, which means you can start with any books in the series and pick and choose which ones you want to read. This collection of novels follows different couples as they go from enemies to friends to lovers, while facing dangerous obstacles in a world split between humans, witches and gods, set in two kingdoms that separate them.

Spellbound is the first novel in the author’s new Embracing Darkness collection, which is a series of standalone novels set in the same universe. Each novel within the collection contains its own characters and stories, so you can select the ones you want to read and the order. The novel begins nine years before the main story with the main character, Elle, being taken from her home in the human kingdom of Salvius and separated from her sister, Mona. Elle’s new home is in the town of Deadwood in the witches and magic territory of Istinia. To make her way back to her sister, Elle is determined to become a keeper of her new coven, but nothing is simple and there are many obstacles along the way.

Elle is a member of the cursekeeper coven with her fellow witches, Edmund, Maddox, and Dora. As Elle just turned twenty, Edmund is pushing for her to take the keeper exam as there is an opening for one on their team and he believes she is ready. Elle is nervous, as she does not think she is ready and does not want to fail since those that do not pass have to wait three years to take the exam again. Things change, however, when a new human-born witch arrives from Salvius. Viktor shows a lot of promise as he masters many of the skills quickly, giving Elle more motivation to try to pass the test with newfound dislike of Viktor, who now threatens her spot in the exam. This beginning section of the novel, which has three parts, is an excellent set-up for the characters and an introduction into the world. There is a lot of information about the covens, the magic system, and the characters themselves without it feeling like an info dump. Viktor is a mysterious character where he reveals himself more over time and it is done at a great pace where the reader, at least for me, becomes very invested to figure out his secrets.

For me, I originally thought the main story would focus on Elle’s journey as a witch, but it became so much more. There is a lot of exploration into the gods and goddesses of the universe, including Lucius, Ruler of the Underworld and God of Justice. It is not fully apparent how the different pieces tie together in the first place. There is some predictability to the plot, which is expected in almost every story, but there are multiple unexpected twists and turns to make it a very captivating piece of work. Although I love all of the characters in this story, especially Maddox, Elle was a standout main character. She was incredibly gifted, but she had to work at it. Nothing came easily and she made many mistakes during learning. She also would rather sleep in than get up early to study. I appreciated these characteristics as it made her more relatable. She goes through a lot of character growth in this story and I loved her adaptability to try and come up with new plans to ensure those she cared about were safe.

The Fate of Crowns trilogy was my introduction to this author. Spellbound has a similar ease to the reading experience and style where it is apparent the same author writes them, but they are two different types of stories. Spellbound skews to a more mature audience (upper YA to adult) based on some of the romance elements, while maintaining the tension and natural build-up that I enjoyed in the Crowns trilogy. The romance in this story was very well done as it was full of tension, heartbreak, and naturally fitting conflict. Based on the characters and the situations, the romance was weaved together well with the love of a found family. All the different elements with the characters were well put together and I loved how the romances and friendships were written throughout. All the relationships were realistic as none of them were perfect, but the characters worked through any obstacles and tried their best to keep their found family intact.

Overall, this novel was an excellent read. The mythology created by the author with a unique set of gods/goddesses and how they related to the witches/magicians and humans was well done. Each element of the story has a place within the plot, which I enjoyed as it kept the flow moving at a decent pace. There are many details in the writing, but each was given bit by bit, so it did not seem overwhelming.  There is magic, friendships, family, romance, murder, and adventure that all come together to make a very captivating story. It was very difficult to put this novel down and this could have easily have been read in a day if my scheduled allowed it. I am excited to give the author’s set novel in the collect, Heart of a Witch, when it becomes available!

**I give a special thank you to the author, Rebecca Garcia, for the opportunity to read this fantastic novel. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**

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