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A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician. 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 ma A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician. 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?


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A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician. 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 ma A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician. 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?

30 review for Spellbreaker

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Holmberg

    In a world where magic is owned by the rich and spellbooks spawn from wizards’ corpses, one woman has the power to unravel it all . . . if she doesn’t get caught. If you love Victorian stories, magic, or cozy mysteries, this book is for you! Preorder on Amazon: bit.ly/2vVK8s5 In a world where magic is owned by the rich and spellbooks spawn from wizards’ corpses, one woman has the power to unravel it all . . . if she doesn’t get caught. If you love Victorian stories, magic, or cozy mysteries, this book is for you! Preorder on Amazon: bit.ly/2vVK8s5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cathy | A Case Full of Books

    Fans of Charlie Holmberg will absolutely love this. It felt very similar to Paper Magician while being something entirely unique. I could not put it down. (Except when I had to take care of my children. How rude of them.) The magic is intriguing, the characters so well developed, and the plot pulls you right in. How Charlie continues to write amazing book after amazing book is mind boggling. I'm sure glad she does, though. The only downside is...waiting for book two. 😭 Fans of Charlie Holmberg will absolutely love this. It felt very similar to Paper Magician while being something entirely unique. I could not put it down. (Except when I had to take care of my children. How rude of them.) The magic is intriguing, the characters so well developed, and the plot pulls you right in. How Charlie continues to write amazing book after amazing book is mind boggling. I'm sure glad she does, though. The only downside is...waiting for book two. 😭

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    In the first of a two-book series, Holmberg introduces us to a young spellbreaker as distinguished from a spellmaker. If you are looking for gritty, rough-edged realistic fantasy, this is probably not the novel for you. Geared for a younger dreamier audience, it gives us a Victorian England filled with all manner of magic spells. Just not my cup of tea.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    I enjoyed this world! Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Goldberg has a fascinating world of magic, terrific characters, and a great plot. The characters are well developed and I can't help liking Bacchus with him being a kind of underdog although he is rich. An out of wedlock child and darker skin than the English snobs he is not "one of us". The plot has lots of surprises and twists. Keeps me guessing! I enjoyed this world! Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Goldberg has a fascinating world of magic, terrific characters, and a great plot. The characters are well developed and I can't help liking Bacchus with him being a kind of underdog although he is rich. An out of wedlock child and darker skin than the English snobs he is not "one of us". The plot has lots of surprises and twists. Keeps me guessing!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eloise Smith

    I have very mixed feelings now I've finished Spellbreaker. Having seen this come up as a choice on October's Amazon First Reads, it sounded right up my street. Elsie is an illegal spellbreaker, she knows of magic but cannot perform spells, only break them. How does she know she is a spellbreaker, well she frequently receives letters from a mystery organisation she refers to as the Cowls that ask her to break spells that keep the rich and poor separate. Elsie therefore considers herself a Robin H I have very mixed feelings now I've finished Spellbreaker. Having seen this come up as a choice on October's Amazon First Reads, it sounded right up my street. Elsie is an illegal spellbreaker, she knows of magic but cannot perform spells, only break them. How does she know she is a spellbreaker, well she frequently receives letters from a mystery organisation she refers to as the Cowls that ask her to break spells that keep the rich and poor separate. Elsie therefore considers herself a Robin Hood type character and enjoys the under cover work she does. Bacchus has come to London from Barbados; his aim to become a master aspector. Aspectors are those that can perform magic and whose spells Elsie can break. One day Bacchus catches Elsie breaking a spell and to prevent being caught by anyone else, they strike a bargain. Elsie will help Bacchus fix spells around the Seven Oaks estate where he is currently residing. It soon becomes clear that something mysterious is going on, murders of aspectors are becoming more frequent and the robbery of their opuses also. An opus is the object an aspector leaves behind when they die and it contains all of their spells, hence it is a valuable item. Elsie and Bacchus find themselves closer to the mystery than they realised and we join them as they try to uncover the secrets of the aspector and spellbreaker world. How good does that sound? A unique concept based in Victorian England, I felt sure I'd love it. Sadly I didn't, in fact for about 70% of the book I was willing it to end and almost dnf - I'm so sorry to say that. I expected to love Elsie, she just wants to do what's right and help those in need. As soon as we met Bacchus, I thought he'd be a potential love interest and that I'd enjoy their chemistry throughout. Yet, I didn't warm to any characters, there were many of them and some of them took me a while to remember. Elsie and Bacchus' relationship felt forced.. I felt no chemistry between them whatsoever sadly. I appreciate that as this was a unique magic concept, a lot of explanation was needed to understand it but for the first 100 pages of the book I felt like nothing really happened. That is quite a chunk of the book with nothing catching my interest. My rating was going to be only 1 star, however, the last 20% of the book - I really enjoyed! There was much more action, anticipation and more importantly, magic! I even thought about upping my rating to 3 stars, but then the book just ended. Just like that. So many unanswered questions! I know there is a second book, but as some others have mentioned, it feels like one book was split in half. Will I read the second book? I'm not sure, I have no urge to find out what happens and no real attachment to the characters. I had such high hopes and was sadly left disappointed. I believe I am in the minority as so many people seemed to love this book which is great, but for me it was not the book I hoped for.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Thanks so much to the author for sending me an advance copy of Spellbreaker! Charlie has been a favorite author since I read her Paper Magician series. What I loved about that series is her ability to create unique magic systems yet write in a way that’s easy to understand. Though her worlds aren’t complex fantasy, they’re still fun and full of adventure. Spellbreaker continues that, though the magic system in this book starts out a little more vague. In this world, there are two types of wizards Thanks so much to the author for sending me an advance copy of Spellbreaker! Charlie has been a favorite author since I read her Paper Magician series. What I loved about that series is her ability to create unique magic systems yet write in a way that’s easy to understand. Though her worlds aren’t complex fantasy, they’re still fun and full of adventure. Spellbreaker continues that, though the magic system in this book starts out a little more vague. In this world, there are two types of wizards – the wealthy who make spells and those born with the ability to break them. Elsie Camden is a spellbreaker, and she can sense the invisible runes of spells and pull them apart like loosening a knot. She’s spent much of her life secretly breaking spells for a discreet group that makes her feel as though her work is benefiting the less fortunate. Though the book got off to a bit of a slow start explaining the backstory, once Elsie encounters Bacchus Kelsey – recently returned to England to receive his promotion to mastership in spellmaking – the intrigue really picks up. As they work together to fix spells at an estate, the two learn to trust and appreciate each other. And it’s because of this new friendship that Elsie discovers the deception occurring in her life. Overall, I really enjoyed Spellbreaker. Like the Paper Magician series, it was a fun, light read with well-written characters and interesting magic system. It did take a while for me to understand the magic, and at the end of the book it’s still not quite clear to me. But I’m sure more will be explained in book two! And once the action picked up, the book was really hard to put down. Several twists in the end set up nicely for the next book. Elsie was a lovely character who has such a heart for the less fortunate due to her tragic past, and Bacchus is a perfect contrast to her background. It was interesting to see how well their opposing stories wove together as the two became friends. Wish I had the next book now! But I loved this enough that I’d be happy reading it again in the meantime. Spellbreaker will be available on September 8, 2020!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    How do I love Charlie N Holmberg’s writing… let me count the ways. Each one of her stories has a strong female lead who has such impeccable morals and a practical head on her shoulders. They are so easy to fall in love with and root for. I was a huge fan of The Paper Magician series, as well as The Will and the Wilds. She has a way of building a magical world without completely overwhelming you in unnecessary world building. You dive right in with a character who is easy to identify with, and th How do I love Charlie N Holmberg’s writing… let me count the ways. Each one of her stories has a strong female lead who has such impeccable morals and a practical head on her shoulders. They are so easy to fall in love with and root for. I was a huge fan of The Paper Magician series, as well as The Will and the Wilds. She has a way of building a magical world without completely overwhelming you in unnecessary world building. You dive right in with a character who is easy to identify with, and the world is slowly unraveled to you. I also love in most cases that while they are little trails along the way… The big baddie often takes a while to be revealed. Her love interests are done just right for my taste as well, there is no overt steam just the right amount of flirtation. In the story, Elsie is hiding from the law, due to her unregistered power to destroy spells. She is blackmailed into being a weapon for a secret society but is given little details on the reasons for the spells she is breaking. The truth of what she’s unknowingly embroiled herself in is bigger than she could imagine. Giving this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 because cliffhanger endings make me cranky. This one wrapped up enough to be satisfied but left us a huge nugget for the last page. This was one of Amazon Prime’s First Reads for October... so check it out. All her other books are on Kindle Unlimited... so what are you waiting for?!

  8. 4 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Annie Deo Spellbreaker is the first in a new duology by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. It’s set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is commonplace, although of course it’s primarily only the wealthy white male wizards who are allowed to gain power and prestige through their abilities. Our heroine Elsie Camden is a lowly orphan who happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and part of a clandestine group Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Annie Deo Spellbreaker is the first in a new duology by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. It’s set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is commonplace, although of course it’s primarily only the wealthy white male wizards who are allowed to gain power and prestige through their abilities. Our heroine Elsie Camden is a lowly orphan who happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and part of a clandestine group she refers to as The Cowls, who undertake altruistic missions to protect common-born folks against the abuse of the magical elite. During one of her goodwill assignments, her covert spellbreaking is discovered by another wizard Bacchus Kelsey and she is forced to make a deal with him to avoid prison. As more secrets and responsibilities pile up with Elsie struggling to meet her obligations to various masters, her heart becomes engaged and her loyalties are tested like never before. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  9. 5 out of 5

    booksnpenguins

    QUEEN IS BACK!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book got much better as it went along. I had a lot of trouble in the first quarter of the book - the rules of the world are many and confusing, and there are lots of characters and places. The narration also switches characters, making it even more confusing. But by the middle, I was enjoying myself even though I wasn’t quite sure how I had gotten there, and the end finished strong. I did not expect the ending and was satisfied! However, there are also several clear cliffhangers left open f This book got much better as it went along. I had a lot of trouble in the first quarter of the book - the rules of the world are many and confusing, and there are lots of characters and places. The narration also switches characters, making it even more confusing. But by the middle, I was enjoying myself even though I wasn’t quite sure how I had gotten there, and the end finished strong. I did not expect the ending and was satisfied! However, there are also several clear cliffhangers left open for the next book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    A truly remarkable book. I would go as far as to say this is Charlie's next "Paper Magician" series and one fans, myself included, will want more from for years to come. Ellie is a unregistered Spellbreaker working for a secret society of Robin Hood type vigilantes. Bacchus is in England to gain his Master title in Physical Aspectorship (Physical magic) When their world's collide a greater mystery is unveiled. Who can you trust? A truly remarkable book. I would go as far as to say this is Charlie's next "Paper Magician" series and one fans, myself included, will want more from for years to come. Ellie is a unregistered Spellbreaker working for a secret society of Robin Hood type vigilantes. Bacchus is in England to gain his Master title in Physical Aspectorship (Physical magic) When their world's collide a greater mystery is unveiled. Who can you trust?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gobookmart

    Spellbreaker is my very first book by Charlie Holmberg and her writing style has fascinated me to the point where in am looking forward to read more of her work. The world building and writing pulled me in right from the beginning and kept me locked in. I thought the idea, plot, and characters were all one of a kind. Elsie is an illegal spellbreaker, she is aware of sorcery yet can’t perform spells, just break them. How can she realize she is a spellbreaker, well she as often gets letters from a Spellbreaker is my very first book by Charlie Holmberg and her writing style has fascinated me to the point where in am looking forward to read more of her work. The world building and writing pulled me in right from the beginning and kept me locked in. I thought the idea, plot, and characters were all one of a kind. Elsie is an illegal spellbreaker, she is aware of sorcery yet can’t perform spells, just break them. How can she realize she is a spellbreaker, well she as often gets letters from a secret association she refers to as the Cowls that request her to break spells that keep the rich and poor separate. That the reason Elsie views herself as a Robin Hood type character and appreciates the under cover work she does. Bacchus has come to London from Barbados; his plan to turn into an expert aspector. Aspectors are those that can perform sorcery and whose spells Elsie can break. One day Bacchus see Elsie breaking a spell and to forestall being caught by any other person, they make a deal. Elsie will help Bacchus fix spells around the Seven Oaks bequest where he is at present living. It soon become certain that something baffling is going on, murders of aspectors are turning out to be more continuous and the theft of their opuses moreover. An opus is the object an aspector gives up when they die and it contains the entirety of their spells, thus it is an important thing. Elsie and Bacchus gets closer to the mystery than they understood and we go with them as they attempt to reveal the mysteries of the aspector and spellbreaker world. Set in a fantastical Victorian England with some staggering world, this read too quick and fun. I love Elsie’s unique abilities. There is an extraordinary sentiment developed and various plotlines that all captivated me. I wasn’t focusing and didn’t understand this is two book story so I wasn’t ready for the cliffhanger-like completion. March 2021 is quite a while to hold on to perceive what occurs. All around suggested. Website : https://gobookmart.com/spellbreaker-b... Follow us : Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/GoBookMart1/ Twitter : https://twitter.com/gobookmart2 Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/gobookmart/

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aly

    This is a book with two kinds of magical abilities: those who can cast spells and those who unravel the spells. It seems that people who can cast are higher class and admired and those who unravel are either working class or operating illegally. Our main characters are one of each magical kind, Elsie is a secret spellbreaker and working for an underground organization. Bacchus is wealthy and trying to create a master spell. They come from different worlds but end up making a good team when they This is a book with two kinds of magical abilities: those who can cast spells and those who unravel the spells. It seems that people who can cast are higher class and admired and those who unravel are either working class or operating illegally. Our main characters are one of each magical kind, Elsie is a secret spellbreaker and working for an underground organization. Bacchus is wealthy and trying to create a master spell. They come from different worlds but end up making a good team when they pair up. Most of the action in this happened at the end of the book. There were a couple twists and some nice fighting scenes and I wish it had been dispersed more evenly throughout the story. There isn't really any romance in this either, though there's the potential for sure. I'm hoping we'll see Elsie and Bacchus get together in the sequel. I thought the magic was a bit lackluster, some people used their powers to paint a room, boring. Of course at the end we saw some crazy powers so there is hope!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Very very good. First of all , as my headline says...this was a very well written story. It kept me guessing the entire time. Even close to the end, I was wrong on several fronts. Magic is not my favorite story subject, and I came close to not reading it; but I'm glad I did. The heroine is extremely likeable and relatable. She can be duped, but not because the author makes her stupid; but because she is human. I am not a fan of "to be continued" stories, but this seems to be a trend that's here to Very very good. First of all , as my headline says...this was a very well written story. It kept me guessing the entire time. Even close to the end, I was wrong on several fronts. Magic is not my favorite story subject, and I came close to not reading it; but I'm glad I did. The heroine is extremely likeable and relatable. She can be duped, but not because the author makes her stupid; but because she is human. I am not a fan of "to be continued" stories, but this seems to be a trend that's here to stay. That being said, it ended in a good place that didn't leave you feeling frustrated. Magic in the "open", part of everyday society, was an unusual direction...but I think it worked. I'm also glad the romance part was understated. That would have turned me off it it had dominated the narrative. Overall, well done! I may not continue this series because this is not my favorite genre, but the fact that I'm considering it, testifies to how good this author is.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Once again, I am completely and utterly impressed by this magical world Holmberg has created. I could not put this book down, and gravitated toward it every time I had a few free seconds where I might be able to read a little more. I was immediately drawn into this story, each chapter pulling me deeper and deeper as this amazing book unraveled like the spells Elsie was breaking. There were twists and turns abound, and my mind was working constantly trying to figure out what was coming next, what Once again, I am completely and utterly impressed by this magical world Holmberg has created. I could not put this book down, and gravitated toward it every time I had a few free seconds where I might be able to read a little more. I was immediately drawn into this story, each chapter pulling me deeper and deeper as this amazing book unraveled like the spells Elsie was breaking. There were twists and turns abound, and my mind was working constantly trying to figure out what was coming next, what the answer to every question I came up with could possibly be. I loved Elsie - strong and sure and with a strong sense of justice; hurt from a past I suspect is more involved than we know. I loved Baccus, and I’m so hoping to learn more about him in the next book. I am not ready to let this story or it’s characters go. I need to know what happens next!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    Set in an alternative-reality Victorian England, where magic rules [though typically only by rich men], Spellbreaker tells the story of Elsie Camden, an orphan who is also an illegal spellbreaker [which means she knows of magic but cannot perform spells, only break them], unregistered and working in the shadows. Aided by a group she has labeled "the cowls", she works in the shadows, breaking spells and making life better for those who have been trapped by said spells. Then she is caught by Bacch Set in an alternative-reality Victorian England, where magic rules [though typically only by rich men], Spellbreaker tells the story of Elsie Camden, an orphan who is also an illegal spellbreaker [which means she knows of magic but cannot perform spells, only break them], unregistered and working in the shadows. Aided by a group she has labeled "the cowls", she works in the shadows, breaking spells and making life better for those who have been trapped by said spells. Then she is caught by Bacchus, [who is in England to gain his Master title in Physical Aspectorship (Physical magic)], who lives at the Squires house that Elsie is at to break a spell and in exchange for his silence, she is required to work for him [along with her regular work for the stone mason/painter Ogden]. And in doing so, opens a can of worms that leaves you guessing throughout the whole book and wondering just what is right, wrong and true. A great start to what is a duology from Charlie N. Holmberg [who I am a huge fan of], I am really looking forward to book 2! Thank you to NetGalley, Charlie N. Holmberg and 47North for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brinley

    After having a friend recommend this to me, I had high hopes. I was expecting a fantasy with complex characters, a thought out plot, and twists that shocked me. This was about halfway there. Spellbreaker follows Elsie, a young woman working for an unskilled spellmaker. After being saved by a group she calls the Cowls, she owes them, and to pay off that debt, they send her on missions using her ability to break spells. Soon, spellmakers are being killed for their knowledge, and Elsie is on a miss After having a friend recommend this to me, I had high hopes. I was expecting a fantasy with complex characters, a thought out plot, and twists that shocked me. This was about halfway there. Spellbreaker follows Elsie, a young woman working for an unskilled spellmaker. After being saved by a group she calls the Cowls, she owes them, and to pay off that debt, they send her on missions using her ability to break spells. Soon, spellmakers are being killed for their knowledge, and Elsie is on a mission to figure out who is killing them. I absolutely loved the magic system in this! Using the terms Spellbreaker and spellmaker was super smart, because it differentiated the two without confusing the reader. I’d never read a fantasy with a character who could undo spells, and I loved it. The magic system was well though out, and I loved all of the small details we are treated to. My real problem with this book was the utter predictability. It was painful. From around the 20% mark, I’d predicted most of the ending, which is never a good sign. I really wish that at least one of the twists would’ve shocked me, but instead, I was kept waiting. So much of this was just Elsie wandering around, so I was expecting an epic climax that I didn’t receive. The romance in this was very laid back, and although it might’ve worked for my friend, it didn’t work for me. This book needed something to spice it up, to differentiate it from the scores of other fantasies. If the romance had any substance, it might’ve been the magic ingredient. I really liked Bacchus and Elsie together, so I wish we would’ve seen them together. I can see why people would love this for the limited romance, but I was looking for more. I would like to say that when I started this, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I had a buddy read for it planned, so I had to get it done, even though it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted a fluffy romance, so a simplistic fantasy wasn’t the right thing for me. If I had read this at a different time, I might’ve enjoyed it more, but I guess we’ll never know. Thanks to Charlie N. Holmberg and Netgalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    It takes a special kind of writer to get me excited about genres I don't normally read. Charlie N. Holmberg is one of those writers. This novel, the first in a duology, is a masterful blend of historical fiction and fantasy that made me wish that the sequel was already out. The world building and magic system are well-planned and believable, the characters sympathetic and relatable, and the plot compelling in a way that makes the book difficult to put down. I'm happy to have discovered this very It takes a special kind of writer to get me excited about genres I don't normally read. Charlie N. Holmberg is one of those writers. This novel, the first in a duology, is a masterful blend of historical fiction and fantasy that made me wish that the sequel was already out. The world building and magic system are well-planned and believable, the characters sympathetic and relatable, and the plot compelling in a way that makes the book difficult to put down. I'm happy to have discovered this very talented author!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha W.

    This book wasn't bad per se. I will probably read the second one because I want to know what happens. I really didn't like how long it took to get where it was going. Also, I generally struggle with this author. So maybe it's just me. This book wasn't bad per se. I will probably read the second one because I want to know what happens. I really didn't like how long it took to get where it was going. Also, I generally struggle with this author. So maybe it's just me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tien

    In this alternate Victorian England, some are born with magical ability. They are required to be registered but not all could afford registration much less the training. Elsie Camden is sort of an orphan. For reason unknown she was left behind at a place far from home and found herself in a workhouse until a fire and a stranger 'rescued' her. The price of this rescue, however, was to go on missions for which purposes are mostly mysterious to her until the day another stranger accosted her. Spellb In this alternate Victorian England, some are born with magical ability. They are required to be registered but not all could afford registration much less the training. Elsie Camden is sort of an orphan. For reason unknown she was left behind at a place far from home and found herself in a workhouse until a fire and a stranger 'rescued' her. The price of this rescue, however, was to go on missions for which purposes are mostly mysterious to her until the day another stranger accosted her. Spellbreaker is a fun, past-paced read full of magic, intriguing mystery, and lovely (subtle) romance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the world building was interesting and the characters were well rendered. And, as always, the clean content was appreciated. However, I have to admit that I found the magic of this world a little simplistic, both in its explanation and its actuality. It was also a little strange. The characters themselves were relatable and likable. I enjoyed that, while the MCs inhabited rather disparate worlds, the author still succeeded in making me root I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the world building was interesting and the characters were well rendered. And, as always, the clean content was appreciated. However, I have to admit that I found the magic of this world a little simplistic, both in its explanation and its actuality. It was also a little strange. The characters themselves were relatable and likable. I enjoyed that, while the MCs inhabited rather disparate worlds, the author still succeeded in making me root for them as a couple. I didn't feel that either of them had to give up too much of their own identities to make room for the other person. Hopefully, that's a trend that continues in the second book. The plot itself was simple enough for me to understand yet complex enough to have substance to carry it over into another book. The naivete of the heroine was a bit frustrating, but again, I understand why she was like that, being an orphan really coloured her limited view of the world. Overall, I'm definitely going to give this series a solid and read the second book. This one was interesting and engaging enough for me to want to find out what happens in the end.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda Kovic-Skow

    Spellbreaker was a well-written, intriguing story filled with mysteries that kept me turning pages. Elsie and Bucchus were well matched and interesting characters. BUT, and this is a big one, why not end the book with a more satisfying ending? This easily could have been a five-star novel.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Babel

    Cozy mystery, magic spells, and quirky romance. Oh, my. This is perfect for fans of The Paper Magician. I am one of them, of course :-D With an atmosphere touched by Jane Austen, this Victorian mystery is crafted with wit and charm in equal measure. Elsie Camden is a smart, resourceful orphan working for a stonemason while dabbing in espionage and illegal wizardry. Can you imagine an alternative England where magic is almost monopolized by the aristocracy, mainly in male hands and excruciatingly Cozy mystery, magic spells, and quirky romance. Oh, my. This is perfect for fans of The Paper Magician. I am one of them, of course :-D With an atmosphere touched by Jane Austen, this Victorian mystery is crafted with wit and charm in equal measure. Elsie Camden is a smart, resourceful orphan working for a stonemason while dabbing in espionage and illegal wizardry. Can you imagine an alternative England where magic is almost monopolized by the aristocracy, mainly in male hands and excruciatingly monitored? Here is this Robin Hood's helper, all prim and proper, using her clandestine magic to disenchant a world full of injustice and poverty. Mysteries abound on all scales, be they a cursed crop or a murderer after master spells. It's utterly engaging. I loved the blend of costumbrist society and quaint villages with a woman in pursuit of her roots, social justice and female identity, set in a plutocracy of magic where spells are hoarded for the privileged but are still employed in such practical ways. This world of nineteenth century England echoes with etiquette, chaperones, tea, and carriages, yet is believably woven with a myriad of magic details. I think we are predisposed to believe in an enchanted London, aren’t we? I adored this tall, talented, vulnerable and brave heroine, so intent on doing the right thing and therefore the ideal character to fall in the middle of this plot of deceit and power. The male counterpart is both arresting on his own and flows beautifully into the events, which may seem scattered at the beginning but emerge as a masterful tapestry in the action-and-magic filled ending. The resolution is satisfying enough to offer a complex villain and partial enough to open a path towards a broader scope of secrets to be unraveled in the next book. I'm ready for more adventure, more slow-burn yet exciting romance and a colourful assortment of mysteries to decipher. (This is my opinion of a book from netgalley)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Wideman

    I really enjoyed this book and I hope the second in the series is just as well written. It kept me interested throughout and I loved all of the characters.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arielle Lawson

    I loved this tale. It effortlessly combined magic, mystery, danger, love, and a deep sense of yearning and family that I believe resonates within all. Even if you've never been in the predicaments of Elsie or Bacchus, it is easy to put yourself in their shoes. Its even easier to fall into the story, to lose yourself in the suspense, the urgency, the mystery. I loved this tale. It effortlessly combined magic, mystery, danger, love, and a deep sense of yearning and family that I believe resonates within all. Even if you've never been in the predicaments of Elsie or Bacchus, it is easy to put yourself in their shoes. Its even easier to fall into the story, to lose yourself in the suspense, the urgency, the mystery.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jan farnworth

    I am a huge fan of the Paper Magician series as it shows the uniqueness of an author who can develop ​magical systems like this. In this series, we have Spellbreakers who can see a spell and take the knots of it and untangle it to where it no longer works. Their also Spellmakers which take center stage for the second half of this duology. Our main character is drawn into a world of magical intrigue by a group she has dubbed "the cowls". She balances her duties at a stone masonry and as a rouge S I am a huge fan of the Paper Magician series as it shows the uniqueness of an author who can develop ​magical systems like this. In this series, we have Spellbreakers who can see a spell and take the knots of it and untangle it to where it no longer works. Their also Spellmakers which take center stage for the second half of this duology. Our main character is drawn into a world of magical intrigue by a group she has dubbed "the cowls". She balances her duties at a stone masonry and as a rouge Spellbreaker for this group. She becomes entangled with an intriguing gentleman named Bacchus who is also caught up in what turns to be a whole coup. The balance of what we know and what we learn is so seamless that I was caught up in the same issues as our main character. I was cheering for all the good she believes she is doing and hurt for how things come to light in the end. I dying for the sequel Spellmaker due out in March of 2021.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hazel

    A new to me author chosen from Amazon first reads. Elsie is an unregistered spell breaker who was taken from the workhouse as a child by a mysterious man who seems to be part of the Cowls. She doesn’t know who they are but the Cowls give her secret missions to break spells to ‘help’ the common man. Whilst on one of these missions she is detected and faces severe punishment because she isn’t registered but Baccheus Kelsey keeps her secret and gets her to help him instead. At the same time there i A new to me author chosen from Amazon first reads. Elsie is an unregistered spell breaker who was taken from the workhouse as a child by a mysterious man who seems to be part of the Cowls. She doesn’t know who they are but the Cowls give her secret missions to break spells to ‘help’ the common man. Whilst on one of these missions she is detected and faces severe punishment because she isn’t registered but Baccheus Kelsey keeps her secret and gets her to help him instead. At the same time there is someone murdering aspectors and stealing their opuses which are their spells that form once they have passed. It was an intriguing read and I would like to read the next one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    In a world where magic is carefully regulated and the practitioners described as “aspectors,” things can be quite dangerous for an unlicensed practitioner. Spellbreaker, a fantasy/romance, features marvelous characters and a fascinating setting. The rules of magic are consistent and the “aspectors” are generally specialists because of the control of spells by the atheneums created to govern the use of magic, as well as the cost of acquiring the spells (described in a creative way as special magi In a world where magic is carefully regulated and the practitioners described as “aspectors,” things can be quite dangerous for an unlicensed practitioner. Spellbreaker, a fantasy/romance, features marvelous characters and a fascinating setting. The rules of magic are consistent and the “aspectors” are generally specialists because of the control of spells by the atheneums created to govern the use of magic, as well as the cost of acquiring the spells (described in a creative way as special magical coinage known as “drops”). Much of the action is balanced between an Advanced Aspector who is nearing his confirmation as Master (and has the advantage of being male and of a privileged class) and a female who has a phenomenal capacity for unraveling spells. Indeed, it is that idea of untying the knots of a spell to make it impotent (or dissipate) that makes Spellbreaker have the potential to be “spellbinding.” The best part of the novel is that the female protagonist, Elsie Camden, is able to undo the magical runes which, according to her unidentified sponsors, oppress and provide injustices on the poor. Yet, there is an ongoing unveiling of the identities of those sponsors. It is a fascinating mystery but, alas, it only seems that Elsie is obsessed with this regarding her future but not urgently for survival. Of course, working (under a combination of extortion and obligation) creates its own ongoing tension analogous to those self-destructing messages at the beginning of the Mission: Impossible. And, this becomes particularly problematic as she is caught in the process of undoing a spell (illegally, since she is not registered) and forced to do the equivalent of “community service” (though unofficially, since she was being extorted by an individual). Later, the identity of this extortionist and his motivation is made more transparent (plausible and interesting). Elsie’s immediate patron, her father-figure named Ogden, expresses something about the newspapers that is still true with modern media in all its forms: “Journalists do not pay their rent reporting on how well things are going, unless it is in regards to the queen.” (p. 186). In addition, there is an intriguing mystery concerning the pattern of church attendance among the female protagonist and her father-figure’s household. Church attendance was expected, but “Only the church they attended changed more often than the season.” (p. 75) Although it seems a minor mystery and the significance is foreshadowed immediately, this minor mystery is part of the overall mystery to be unveiled: “Not every church employed a spiritual aspector, but it helped their numbers to guarantee some sort of blessing at the end of a sermon.” (p. 76). That isn’t a spoiler because one needs context to understand the foreshadowing to any degree and most readers won’t understand until the author chooses to reveal the significance. Spellbreaker is worth reading and has a plethora of interesting ideas in its universe. For me, it could have been great fantasy instead of merely something liked. There were lots of things to like about the book, but there was no overarching sense of urgency driving the plot until quite late in the story. And, amazingly to me, even when one reaches the end of the novel, there are so many unanswered questions that one wonders why this sense of urgency couldn’t have been there from the beginning. Fantasy world-building? Nice! Characters one cares about? Yes! Pacing? Not so much. But perhaps, unlike some reviewers, just because I rate something as “okay” doesn’t mean that I will not check out another in the series. I still have hope.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ Spellbreaker is a late Victorianish urban fantasy featuring a decent magical system and a smattering of thought-provoking ideas. The characters felt a bit dense and thin but there is enough action and mystery to keep the plot moving. A lot of the 'twists' are overly telegraphed in the beginning, creating a tendency to make the protagonist look fairly stupid. There are also some 'sexual tension' aspects of a romance th More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ Spellbreaker is a late Victorianish urban fantasy featuring a decent magical system and a smattering of thought-provoking ideas. The characters felt a bit dense and thin but there is enough action and mystery to keep the plot moving. A lot of the 'twists' are overly telegraphed in the beginning, creating a tendency to make the protagonist look fairly stupid. There are also some 'sexual tension' aspects of a romance that seem out of place and unnecessary. But in all, it is a decent read that is easy to follow. Story: Ellie was abandoned by her family when she was young and taken in by a kindly family. But they could not afford to keep her and she was sent to the orphanage. Fortunately for Ellie, a stranger intervened and brought her to a new home and with a new purpose: to secretly help the poor and downtrodden by using her unusual ability of being a spellbreaker. As she grows up, she does small jobs, unweaving spells that help the 'cowls' (as she calls them) save the downtrodden from the wealthy lords of the land. Ellie hasn't given up on finding her lost family, though. When one assignment go awry she finds herself at the mercy of Lord Bacchus - who also has a specific mission he needs to accomplish. While their goals are different they both find the other useful and soon dsicover themselves embroiled in a world-wide mystery involving the deaths of several magicians. There are some interesting mysteries: who is killing the magicians, where are Ellie's parents, who are the mysterious 'cowls' who rescued her, and what is Bacchus's background? As well, there is a lot of action in the form of Ellie doing her 'assignments' to help the poor (e.g., dispelling a ward that makes a doorhandle burn when used at night, locking in the workers unfairly), that Ellie is an unlicensed spellbreaker and therefore would be put to death if discovered, and the politics of the magicians in which Bacchus operates. The book has two POVs, Bacchus and Ellie, though the focus is mainly on Ellie. There aren't any side characters of note other than the artist who takes care of Ellie like a father and another young girl who helps out at his shop. As a result, Bacchus' storyline can feel very under developed since there isn't a lot of focus on him. The 'romance' in the middle is the typical "oh, I touched his abdomen and it is so hard and masculine' type of thing that kind of makes you roll your eyes, especially since it happens during very tense situations where you'd think the character would be spending the time thinking of her dangerous situation instead. Of course, there is a lot of one noting the smell of the other in some romantic terms. In all, I did enjoy Spellbreaker. I wish the heroine didn't feel quite so stupid and dense and that the male character was better developed and less of romance-hero cliche. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna Weaver

    WHAT IT'S ABOUT In Victorian England, there are two kinds of wizards: those rich enough to make spells and the rare few born with the ability to break them. MY TAKE I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. It was narrated by a man and a woman. Elizabeth Knowelden did a great job; Joel Froomkin was just okay, but it didn't take away much from my enjoyment of the story. The tale itself was intriguing. Holmberg does a great job with her magic systems, and Spellbreaker was no different. Elsie WHAT IT'S ABOUT In Victorian England, there are two kinds of wizards: those rich enough to make spells and the rare few born with the ability to break them. MY TAKE I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. It was narrated by a man and a woman. Elizabeth Knowelden did a great job; Joel Froomkin was just okay, but it didn't take away much from my enjoyment of the story. The tale itself was intriguing. Holmberg does a great job with her magic systems, and Spellbreaker was no different. Elsie Camdem's magical ability of taking apart spells is against the law--but only because she's not registered. Abandoned as a child, she spent years in a workhouse until at the age of 11 she accidentally broke a fire protection spell and the place burned down. The law is severe against unregistered people, so Elsie can't admit what she can do. But she has a purpose, something given to her by the "cowls" (a name she gave the people who send her on secret missions to undo spells that she's told are being used to injure or subjugate poor people). It's on one of those that Elsie's caught by Bacchus Kelsey, who's visiting England to gain his mastery in magic. They work out a deal: he won't turn her over to law as an unregistered Spellbreaker, and she will work with him around his host's estate to undo negative spells. There's a lot going on in the story, including the murder of magic users, a search for Elsie's missing family, and a growing trust between her and Bacchus. I enjoyed the twists. There was one point where I was getting irritated by Elsie's naiveté and ready to stop reading when everything is turned upside down. Then the action really takes off. There's resolution for the main storyline but not for another part. I'm looking forward to the next book. 4 1/2 stars

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