Spellswept and Snowspelled, Stephanie Burgis; Emma Newman, narrator (Tantor Audio 978-1-40012121-2, $19.99, digital download, 7.25 hr., unabridged) May 2019.
I have a great fondness for those stories where the romance and the fantasy genres kiss and commingle. Snowspelled, book one of the Harwood Spellbook, and its prequel novella, Spellswept, definitely hit that sweet spot for me.
This previously self-published series is set in an alternate world in which the British warrior queen Boudicca took a mage as her second husband, and their combined martial and magical prowess both drove off the Romans and founded a new nation, Angland. The society and government of 19th-century Angland attempts to emulate that successful pairing: the country’s ruling body is the all-female Boudiccate, and each member is married to a mage.
In Spellswept, ambitious orphaned heiress Amy Standish has great hopes for a political career. Having planned an elaborate ball at the estate of her political mentor, Miranda Harwood, Amy intends to announce her engagement to a well-connected mage that evening. But two things threaten the evening’s success: Amy would really prefer to marry Miranda’s non-magical son, the historian Jonathan Harwood, and the spell maintaining the underwater ballroom is on the verge of collapse and Miranda’s secretly magical daughter Cassandra is the only one who’s aware of the problem.
Snowspelled is set some years later, where, despite Cassandra’s graduation from the Great Library at the top of her class, no one will hire a woman as a mage. Desperate to prove herself, she attempts – and fails at – a dangerous spell; the injury she suffers means that she cannot perform any magic without it killing her. Four months after the accident, the despondent Cassandra is cajoled into attending a snowbound house party, where she makes a rash bargain with an elf lord and is forced to confront the mage fiance she jilted (and whom she clearly still loves). Can she beat the elf lord at his own game and find her happy ending? (What do you think?)
Like C.S.E. Cooney, Emma Newman is both a professional audiobook narrator and a SF author. She speaks with gloriously precise Received Pronunciation, just the sort of accent you want for upper-class banter in a romantic fantasy set in an alternate England.
Fun worldbuilding and fun inevitable pairings. I hope that this production brings this series wider attention.
This review and more like it in the October 2019 issue of Locus.
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