Spellbound, by Blake Charlton (Spell #2)

  • TITLE: Spellbound (Spell #2)
  • AUTHOR: Blake Charlton
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
  • RELEASE DATE (UK): 29th September 2011

Blake Charlton’s Spellbound featured in my recent “Best of 2011” post, however, I’d not yet finished the book, and had I written that list when I had, it may well have been awarded a higher ranking than it was.

Spellbound returns to the cast of Spellwright—ten years after the events that took place. The cast from the first book return—Nicodemus Weal, Deidre, Magister Shannon—and continue their plight to prevent the Disjunction, whilst keeping Nicodemus safe, now exiled from Starhaven and his studies, considered a murderer and a dangerous cacographer. In a new part of Charlton’s world we meet new characters—Francesca, Cyrus and a handful of supporting cast.

Essentially Spellbound is the middle book in the trilogy, but it’s so much more than that besides. Building on the excellent story told through the first book, this second instalment couldn’t do more to avoid “middle-book” syndrome: Spellbound feels like an epic adventure filled with intrigue, twists and everything a reader may have come to expect from Charlton’s work. There’s nothing “middle-y” about this book: in fact, however good Spellwright was, Spellbound swoops down and takes the crown. It is a superb book, and a unique book with its own ideas, themes and rules. It is an excellent and relevant book, not only in a sense of personal discovery, but also in regards to the forthcoming fantasy Renaissance, as termed by Charlton himself when I interviewed him for Fantasy Faction.

Spellbound delivers everything promised—and then some. From the first page Spellbound is a page-turner and the delivery of the story is expertly done, especially since more modern readers might be unfamiliar with the idea of a “ten years later” vein of approach. It works in this instance, and despite the fact that we rejoin events and a whole ten years of action is essentially missing from our knowledge, it doesn’t matter: we can infer that the whole time has been spent continuing on in the war against Typhon and his Disjunction, with Nicodemus training the Kobolds and seeking his lost emerald. The in-between bits do not matter expressly as we are able to grasp the whole.

The gap in time allows us to more easily accept the new protagonist, Francesca DeVega, who now shares the limelight with Nicodemus. There are no rushed or clumsy introductions of this new character, as so much time has gone by and we enter a new decade of the larger story. Francesca’s introduction is as natural as it should be with no effort made to merge her with the story: the new story is her story. Her story in this instance begins ten years after the beginning of Spellwright. She is an enjoyable addition to the cast and her rapport with Nicodemus is one of the elements that truly makes the book. Their banter and discussion on Nicodemus’ disability—from the perspective of a physician—is enjoyable, amusing and insightful.

Charlton’s style has improved from his début—it is now confident and seamless and he paints the world he imagines both vividly and effortlessly. Much of Charlton can be glimpsed through both protagonists and this makes the story all the stronger, because the reader knows it is authentic.

Spellbound is a fantastic, exhilarating read that kept me flicking the pages at lightspeed, just to finish it. The twists are well-plotted, exciting, and the kind that make you go “aha!” if you get it mere pages before, or “ohhhh” if you’re enlightened at the same time as the cast. A truly excellent book, Spellbound needs to be considered one of the best books of 2011.

One of the best elements of Charlton’s evolved style is his exposition: the reader sees the world as and when the characters see it, and his approach does not flood the story with his worldbuilding, but rather allows the reader to truly explore the setting as the story progresses from location to location. Charlton’s world is tight, vivid, and real.

Spellbound was a pleasure and an excitement to read and I can only hope that Spellbreaker (?) will deliver far past expectations, just as both its predecessors have. A fantastic addition to the series and full of absolutely everything any damn good fantasy novel should be. An extremely satisfying read.

5/5

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