Thanks to NetGalley and 47North for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Spellmaker (Spellbreaker Duology #2)
Publication Date: 09 March 2021
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Romance
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.
*Note: There might be minor spoilers for book one if you haven’t read it yet!*
TL;DR: Spellmaker was an action-packed sequel to Spellbreaker and a satisfying conclusion to this historical fantasy duology with a little bit of mystery and romance. I was a little worried when I got to the 80% mark and felt that a lot still had to be resolved, and although I thought the climax was a little too simplistic for the build-up, I was still enthralled by the story and characters, and ultimately thought the conclusion was done well.
The story picks up not too long after the conclusion of book one and it’s basically high-intensity action from the go as we get more devious and exciting reveals and a fair bit more of the slow-burning romance between Elsie and Bacchus. I grew quite attached to both characters in the first book so I really enjoyed coming back to both of them in this story! I also enjoyed that we get to see more of Ogden and Emmeline in this story, and we’re introduced to more characters, such as a new Master spellbreaker and the mysterious American that we briefly met in book one. Holmberg writes with a wit that’s really enjoyable to read in the characters and I found myself laughing out loud a fair few times at the wry humour. Definitely a big plus for me! Since the magic system was already pretty well established in the first book, we don’t learn much more about it here but we see more ways that it can be used and I still really enjoyed it and thought it was pretty cool!
An aspect I found a bit jarring was the inclusion of Ogden’s POV that we get twice (I think), which I didn’t really find added that much to the story. It was interesting to get his perspective but it was also something I gathered from his character through Elsie and Bacchus’ POVs. I also thought the transition between POVs within chapters wasn’t as smoothly done as in the first book, but since this is an ARC perhaps it was the formatting that made it less clear? While I loved Elsie’s strength of character, there were a few times in this story where I found myself feeling frustrated with her insecurity of self–I mean, I absolutely understood it, but after the lack of communication was cleared up, there was no reason for her to doubt anymore and I found it frustrating that she still did. It wasn’t that big of a deal though, I just wished that her strength of character was a bit more stable. I adored Bacchus, and he was definitely the swoon-worthy hero, although there was a subplot to his story that I felt deserved better and I was a bit unsatisfied with how it was concluded.
I had conflicting feelings about the villain and I would definitely say they’re in the “grey” area although I hated them for the most part. 😂 Their motive was technically good–a fight for social justice and equality, but how they went about achieving it and how it ultimately became twisted as they grew obsessed and willing to do anything to achieve it, made them the ruthless murderer in the end. The buildup to the reveal was really strong but I felt that when it came to ‘the big reveal’ it was a little anticlimactic. There was some action but it just seemed so simple and easy to solve after everything the characters went through to get there! That said, it wasn’t a bad ending and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story that much.
Although I had some minor issues with the story, they didn’t greatly impact my overall enjoyment of it. This had a lot of action, a few red herrings that make you question just who the bad guy is, and some exciting and devious twists and turns that keep you on your toes until the end. I do hope this stays a duology because I thought it ended well, but I wouldn’t be unhappy if we got more from Elsie and Bacchus (and the supporting characters?) because they’re all great characters who are so easy to root for! As I enjoyed this so much, I’m definitely keen to try more of Holmberg’s work in the future.
Have you read Spellmaker or Spellbreaker? Is it on your TBR?