Book Review : Spellswept

Book Review : SpellsweptSpellswept by Stephanie Burgis
Published by Five Fathoms Press on October 30th 2018
Pages: 88
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"A niftily done short romance in a satisfyingly gender-role-reversed world."- K.J. Charles, author of Spectred IsleIn the world of the Harwood Spellbook, 19th-century Angland is ruled by a powerful group of women known as the Boudiccate - but in order to become a member of that elite group, any ambitious young politician must satisfy tradition by taking a gentleman mage for her husband.Amy Standish is a born politician...but Jonathan Harwood is her greatest temptation. On the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined.It will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.Warning: this novella contains forbidden romance, dangerous magic, and political intrigue in an underwater ballroom. What could possibly go wrong?Published first in the anthology The Underwater Ballroom Society on April 30th, 2018, and then republished as an individual e-book and paperback on October 30th, 2018."Spellswept by Stephanie Burgis somehow makes room for EPIC ROMANCE and ADORABLE FAMILY LOVE and MENTORSHIP and POLITICS and MAGIC and CHANGING SOCIETY and I think I actually squeed aloud at several points because it's JUST. SO. LOVELY."- Starship Library"Stephanie Burgis is a fresh new voice and I can't wait to see what she does next."Ilona Andrews

I honestly debated reading Spellswept, as I did not enjoy the rest of the Hardwood Spell Book series as much as Snowspelled. Imagine my surprise when I loved Spellswept just as much as Snowspelled, or maybe even more! I really enjoyed reading this prequel of the series and seeing a young Cassandra Harwood as she initially broke societal norms to become a mage, as well as watching Jonathan and Amy’s romance bloom.


One constant throughout the entire Harwood series is how much I loved the character of Amy. Amy is calm, poised, remarkably intelligent, and capable. I always wondered throughout the series how the Harwoods managed to nab her and make her part of their eccentric family. For the Harwoods, though a prestigious family, really are oddballs. So it was really delightful learning more about Amy’s life as an unwanted relation (can tick that box off of that classic regency trope), and how much the affection in the Harwood family meant to her.


“Amy had plans. She had a whole future laid out before her, full of professional satisfaction and astonishing achievements that would change the entire nation for the better—a future in which no one would ever again look at Amy Standish and see an unwanted burden, a girl with no proper place in her world.”


Though I never particularly cared one way or another about the relationship of Jonathan and Amy in the rest of the series, I found that I might have even liked it more than Cassandra and Wrexham’s relationship! I was definitely not expecting that to be the case as I was always indifferent to Jonathan, but I really prized Amy’s ability to be honest with herself about her feelings for him and what they might mean for her future career, and to determine what was most important to her. It was really a heartwarming romance and I feel regretful that I didn’t pay more attention to Jonathan and Amy’s relationship in the past. I also really undervalued Jonathan as a big brother to Cassandra as well before reading Spellswept.


“Cassandra Harwood was thirteen years old, bursting with energy, a small and fiercely irrepressible force of nature, and the absolute bane of her famous mother’s existence. Mischief glinted in her brown eyes now as she nudged her mother’s waist with one impudent elbow.”


I also really loved meeting the past infamous head of the family, Miranda, Cassandra’s mother. She was mentioned so often, but had already passed away when I picked up the series with Snowspelled. So I was delighted to find that she was a rule bender, something that I have always felt is actually braver than outright rule breaking, because the bender still has to deal with the condemnation of rule followers. I absolutely loved watching her spin damage control with Amy, and adored her reluctant acceptance and pride at her daughter’s abilities as a mage.


“It was impossible, unthinkable for any woman to study magic… But…not quite so impossible, perhaps, after Jonathan Harwood had taken that first public step to prepare his family and his cohort for that change.”


Plus, the delightful societal gender role swap was on excellent display in Spellswept. With women preparing to propose to their male suitors. Of course, I also got a charge out of the female characters decrying of the “gentlemanly swoons” of men. Author Stephanie Burgis has such a great sense of humor, and it truly shines with these kind of off-the-cuff remarks.


Truly, if you’ve read the Harwood Spell Book series, reading Spellswept is a must. It offers closer looks at well-known characters in the series, first looks at those only ever mentioned, and does a great job setting the stage for the rest of the series. Spellswept really brought back my enthusiasm for the series and I’m crossing my fingers that the author will write another prequel to Snowspelled. I would simply love to read another prequel, which details Cassandra’s exploits at the Great Library, where she studies magic and meets her future husband, Wrexham.

Book Review : Spellswept - Blogging with Dragons

Posted January 11, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance


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