(2011) Blake Charlton, Harper Voyager, Ł12.99, pbk, 400pp, ISBN 978-0-007-34929-6
Harper Collins have to be congratulated by producing a book with one of the most boring covers ever, showing a rune-cover blue diamond in keeping with the equally boring design of first book in the series which showed something resembling a glowing rune-covered wasps nest. This is in marked contrast to the American edition and Todd Lockwood’s artwork which depicts someone in classic magician stance (guess who?) and a fierce-looking dragon towering over them.
First we had Spellwright, the first of Blake Charlton’s trilogy, but before we get to Spellbreaker, the third and final book in the series there is this book, Spellbound, which continues the story of Nicodemus Weal who was being groomed at the Starhaven academy to be the Halcyon, a great magician whose prophesised coming would prevent the War of Disjunction. The only slight problem with that theory being the little matter of Nicodemus being unable to spell, even worse he suffers from the disability known as cacography, which causes him to misspell the runes needed to perform magic, in fact, he can create deadly spells simply by touching them. Right from what you know, is the advice given to would-be writers and while Blake Charlton isn’t a wizard-in-waiting he did struggle to read and write because of dyslexia, the experience of he has obviously put to good use to come up with a world whose magical system depends on the importance of words and the ability to read and spell them correctly. Fail in that, and you are an outsider.
No spoilers here, in case you have not read book one, but it is now ten years later and Francesca DeVega is a magical healer in the city of Avel, quite content with her life until a recently diseased patient sits up and tell her to run if she wants to live. What was I saying about write from what you know – Charlton is also a medical student, although I’m sure none of his patients have come back to life, yet. Francesca takes the corpse’s advice and finds herself in the company of rogue wizard, Nicodemus Weal who has mastered the dark arts in order to continue his battle against the demon Typhon. Nico is considered mad, bad and dangerous to know because he is suspected of murder and is a dangerous cacographer. He is in the city because he is trying to track down Typhon who has the Emerald of Aarahest which contains part of his soul and would cure his cacography and allow him to become the Halcyon of legend and not become another prophesised creature - the Storm Petrel who will destroy all magic.
Spellbound has a tighter focus than Spellwright and a better, pacier plot, mainly due to its tighter focus by being more geographically defined, with the action taking place mainly in Avel. Charlton ambitiously tries to keep all his sub-plots - which concern power and politics and people and their powers – up in the air with varying degrees of success, but I’m sure they will all be ironed out for book three- hopefully. Also, while the writing is better, the plot more focused, the dialogue snappy and funny in places, there are perhaps too many characters ands too many new ones, introduced to the detriment of Despite the naffness of the cover, Spellbound is two maps - one of the Six Human Kingdoms, while the other is a map of Avel, and fifty two well-honed chapters and an epilogue, combining to make a book that is better than its predecessor, worth buying even if the cover puts you off.
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