Moontangled (The Harwood Spellbook #2.5) by Stephanie Burgis

MoontangledMoontangled is a delightful spin off story that primarily focuses on a couple of characters introduced during Thornbound, the second of the Harwood Spellbook series.

We first met Juliana Banks and Caroline Fennell during the fae shenanigans that took place in Thornbound which threatened to upturn all of Cassandra Harwood’s hard work and plans to open a magical school for young women.  The two of them made for interesting reading and so I was really happy that the author took the decision to create a story that revolved purely around the two and their secret engagement.

I’m not going to elaborate greatly on the plot as this is a fairly short story that centres around the romance between the two and highlights how easy it is to misread motives and jump to wrong conclusions all in an attempt to do the right thing.

The setting for this world is an alternative England – known as Angland where magic and fae exist and conventions have been turned on their head a little.  Here, women rule the world of politics and men rule the world of magic – although these long held roles are starting to become more fluid with women finding they can also wield magic – what next?  I suppose men will be wanting to become politicians!  In the previous instalment our central character, Cassandra (herself a rather brilliant wielder of magic until an unfortunate episode left her unable to practice) has shaken up the stiff-upper-lipped nobility with her decision to run a magical school for women – it’s not an entirely popular decision with the upper crust of society being set vehemently against such change but as the young women who can wield magic start to increase in numbers it becomes impossible to ignore the demand for such a school.  Cassandra had her work cut out trying to convince the right people to give her school the stamp of approval and it was during this process that our two characters met and also when we felt the influence of the fae that inhabit the nearby wood.

I don’t typically read romance (or short stories) but this is a series that I will make an exception for because the stories all involve magical and fantastical elements combined with a period feel and a lightheartedness that makes them a joy to read.  Plus, I love stories that involve the fae, they’re my catnip and I simply can’t resist.

Burgis has a lovely writing style and manages to infuse her stories with the sort of well developed characters and strong relationships that I love and even though this is a fairly short story the author manages to help both characters achieve that development in themselves that is really positive to read about.

In terms of criticisms – the only thing I have is a feeling of this being over too quickly and wanting more.

A sweet and charming regency style series that has flavours of The Importance of Being Ernest (in terms of problems with misunderstandings) and Pride and Prejudice (lots of young ladies, excitement over the next ball and folderol about dresses) – but with fantasy and the fae thrown in for good measure.

I would suggest reading the previous books before reading this – because they’re very worthy reads – but, I think you could probably read this as a standalone if you wanted to get a flavour for the place and the writing (although I am of course saying that whilst having the benefit of having read the previous instalments – so I’m not entirely sure I’m the best judge – just read the other books is my advice :D)

I received a copy courtesy of the author.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 out of 5 stars

 

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Moontangled (The Harwood Spellbook #2.5) by Stephanie Burgis

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Moontangled (The Harwood Spellbook #2.5) by Stephanie Burgis.  I’ve loved Snowspelled and Thornbound so can’t wait to return to the world that this author has created:

MoontangledTake one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

Expected publication : February 2020

Thornbound (The Harwood Spellbook #2) by Stephanie Burgis

ThornboundI will start this review by saying outright that I loved Thornbound.  This is the second in the Harwood Spellbook series and brings to us the exploits of Cassandra Harwood.  I have to say that posting this on Valentine’s Day feels particularly appropriate because there is an element of romance to this book – although not enough to put me off reading, just enough to pique my interest and not overrun the story.

Be aware that as a review for the second book in series this may contain spoilers so you might want to stop reading now if you haven’t yet read the first book (although I will of course endeavour to avoid spoilers).

Cassandra is something of a rebel.  She was the first woman to study magic and when her magic failed (as we found out in Snowspelled) she found another peg to hang her hat on with the notion of opening up a school for women with magical ability.  Of course, the country, and more to the point the Boudiccate, a group made up of stalwart matriachs who run the politics of Angland with a firm hand, were up in arms.  It’s just unheard of, teaching women magic – magic is the realm of men for goodness sake. Whatever next – men will be wanting to govern the country and all will swiftly go to hell in a handcart if that ever happens.

The story picks up shortly after the conclusion of Spellbound.  Cassandra is almost ready to open her new school.  Set within Thornfell, the family’s ancestral home, all has been made ready for the arrival of the new students.  The future seems rosy, although we soon learn that everything isn’t quite as picture perfect as it may seem.  Amy, Cassandra’s sister-in-law has all but given up any hopes of her political career – the Boudiccate are outraged by the support she has given to Cassandra in developing her plans.  Hiring staff to work in the school has been all but impossible and it seems Cassandra will be running all the lessons herself – bar the weather lessons, for which she has an unexpected appointment, and on top of this the Boudiccate have dropped a surprise audit on Casandra to coincide with the opening.

I won’t elaborate further on the plot other than to say this is very entertaining and also a little darker than the first  Thornfell backs directly onto a dense forest and the family have always recognised the agreements in place between humans and the fae.  Of course, these things can go wrong and when an altar that indicates a pact with the fae appears on school property things swiftly start to spiral out of control.  We’re talking disappearances and creepy encroaching vines.

Okay, so this instalment has a darker feel than the previous book as mentioned above and this is pleasantly unexpected.  Plus, I think Burgis pulls an absolute blinder by keeping Cassandra’s husband out of the pages for the majority of the story – wait!  I will explain.  I think if Wrexham had been present it would have resulted in a lot of agency being taken from Cassandra because she would naturally rely on him and he would also want to step in – also this keeps the chemistry between the two very much alive, and, on top of that it enables a remarkable bond to develop between the females in the story – which is just great.

I’m loving this series, it got off to a good start with Snowspelled but Thornbound is even better.  I’m getting a good feeling for this parallel world and the gender reversals.  There’s a great diverse cast of characters, the magic is gently explored and it’s all set in a regency style Angland.  What’s not to enjoy really.

On top of that the writing is excellent.  I already know, of course, having read a couple of other books by this author, that her writing was really good and this series is no exception.

This series has so much potential that it actually makes me really quite excited.  Seriously, I hope that there are plenty more instalments planned because I will definitely be there to pick them up.  If you fancy your bonnets and petticoats with a bit of sass and an alternate universe where females have some real say in what goes on, if you want a dash of romance that is more a lovely side dish than the whole hog, plus, come on – fae – then here you go, and, you’re welcome.

I really enjoyed Thornbound and can’t wait for more.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Weekly Wrap Up : 10/2/19

I’m finally getting round to reinstating my weekly wrap ups.  I need to do these posts as they keep a log of the books I’ve read and also help to keep me focused on upcoming books and outstanding reviews.  So, this week I’ve read two books and for the moment I’m keeping on top of my reviews.  I do have four more SPFBO reviews still outstanding but I’m slowly making progress.

My books:

  1. The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1) by Jenn Lyons
  2. Thornbound (The Harwood Spellbook #2) by Stephanie Burgis

Next week’s reads:

  1. The Taking of Annie Thorne C. J. Tudor
  2. White Stag by Kara Barbieri
  3. The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan

Upcoming reviews:

  1. The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1) by Jenn Lyons
  2. Thornbound (The Harwood Spellbook #2) by Stephanie Burgis

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook) by Stephanie Burgis

snowspelledSnowspelled is the latest book that I’ve read and enjoyed by the wonderful Stephanie Burgis and I can say in all sincerity that I hope that there are more adventures from the plucky new heroine from within these pages.

This is an entertaining, Austen style, Regency period set in an alternate country known as Angland.  Mr Bennett would surely run for his inner sanctum if he was magically transported to this universe where women are the politicians and men deal with the magical elements.  The countryside is a place where trolls hide in the snow and elves appear mysteriously and silently along secret paths.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Cassandra Harwood.  Accompanied by her brother and sister-in-law Cassandra has foolishly accepted an invitation to a party and now deeply regrets that decision.  Her ex-fiancee will be present and whilst the stubborn part of her wishes to attend to prove to everyone else, and perhaps herself most of all, that she is over the relationship, you can immediately detect that her emotions are still running deep.  On top of that a strange snow storm has broken out, many of the invitees have found the roads impassable and it seems that one particular group of young females has gone missing in the storm.  Always a bit of a rule breaker Cassandra is determined to be part of the search party, even though she no longer has the ability to wield magic and so begins a string of events that see Cassandra making an unlikely agreement with a rather devious elf Lord – and the clock is ticking.

The world here is one in which a tentative pact exists between humans and elves, a pact that requires a renewal and show of faith at certain times of the year – for example the Solstice.  It would be considered incredibly rude and a massive slight if things didn’t run to plan, the elf King would be affronted and some of his subjects, the ones who maybe don’t like having their hunting enjoyment curtailed, would be only to happy to see the pact fail and so Cassandra is under incredible pressure to solve the mystery of the snow storm.

Being an alternate history this gives the author the freedom to turn things on their head and Burgis takes great enjoyment in doing so and thereby creating a witty and charming story of manners with a difference.  The ladies retire to the drawing room after dinner and the gentleman await a call to inform them that they may now enter – the important political matters having been dealt with.  I loved the world created here, there’s so much to explore and I truly hope that there will be further series.

In terms of the characters.  I liked Cassandra, she’s certainly an easy character to read and I was definitely curious about her story – being the first woman to enter the all male world of magic and actually becoming one of the foremost magicians of the period.  I feel that there is plenty more from this aspect of the story and that the author is simply whetting our appetites here.

Now, as you may know, I don’t tend to read a lot of books that focus on romance and there is undoubtedly a romance that plays a fairly central theme here, but, this has such a lovely period feel that I simply couldn’t resist, plus it isn’t the main thread of the story, just an aspect that helps to create chemistry and build tension.

This is undoubtedly a step away from the grimdark blood filled books that I quite often read but it was a lovely and welcome respite.  It brought back fond memories of some of my earlier classical reads and succeeded in bringing back to light a Regency style story with a more modern twist.  I had fun reading this, it was light and charming and a book that I devoured in one helping.  In (almost) the words of Oliver Twist – please Miss, I want  some more.

In terms of criticisms – my usual refrain, as a novella I wanted much much more but I guess that’s not a bad criticism really, after all, if I wasn’t enjoying it I would have wanted a much quicker end to the story.

I received a copy courtesy of the author for which my sincere thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I would also quickly give a little shout out for that cover which I think is just lovely.

 

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