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.
Thanks much to the publisher for providing a copy of this for review purposes. This did not affect the content of my review in any way.
This fun sequel to Spellbreaker carries the tale on to its conclusion with some great action and lovely moments of emotion between characters.
As I’ve said before (probably many times) I’m a fan of Holmberg’s work so I’m always up for checking out the latest book. This duology has proven to be a fun read with a interesting magic system and lots of great characters–both strengths of the author. This second book continues the story from where the first one left off. Lady Merton is still on the loose and Elsie and Bacchus are uneasy about what her next move may be. Unfortunately, they don’t have to wait long as Elsie soon finds herself in danger and Bacchus does the only thing he can think of to get her out of it–offer her marriage. Meanwhile the rest of the characters, including Elsie’s new tutor, Master Ogden, Emmaline, form a sort of ‘Scooby gang’ working together to solve the mystery of where Merton is and what exactly she’s after.
I love a book with some mystery and romance and this one has both of those in spades. In fact, I’d say the romance in this one was ratcheted up a notch, which was great but also sometimes I felt like Elsie was a tad preoccupied with thoughts of Bacchus (understandably at least). I think when a book has a lot of elements it can sometimes be tough to strike a balance and this one definitely felt more on the romance-side of things but that’s not a criticism, just an observation. That being said, there was the mystery to be solved! I loved the way the characters came together and learned to trust in one another in order to protect and assist each other. There were some revelations at the beginning that showed that not everyone is worthy of trust. Despite that, the characters still chose to trust others when the occasion arose and I think that goes to show that while you don’t want to blindly trust just anyone, you can’t spend your life distrustful of everyone–eventually you have to put your faith in someone and here it pays off several times.
Merton is an interesting villain. She has a reason for what she plans to do and those reasons are very valid. And maybe her solution would bring about a lot of good in the world, but at what cost? Her problem, like most villains, is that she thinks she has the right to choose what’s best for everyone. There’s something to be said for this message. Is this a Thanos situation? Is it anti-socialism? Is it pro-America? (There is one part when one of the characters, the only American, mentions America and how precious freedom is…I’ll admit I almost laughed at that because, yes, America and freedom–we’re obsessed. That too has its costs. But of course this isn’t the time to get into that discussion. The point being in all of this is that this villain definitely gave me a lot more to think about than any of Holmberg’s previous villains, and for that I’m thankful. I do love a villain that has a little more depth to them. I wish that aspect had been explored more than it was–there wasn’t much time spent dwelling on those particulars.
The pacing on this was great, with the threat of danger hanging over the characters ever present it kept the tension high throughout the story. There was also some great action sprinkled in here and there but things really picked up at the end. Overall, I thought this was a fun read and I’m definitely keen to see what Holmberg writes next. 4/5 stars.