Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spellbound (Spellwright #2) by Blake Charlton

Posted by Simcha 5:49 PM, under | 6 comments

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….

I really hadn't intended to read Spellbound. While the first book in the series, Spellwright, was enjoyable enough it wasn't quite what I had hoped for and it didn't leave me wanting more. But after reading an interview with the book's author, Blake Charlton, and watching a video of a reading that he did at a bookstore, I had a change of heart. A couple of weeks later I was in possession of a copy of Spellbound (thank you Tor!) and I was ready to plunge back into Blake's world of magical words.

There were two main reasons for my sudden eagerness to read Spellbound. The first had to do with my finding out that this story takes place ten years after the events in Spellwright, and  features a different protagonist. One of the problems that I had with Spellwright was that I didn't particularly care for Nicodemus Weal, the book's hero, and so my interest was piqued when I found out that the sequel features a new protagonists, and a female one, at that. And the excerpt that Blake read at his book signing made think that this was a woman that I would definitely like to read more about.

The second reason has to do with Blake Charlton himself. It's common knowledge among his readers that Blake struggles with dyslexia, which makes the fact that he's published two book very impressive, especially since he wrote them while in medical school. I really don't know much about dyslexia and discovering that an author whose book I read has this reading disability made me curious to learn more about it.  So I was intrigued when I read an interview in which Blake talked about how he incorporated some of his emotional struggles with dyslexia into Spellbound in the form of the book's villain. While all authors put a part of themselves into their books it's unusual to find a fantasy book that reflects a real-life disability in this way, and which gives readers a better understanding of it, through the story.

    “Are you alright?” Deirde asked without looking up.
    “Oh, I'm cheery as the kitten who ate the cream,” Francesca said as casually as she could, “but my eyes won't...won't...” She couldn't think of the word that started with f and meant “concentrate” or “direct” or “converge.”
    Deirde swore and grabbed Francesca's hand and made her walk across the room. “Stay calm. You're aphasic. The Walker is closer...”
    Something was bubbling out of the minaret's shaft. When she tried to look at it....she couldn't. It was as if she went blind as she looked at the tendrils of twisting nothingness. She stumbled backward.

As it turns out I'm really glad that I decided to go ahead and read Spellbound. Many of the faults that I found with Spellwright seemed to have been ironed out of this book and I found it to be much smoother and more entertaining read. The writing was tighter, the characters more engaging and three-dimensional and the dialogue was far more interesting. Francesca was a character that I very much enjoyed getting to know and I loved her sarcastic humor and witty repertoire. And while Nicodemeus was no longer the central character he did have a role to play here as well, and he came across as much more complex and appealing than in the last book.

Blake's creative magic system is what had drawn me to the series in the first place and he's developed it even further in Spellbound where we get to see how words are used for healing, air-flight and combat. Each of these different activities is performed by using the body and its muscles in a specific way and I once again enjoyed the vivid descriptions of how this was done. In the case of Francesca, who is a physician, we get to see some of Blake's medical knowledge at work.

There is a lot going on in this book and Blake keeps the story moving swiftly along as the mysteries pile up and the tension builds.  The story gets off to an exciting start as Francesca accidentally kills her patient, who turns out to be a woman possessed by a demon,  with a message for Francesca about the upcoming war. Francesca is then forced to escape the hospital as it is attacked by enemies, which throws her into the path of her ex-boyfriend, Cyrus. Together, Cyrus and Francesca go looking for the rouge wizard Nicodemeus in the hope of getting some answers. Along the way they run into a powerful woman who is also looking for Nicodemeus through Cyrus and Francesca aren't sure who she is and if she be trusted. Eventually they find Nicodemeus, who after years of hiding is now in search of the demon who stole his power to spell so he could restore his powers and save his dying friend. There is also political scheming, werewolves and a lost ghost looking for its owner.

At times I did feel like there was a little too much going on and I had some trouble keeping track of the different political factions as well as some of magical terms.

Since most of the characters in Spellbound were first introduced in the previous book I wouldn't recommend it as a stand-alone novel. Several times I had to go back to Spellwright and look up certain terms, events or characters that I had forgotten and which were pertinent to the current story. But I will say that if you read Spellwright and are on the fence about reading the sequel, I would highly recommend that you do so. Spellwright was good and Spellbound is even better and I now can't wait to see what book three will have to offer.


Seriously, you sold me when you said the author has dyslexia. I have a mild form of it. I can read (love to) but expressing it can be frustrating for me at times. So, that makes me interested in how he writes this book. Oh and it does sound interesting. I think I need to put both books on the wishlist.

I've wanted to get the first book, errr still working on it. *shame on me* But so glad to see you enjoyed the second book even more. Great to hear!

10 years afterward?! Huh, perhaps I should pick it up too

I'm thoroughly impressed that the author, despite having dyslexia and in the middle of medical school, still managed to write two books! I feel like such a slacker! The reasons for your change of heart just go to show you how persuasive book-signings and the author's personality can be.

Stephanie: And he's single! *wink, wink*

Melissa (Books and Things) After what I've recently learned about dyslexia I'm very impressed with anyone who has it and can actually read for pleasure. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this book if you choose to read it.

Melissa (My World): I think you would probably enjoy these books. I hope you do get around to reading them soon.

Blodeuedd: Yes. Normally I don't like when a sequel picks up the story so many years later but in this case I was glad because it started off fresh with a new story and new characters.

I'm overly impressed with the author alone so I may have to give this series a shot. Thanks for the review.

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