Spellbound – Blake Charlton

About the Book
Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses, but her life is thrown into chaos when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death. Now Francesca is in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. 

It has been ten years since Nicodemus Weal escaped the Starhaven Academy, where he was considered disabled and useless, where he battled the demon who stole his birthright and murdered his friends. Unable to use the magical languages of his own people, Nico has honed his skills in the dark Chthonic languages, readying himself for his next encounter with the demon. But there are complications: his mentor suffers from an incurable curse, his half-sister’s agents are hunting him, and he’s still not sure what part Francesca DeVega will play. He certainly doesn’t know what to make of Francesca herself….

Introducing new twists to the unique magical system of Spellwright and uncovering more sinister dangers, Spellbound is sure to please Blake Charlton’s fans and earn him new ones.

464 pages
Published: September 2011
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

I have honestly never been this nervous about writing a review before. I’m not exactly sure why I am so nervous. I think it’s because Spellbound is a highly anticipated book and I was lucky enough to get the ARC of it. I’m also nervous because I’m reviewing it so much earlier than I normally would. You see, with a baby on the way a month before the book is due to be published, I figured I should get the review written now because who knows if I’ll be able to do so during and after the she is born. Thus, I’m breaking my normal “two-week” rule, where I only review soon-to-be released books two weeks before they are published. Since neither the author nor publisher has told me not to review it this soon, I’m assuming it’s okay for me to do so.
Anyway, here it is.
Spellbound takes place ten years after Nicodemus escaped Starhaven Academy. Ten years allows for a lot of time for characters to grow and mature, and Charlton seemed to use this time well. Where Nicodemus seemed almost childlike in Spellwright, in Spellbound he’s an adult, complete with all the behaviors (both good and bad) of an adult. He’s learned more, grown a bit and become obviously comfortable in his own skin, which is something I never sensed from him in Spellwright.
Spellbound starts with a bang, meaning that events seem to be at a crescendo from the very start, and the pace of things keeps going throughout. While there are quieter moments, the plot never seems to slow past breakneck speed. Wrapped in this quickly moving plot are plenty of interesting mysteries and questions that will leave the reader hanging on to find out (or figure out, as the case may be) the answers. Not only that, but there is a slightly darker edge to Spellbound that I missed in Spellwright.
Spellbound has a more mature feel to it than its predecessor. That’s not saying that Spellwright wasn’t a good read, but Spellbound has a practiced-author feel to it that Spellwright slightly lacked. Charlton has grown and matured as an author. He seemed to grow as much as his characters have in the time between books. That’s not saying that the feel of Spellbound is completely different from Spellwright. The same features of Spellwright that made so many fans of Charlton are still readily found in these pages. Spellbound is an adventure fantasy filled with mystery, interesting characters and a unique world that mixes the fantasy cliché’s so many of us know and love, with a brand new feel that is purely Charlton.
Charlton seems to infuse Spellbound with aspects of himself. Not only is his struggle with dyslexia evident in his magic system, but Spellbound also has quite a bit of medicine and human-body stuff in it which shows his passion for medicine as well. It’s an interesting progression from Spellwright, where the reader sensed Charlton’s struggles with dyslexia in the magic system. Now, it almost seems as though Charlton is opening up more of himself with each book. I look forward to seeing what else I can learn about the author in the next installment of the series.
One improvement of Spellbound I feel I should mention is the improvement of the magic system. While the magic system was one of the highlights of Spellbound, it did tend to have an overly complex feel to it which required multiple infodumps that did tend to bog the book down. Charlton seemed to fix this in Spellbound. The magic system is just as interesting, but there are far fewer (if any) serious infodumps. Instead Charlton seemed to integrate it seamlessly into his plot in a way that is both understandable and doesn’t affect the plot down as it did with its predecessor.
That being said, there are some campy plot points and a touch of predictability that might annoy some readers to a small extent, but it doesn’t, by any means, actually diminish the overall enjoyment of the book as a whole. In fact, despite these elements, Spellbound is an improvement over Spellwright. It’s got the same fun feel, and the same loveable characters, but there’s a level of maturity, depth and growth in Spellbound that really makes it fly high. Charlton has made his mark. I am excited to see where he can take us next.
4/5 stars

6 Responses

  • Jamie (Mithril Wisdom)

    Why haven't I got myself a copy of spellwright yet? Charlton's series is looking to be a damn fine one, and I want to give it a shot. Thanks for the review 🙂

  • Niall Alexander

    Oh you lucky so-and-so! I've got the indubitable Blake on the case and I'm still looking at late August before I can get my grubby paws on a copy of Spellbound. Damn United Kingdom…

    Anyway, you might have guessed I'm excited about this one – and you've not helped, Sarah! 😉

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    Aww! Sorry you have to wait so long. I am confidant you will really enjoy it when you read it.

  • Radosiewka

    I would love to read it right now:) But translation to polish is going to take some time so I'll try to read it in english:)
    I have one question – is the world-building better than at the first one? I really like the Spellwright world, but there were not enough descriptions of it;/

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like Charlton shows the kind of growth we all hope for in a new author. I am really looking forward to this second installment in his Nicodemus Weal arc. I am putting my pre-order in at Powells.com today!

    *If you ever get a chance to go to one of his book readings/signings do so. This author has the perfect voice for telling his stories, rich and expressive.

    Laurel N

  • Anonymous

    typo second to last paragraph, you say spellbound when you meant spellwright. figured id let you know 🙂

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