This is the story of Elsie Camden, a young woman who was born with the ability to unmake spells much like unraveling a sweater.
Set in a semi-Victorian England, Spellbreaker tells the story of young Elsie and her search for stability in her life. Orphaned by her family, Elsie is rescued from the work house by a mysterious group of magic wielding “Robin Hood-esque” types know as the Cowls. Throwing another monkey into the barrel: Elsie is an unregistered and unlicensed magic user (or un-user as it is), so she must hide her abilities and her mysterious jobs for the Cowls.
One one such mission, Elsie runs afoul of almost Master Spellcaster Bacchus Kelsey. Bacchus catches Elsie red-handed, and, rather than turn her over to the authorities, he “gives her the opportunity” to work off her “crimes” with him on the Duke’s estate where he is currently residing.
All along the way, and a recurring theme in this book, Elsie is frantically searching for some news as to the whereabouts of the family that up and left her so many years before.
Going too much further into the plot would reveal spoilers that I’d rather not divulge.
In Spellbreaker, Ms. Holmberg presents a very well-formed environment with oodles of the backstory I just love in a read. While I would have rather enjoyed some more practical displays of the wider variety of magic use, I can appreciate staying on task with the story because there is a lot to unpack.
The characters are all marvelously charismatic and there is a real feel of everyone’s individuality in their interactions (trust me, this is important).
Topping it all off is the cliffhanger that — if I’m being honest — I did not totally see coming.
My one whiny gripe about duologies (or trilogies, for that matter) is the waiting required to get to the conclusion. Luckily, Spellmaker is due out March 9, 2021, so I only have to wait a few months.
Spellbreaker is a fun little read. It has a nice airy mix of magic, mystery, the scandalous hint of romance and Victorian England. The language is light and quaint, and the whole production has all the fond reminiscences of MASTERPIECE Mystery!.