December 5, 2022

REVIEW Spellbreaker (Spellbreaker Duology #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Spellbreaker (Spellbreaker Duology #1) 
by Charlie N. Holmberg
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: November 1, 2020
Format: Audiobook (Available through Kindle Unlimited)
Publisher: 47North

Charlie N. Holmberg’s Spellbreaker, the first book in the Spellbreaker Duology, has an attention-grabbing premise that easily persuaded me to read the book. Set in an alternate universe resembling Victorian England, two classes of magic users dominate society. There are those that pay inordinate amounts of money to gain the ability to cast magic (Spellmakers or Aspectors) and those with the ability to break spells (Spellbreakers). The main character Elsie is a member of the second group and must be careful with her abilities lest she is thrown into jail (or worse, killed). Her secret is in danger of being blown wide open, however, when she is discovered by budding master Spellmaker Bacchus. Will she be able to escape the situation with her life and protect everything she cares about, or will the mystery that Bacchus and Elsie find themselves thrust into the middle of be too much for both of them to handle?

From the first chapter, the pacing is a big issue in this book. I was so bored in the first quarter of the book that I was in danger of marking it as DNF and giving up on it entirely. In the author’s defense,  they do use that initial time to explain the world and how everything works, but that’s a long time for no real action to happen. As a result, it caused things to border on feeling info-dumpy (a disheartening realization, especially with how cool the magic system promised is).  

While the pacing was rough, the worldbuilding was one of the strengths of this book. Admittedly there’s a lot to keep track of and it can be hard to keep everything straight (especially when you are listening to it as I did), but if you persevere and push through that initial quarter of the book it's well worth the effort. I enjoyed getting to learn about the Atheneum, and the different groups of citizens (Spellbreakers, Spellmakers/Aspectors, and the average humans). It was interesting to me how the position as a Spellmaker is something that can be bought and is another reflection of power and position in the book’s culture. By comparison, a Spellbreaker can be anyone and is a position someone is born into, no matter their material wealth. Ms. Holmberg did a great job weaving this aspect of the worldbuilding into the dynamic between Elsie and Bacchus, and their eventual romance. 

In addition to worldbuilding, romance is also a highlight in the book. By anyone’s definition, the relationship between Elsie and Bacchus is a slow-burn romance. There’s a lot of tension between the two characters (initially propelled by their rival abilities), and their attraction grows over the course of the story. If I had to guess, they will probably act more on their feelings in the second book. For those who might be concerned by the mention of romance, I would rate this at a young adult level. No graphic intimacy or overt steam or anything like that to worry about - just a clean, predictable slow burn romance tale with some mild flirtation. 

Spellbreaker was a solid book overall, but the issues mentioned left me unable to give it a full five stars. I’m unsure when I’ll make time to read the sequel, Spellmaker. If you’re a reader who might enjoy a cross between a fantasy and a “whodunnit” mystery, then this might be the book for you. If you’re primarily a fantasy reader who loves simple worldbuilding and fast-paced action from start to finish, then I would probably suggest looking for your next read elsewhere. 

About the Author

Charlie N. Holmberg is a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of fantasy and romance fiction, and writes contemporary romance under C.N. Holmberg. She is published in 20 languages, has been a finalist for a RITA award and multiple Whitney awards, and won the 2020 Whitney for Novel of the Year for Adult Fiction. Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, and owns too many pairs of glasses. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her Instagram at

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