Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden, Joel Froomkin
Series: Spellbreaker Duology #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on November 1, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 9 hours, 47 minutes
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.
Elsie Camden is a spellbreaker who can pull apart enchantments like the threads of a knot—a fact she learned when she started a workhouse fire at the age of ten. Now twenty-one, Elsie divides her time between serving her beloved employer tea and secretly breaking spells that oppress the common man—she always did love the tale of Robin Hood.
When her clandestine activities are uncovered by a maddening-yet-handsome Barbadian spellmaker named Bacchus Kelsey, he cuts her a deal—work for him on the side and he won’t report her illegal spellbreaking to the authorities. Elsie agrees. Meanwhile, the world of magic is in an uproar over the theft of magicians’ opuses—the priceless spells left behind upon a spellmaker’s death. Working for one spellmaker and falling for another, it won’t take long before the murderous bandit strikes too close to home, and Elsie discovers a shockingly personal connection to the crimes.
Oh how I enjoyed this story! One main point of view is Elsie, who works for a stone mason and artist, Ogden. He has been kind to her and it is a good position. She was abandoned by her family at the age of 5 and put into a workhouse. She got her position with Ogden when she was 10. A fire in the workhouse showed her she was a spellbreaker.
Elsie is hard-working and idealistic. She has been doing little spellbreaking tasks for years based on anonymous notes which she believes are for the good of the people. She is like Robin Hood.
In this world of magic, those who do magic are called aspectors and there are different abilities with physical and spiritual. There are also spellbreakers They need to be registered. There are severe penalties for those doing magic who aren’t registered. Mostly it is men who are allowed to practice magic (of course).
Our other point of view is from Bacchus Kelsey who has come from Barbados to finish his master test as an aspector. He is staying with a Duke and his family who are old friends. He needs a certain type of spell to do his final test. His father was English but he looks more like his mother, and is well-tanned from his life in Barbados. He is just trying to finish up his testing and go home. But that does not go smoothly and he learns about many things he didn’t even realize he needed to know.
Elsie is doing her spellbreaking tasks for the “good of the people” and gets caught. This is life-threatening for her since she is not registered. Thus begins her journey in learning more about her magic, the anonymous taskmasters, and her past. Her world is turned on its end. It’s an exciting, terrifying and oddly uplifting story. Elsie and Bacchus are the good guys, in heart and compassion, if not always following the established rules. I highly recommend this adventure with its lovable characters, fascinating magic system, and suspenseful battles; it’s magic!
I have listened to Elizabeth Knowelden in the past and enjoyed her narration. She does very well with Elsie, narrating the chapters from her point of view. Joel Froomkin was new to me but I came to appreciate his voice for Bacchus in the chapters sharing his viewpoint. I always enjoy the regional accents, as this is set in London and the surrounding areas. I was able to listen at my usual 1.5x speed.
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