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?
Charlie N. Holmberg is an award-winning, best-selling, and internationally published author of fantasy and romantic fiction. She was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters, who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at www.charlienholmberg.com.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Charlie hooked me on her writing style with the Paper Magician series, which is still my favorite of hers, but Spellbreaker was in the same vein and I really liked it. Maybe it's the Victorian setting and the interesting new magic system, but I enjoyed the plot and the main characters. And as usually happens, the tension in the story keeps ramping up until I can't put it down and have to know what happens. We featured an excerpt of this book in the Winter 2020 issue of Deep Magic. Glad I got to read it beforehand!
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!
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.
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?!
Hum... I hadn't realised that this might be best described as a YA fantasy in my opinion. Equally there is a fairly strong "romance" thread that increases in importance. Had I known that I probably wouldn't have read it. By the time I'd worked this out I was maybe 10% in and I was mildly interested so kept going. In the end Elsie is a good character and her "spell breaking" is interesting and well used. This really is not a bad story but equally I can't honestly say I would read book 2 I guess.
A fast-moving story with likeable characters, an interesting magic system, a murder mystery and a budding romance, all set in a Victorian England. Elsie Camden is an orphan, long separated from her original family and rescued from a workhouse by a mysterious benefactor. Elsie works for a stonemason, Ogden, whom she regards as her father, but she has another secret, job. Elsie is also a secret spellbreaker. Spellbreakers can do as their title suggests: break spells created by spellmakers. Both types of magicians are tracked and regulated by the Atheneum, with the organization classifying magicians by their level of proficiency and aptitude for different kinds of magic. Some magicians have scant magic in them, like Ogden, and Masters are full of magic. Spellbreakers like Elsie can sense where a spell is laid, and whether it is physical or otherwise, then take the spell apart. Elsie’s benefactor sends her on missions around London, getting the young woman to break particular spells, saying that these will help the underclasses and thwart the rich. We also meet Bacchus Kelsey, a spell maker from Barbados, in London to qualify as a Master spellmaker. He and Elsie meet when she’s sent to break a spell at the home of a Duke with whom Bacchus is staying and has known all his life. Bacchus catches her at breaking a spell. They know she can be jailed and even killed for being caught practicing while unregistered, so he’s able to easily convince her to help him deal with some spells. Meanwhile, high level magicians, specifically Masters, are being murdered for their opuses (upon death, a Master transforms into a book containing all the spells they know), and the murderer hits quite close to Elsie, dragging her and all her secrets and Bacchus together while they try to figure out what’s going on.
The author introduces several interesting mysteries in this book: -what happened to Elsie’s family? -who are her “invisible” benefactors? -why does Bacchus have multiple spells layered on him and when did these happen? -who put the spells on him? -why is Emmeline scared of their neighbour?
I found this story to be fun and engaging; Elsie is plucky and caring, and I liked the slow build romance between Elsie and Bacchus. On to book two of this duology!
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.
The gist is - parallel universe Victorian England, but where some of the aristocrats are also mages. You have to be either rich or connected to learn magic, even if you are extremely gifted. Magic is taught at "Atheneums", every magical discipline has its own Atheneum. Training outside of an Atheneum is highly illegal. Spells are represented by runes and can either have a long standing area effect (e.g lock spell on a door) or an immediate explosive one (e.g shooting lightning at someone). The heroine Elsie is a Spellbreaker - essentially the opposite of a mage, she can dismantle any spell. Spellbreakers don't have to have formal training to hone their art, and Elsie is illegal since she is unregistered by the authorities. She can't learn to cast spells, just break them. She is also a radical socialist, working for a shadowy organization claiming that her work helps the downtrodden lower class. There are several reasons I didn't like even what I skimmed: 1. Mary Sue heroine 2. Gratuitous descriptions of Victorian England. The writer seemed hellbent on showing us only the fun, upbeat parts of it. Corsets! Romantic serials published weekly! "Chatelaine bag"! (will someone for the love of god tell me what that is? I'm scared) 3. Gratuitous use of vague setting - I realize that historical fiction/fantasy could just be a playful distraction from daily life. However, this novel weaponizes vagueness. It's made clear that magic is not a secret part of this world, but a central basis of its power structures - the whole anemic class struggle (more on that later) is more or less based on this assumption. But there's no background on how the world is affected by magic and its existence. I'd be sort-of fine with that if this novel was an "all-whiter" (my own pun there). But the male hero is from Barbados, and is depicted as a person of color, yet no mention is made of ANY trans-Atlantic matters whatsoever. Is he the child of a slave? Is there slavery in this universe? Barbados is name-dropped, a lot of polite giggling is made about the lovely weather there, and that's it. I repeat, the central male character is from there! Half the novel is from his POV! And yet we learn next to nothing about what kind of life a person of color would be expected to lead in this fictional universe. Even actual Victorian and pre-Victorian novels made references to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was considered a dirty subject back then, but not unmentionable. If the writer is too timid to tackle this, why make your male lead from Barbados at all? Or a POC? 4. Bland central conflict - Elsie the Mary Sue is depicted as hating the upper class and proud to do her part to be taking them down and fighting for the common man, but she mainly just talks about it and thinks it. Apart from unquestioningly committing crimes because an anonymous letter-sender tells her she would be accomplishing good in the world, she doesn't participate in any groups for the betterment of her community, doesn't give alms, and just... sort of hangs around doing god knows what and mooning around. Not to mention that with the exception of 2 snobs, most of the upper class representatives she interacts with are lovely to her. There are no examples of the downtrodden being trodden upon. No horrifying public executions of thieves, illegal mages, or illegal spellbreakers, making this class war look like it exists largely in Elsie's overwrought imagination.
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?
Enthralling. I enjoyed Elsie as a character, and Ogden was so sweet! I also hope we get to learn more about Bacchus and his motivations in the next book. The pacing was a tiny bit slow in the beginning, and the climax was perhaps even a bit too fast, but I still very much enjoyed the reading experience.
I know Charlie likes romance in books way more than I do, so I was a bit fearful that this would be nothing but a kissing book. But I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the whole thing.
It’s set in alternate Victorian England with magic: the wealthy can purchase spells and become titled this way. They are only restricted by how much magic their bodies can absorb. They’re known as spellmakers or aspectors. But spellbreakers are born — these people can be anyone, and they can undo spells.
Elsie was abandoned by her family and sent to a workhouse, where she accidentally undoes a fireproofing spell. When the warehouse burns down, she’s taken in by an organization that pays her for her spellbreaking ability. Grown up, she works for a stonemason and still takes jobs from this Robin Hood-esque organization (though I was very suspicious of their true motives the whole time). Elsie meets a guy, of course, who’s trying to become a master aspector, and then …
This is Elsie for much of the book:
The chain of events was very intriguing and exciting; there was lots of mystery and tantalizing puzzles and twists. The world felt totally real. It was a pleasure to read.
Language: mild Sexual Content: none Violence: hand-to-hand fighting; off-screen murders Harm to Animals: Harm to Children: Other (Triggers): ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
My biggest issue with Spellbreakers was that the pacing started out extremely slow. Nothing exciting or overly interesting happened until about halfway through. The first half was drawn out and easily could've been shorter. The main characters, Elsie and Bacchus, were… pleasant. While their backgrounds were rather interesting, their personalities were unfortunately quiet and bland. So while there wasn't anything major to complain about, they were also somewhat forgettable. The world is unique, being divided by the normal humans, the spellmakers, and the spellbreakers. I liked this idea, but it took a while before the book used these aspects in a way that was actually enjoyable. When the story actually got moving, it was good. However, it took waaay to long to get there, and, in my opinion, there weren't enough positives in this to make up for that. Finally, the ending was pretty exciting, so it is disappointing that the entire book couldn't be that good. Although I'm a little disappointed, I plan on the reading the next one since this is only a duology, and I would like to see how the story wraps up.
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!
I'm a Charlie Holmberg fan. I love her books - the ideas she gets for her stories are so entertaining to read. So I was surprised that I had a difficult time getting into this book. The beginning just took forever to pick up. Some of the pieces felt disjointed. Honestly, it didn't gain momentum until I was halfway through. By then I was understanding the gist of the book and the plot began to thicken. The interesting tidbits at the beginning kept me reading, trying to figure out what the rules of this magical kingdom were. If not for those, I would have given up and stopped reading. Luckily, I did not stop...and I LOVED the storyline at the end! As a heads-up it basically ends on a cliff-hanger, so if you want to finish the story you'll want to grab the next book in the duology. Which I have. This book is full of mystery, magic, secrets, excitement, love, friendship, abandonment and loyalty, and courage to do what is needed and right. All good reasons to read a story, in my opinion.
I was just going to leave this as a DNF and be done, but no, I am BAFFLED. Our hero is half Portuguese, half English, who GREW UP ON HIS FATHER'S "SUCCESSFUL JAMAICAN SUGAR PLANTATION" (fucking YIKES), and introduces himself as "woe, to be back in England, where I am looked at oddly, because I am both a bastard and ~tan~ from my time on the island".
After control+f'ing to find mentions of Bacchus' mother, there is no indication that she was anything but a Portuguese commoner who had a child with Bacchus' titled father out of wedlock. If you're going to have the white white and more white crowd part for our hero like he's an anomaly (on the DOCKS OF LONDON!!!!! LONDON!!!!!!!!!!!), make him something other than "ethnically western european with a tan". That shit doesn't fly with me in a book published within the past five years.
Since I got the ARC of the second book for this Duology, I will let you know that I was pretty excited to dive into the first book. After doing so, I can now say that it was just an okay book. I'm not sure what I'm doing on my end but it seems to be a trend this week where things don't really happen until the end of the book. Which don't get me wrong doesn't always mean it's a bad thing.. but to me, it just makes me bored because nothing is really happening.
That being said Spellbreaker had some pretty interesting parts to it. I thought it was kind of cool that you could be a spellmaker or spellbreaker. Yet, that's all I can really say. Other than the fact that in the beginning Elsie was my little spirit animal because we feel the same way about waiting for the next book. Seriously, waiting is horrible.
Other than that, some things were pretty predictable and I'm still not even sure what to think about the potential romance. All I hope for is some serious character growth and such in the next book.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This was all right. It took me a long time to get invested in the characters and by the end I don't feel any chemistry between them as romantic partners. I do like their friendship and ability to solve murders/crimes together.
Besides Bacchus, the cast is very white. Bacchus is from Barbados and plans to go back once he gets his mastership of magic approved. I liked him in general, but he kind of felt like a cardboard cut out of a character and not a full character. This could be because while he does have a POV it is more split towards Elsie.
Elsie's magic was interesting, but at the end when all the pieces fall, I thought she was very unintelligent. Honestly don't know how she didn't pick up on it sooner.