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Snowspelled: Volume I of The Harwood Spellbook Kindle Edition
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Cassandra is spiky, frustrated, frustrating, charming and captivating, all at the same time. We don’t see much of her ex-fiancé until the end, but when he turns up, he’s rather a character. Cassandra’s surrounding characters are fun, too – notably the strong-minded, political Amy and Cassandra’s scholarly brother Jonathan, in amongst a host of others. The plot is moderately complex, but relatively easy to follow – and all gets explained at the end – and the action is fun. I’m not entirely certain we found out what actually caused Cassandra’s accident, so it felt that this was a little glossed over… but maybe that’s in the next book? The worldbuilding is fun, too; even though the action is restricted to (mostly) one place, we get a brilliant sense of the political structure, the social niceties, the gossip and the courtesies that make up the world.
This is going to be a series, which is going to be great – this first story is a light-hearted read with an occasional thought-provoking undertone, and was definitely enjoyable. Pick it up if you think you’ll like your Regency romances with a dash of magic!
I could save you a lot of time and just write 'It's brilliant - buy it!' but in case you're not feeling very trusting and need a little more convincing, here's the long version:
Snowspelled is set in an alternate version of 18th century England, in which magic exists and is part of everyday life. Burgis plays with gender roles by having them clearly defined but reversed. Women are the politicians and men are the magicians. No exceptions tolerated. Men can be compromised by women, not vice-versa. Women have more potential strength and agency than in our own 18th century society , but a similar lack of choice and personal freedom operates if you don't or can't fit into the accepted norms . One of the reasons I like SB is that her heroines are never satisfied with the status quo and are always pushing past the limits of what society deems acceptable. This heroine, Cassandra, is no exception. She cannot see a 'no' without responding 'why not?' and 'I will'. This has caused her significant problems by the time the book begins because she was born with magic - unusually strong magic - and her brother was not.
A House Party heralds potential disaster if she cannot overcome her distaste for politics and avoid the trap set by a scheming elf lord. It's not made easier by the presence of her ex and the little matter of her usual skills being unavailable. Or by some truly dreadful decision making.
I loved the world SB created, the cast of characters and the way in which she uses the story to make you think about why society operates the way it does, and whether you can be brave enough to accept the consequences of trying to change it. If that makes the book sound heavy, it isn't. It's warm and witty and I only wish it had been longer.
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Some spoilers ahead!Read more