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A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.
The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood.
Elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey is one elusive spell away from his mastership when he catches Elsie breaking an enchantment. To protect her secret, Elsie strikes a bargain. She’ll help Bacchus fix unruly spells around his estate if he doesn’t turn her in. Working together, Elsie’s trust in—and fondness for—the handsome stranger grows. So does her trepidation about the rise in the murders of wizards and the theft of the spellbooks their bodies leave behind.
For a rogue spellbreaker like Elsie, there’s so much to learn about her powers, her family, the intriguing Bacchus, and the untold dangers shadowing every step of a journey she’s destined to complete. But will she uncover the mystery before it’s too late to save everything she loves?
Praise for SPELLBREAKER
“…romantic and electrifying…the fast-paced plot and fully realized world will have readers eager for the next installment. Fans of Victorian-influenced fantasy won’t want to put this down.” —Publishers Weekly
“Those who enjoy gentle romance, cozy mysteries, or Victorian fantasy will love this first half of a duology. The cliffhanger ending will keep readers breathless waiting for the second half.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Powerful magic, indulgent Victoriana, and a slow-burn romance make this genre-bending romp utterly delightful.” —Kirkus Reviews
Abingdon-on- Thames, England, 1885
Elsie hadn’t meant to burn down the workhouse.
She hadn’t mentioned this to the constable when he’d come around to question her and the other children. She hadn’t said anything at all.
It wasn’t a matter of who had started the fire. Everyone knew it had been Old Wilson, whose knuckles ached when it rained and whose body trembled a little more every year. He’d dropped the lamp. Broken the glass. Spilled the kerosene. But that’s not why the rug and walls had lit up. It wasn’t why the big block of a building raged orange and yellow behind them, its smoke stinging Elsie’s eyes.
She hadn’t known the pretty rune on the wall was a fireguard. She hadn’t known it was important. She’d pointed it out to both Betsey and James, but neither of them could see it. She’d wanted only to touch it, trace it. And when she did, it had vanished beneath her fingertips. She hadn’t told a soul. Didn’t want to get into trouble. Didn’t want the workhouse to throw her away, too.
That had been a month ago. So when Old Wilson had dropped his lamp, there’d been no magic to stop the fire from eating up the whole place.
Elsie hated the workhouse. She didn’t feel so terrible watching it crumble, but she did feel bad that everyone had been put out of their beds, that the constable was being so mean, and that Old Wilson would get in trouble.
Elsie didn’t know where they would send her now. Another workhouse? With new people, or the same ones?
One of the boys beside her started to cry. Elsie didn’t know what to say. She wanted to help, but telling the truth wouldn’t help them— it would only hurt her. She didn’t want to give them a reason not to love her.
She stepped away. The police had told everyone to stay put, but the fire was so hot. Elsie didn’t go far, just a few steps, then a few more. Turning her face toward the tree-shadows behind her, she let it cool off in the damp air that smelled like storms.
She was picking out shapes in the shadows when a hand touched her shoulder. She flinched, sure it was the constable. Sure Betsey or James had tattled on her, saying she had seen a rune and broken it—
But it was a cloaked figure who stood beside her, face obscured by a cowl. “My dear,” the voice within said, “what is your name?”
Elsie swallowed, her throat tight. She glanced back to the fire, to the shouting men trying to contain it.
“Don’t mind them. You’re safe. What is your name?”
Elsie peered into that cowl, but the darkness hid any discernible features. The voice was quiet and feminine. “E-Elsie. Elsie Camden.”
“Such a pretty name. How old are you?”
The compliment took her by surprise. “E-Eleven.”
“Wonderful. Come with me, Elsie.” Her feet were slow to move. “Are you taking me to another workhouse?”
The cowl shook from side to side, revealing a weak, fleshy chin. “Not if you do as I say. You’re very important, Elsie. I need your help to make the world a better place. I need to use that special talent of yours.”
Elsie dug her heels into the soft earth. She knew it. She knew she was one of them. A spellbreaker, born with one kind of magic instead of taught a hundred.
“If you register me, they’ll know I did it,” she whispered.
The hand on her shoulder squeezed. “Yes, they will. And you’ll get into a lot of trouble. Noose around your neck, no doubt. But I would never ask you to do such a thing. You’ll help me, and I’ll help you. We’ll keep you safe, and you’ll never be the government’s pet. We’ve a lot of good work ahead of us, sweet Elsie. Helping those who need it, not those in power. Come on, then. I know a good place to hide, and we’ll get you a bite to eat. How does that sound?”
The heat of the fire prickled Elsie’s scalp.
She was wanted? She was important? Her spirit felt too big for her body, blooming like a wild rose. Elsie smiled, and the cloaked woman led her away.
She never did see her face.
Copyright © 2020 by Charlie N. Holmberg
– 2 Winners will receive a Copy of SPELLBREAKER by Charlie N. Holmberg.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlie N. Holmberg is the award-winning author of the Numina series, The Fifth Doll, and many others. Her Wall Street Journal bestselling Paper Magician series, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Charlie’s stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance. 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, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at www.charlienholmberg.com.