Snowspelled

Title: Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook Volume One)
Publisher: Five Fathoms Press
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Pages: 168 pp
Price: $9.99 (paperback) / $3.99 (ebook)

Cassandra Harwood was Angland’s only female magician — was being the operative word. Four months ago, after years of fighting to prove herself, she cast the wrong spell and very nearly killed herself. Unable to work magic any longer, she broke off her engagement with Rajaram Wrexham and exiled herself to her family’s country estate. Now the winter solstice is fast approaching, as is the ceremony at which the treaty of peace between the humans and elves of Angland is set to be renewed … but a devastating snow storm has blown in, there are rumors of war with the elves, and Cassandra has been tricked into a likely-fatal agreement with a particularly odious elven lord. She has seven days to save herself and all of Angland … and she has to do it without her magic ….

I discovered Snowspelled after a friend on FaceBook posted her review. Intrigued, I downloaded the sample, and then immediately downloaded the whole book. Snowspelled is fun, sweet, and entertaining. This is the sort of Pagan-friendly book that a parent can give to a tween or teen and not have to worry about swear words or sexual situations.

Cassandra is a great character. She is stubborn and opinionated, but also fiercely loyal and compassionate. She is still reeling from the loss of her life’s goal and is trying to find a new purpose; she is tired of the pitying looks and whispered comments, but has no idea what to do with herself without her magic.

Wrexham is a good foil for Cassandra; he is just as stubborn and just as skilled in magic. He does not see her as broken or lesser than she was before; he still regards her as one of the greatest magicians of her age. He is also just as devoted to Angland as Cassandra, but is willing to risk his country to save the love of his life.

Burgis does a great job with the world-building, as well. Two thousand years ago, Boudicca succeeded in her revolt and drove the Romans from Angland’s shores. The country became a matriarchate, ruled by an all-female counsel known as the Boudiccate. Since magic is (supposedly) the province only of men, a Great Library was established where they could study and learn. Thus, politics is the realm of women and magic the realm of men, and each fiercely guards their domain.

Angland is home not just to humans, though. Faeries and elves live there, as well. Faeries have little to do with either, traveling between the middle and lower realms as the seasons change. The elves, and their pet trolls, are the original inhabitants of the land. The last war between the two races devastated both. The resulting peace treaty requires an annual toll from humanity and a pledge that they will not alter the landscape or engage in forbidden magics; the elves, in turn, keep the trolls on a short leash and no longer hunt humans. 

(Personally, I hope the next book takes Cassandra to the sea shore. I really hope there are mermaids.)

Snowspelled is a quick, fun romp filled with magic and political intrigue. Recommended to fans of Tina Gower’s Romancing the Null, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, and Patricia Wrede’s A Matter of Magic.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.] 

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