Saturday, 9 February 2019

Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis

Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis is the second novella in the Harwood Spellbook, following on from Snowspelled. I also read the prequel novella, which appeared in The Underwater Ballroom Society. Although the story continues on from what came before, it stands on its own fairly well and could probably be read without the earlier stories.

Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she's ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.

This was an enjoyable read. It features Cassandra Harwood going through various struggles in the course of setting up her new magical academy for young women. Aside from having to plan and teach most of the classes, she is also subjected to an inspection by disapproving government officials. If they don’t like what they see, they have the power to shut her down. Of course, that’s exactly when other things start to go wrong.

The light element of mystery in this story had me turning pages with ease. Unlike the previous novella, this isn’t a romance — Cassandra is already married, albeit catching some time with her husband is one of her challenges. My favourite aspect of this novella was the way in which a world building issue I had with the first novella was resolved. If women run the country and have more power, why do they still wear dresses?! The question is (indirectly) answered at last! It actually makes sense now, for which I’m glad.

I highly recommend this series for readers looking for a short and fun fantasy read. If you’ve already read Snowspelled, then you have a good idea of what to expect (but with more thorns, less snow). If not, the novellas can be read out of order so you are free to pick up this one first, although I like them all and certainly recommend reading them all. I await the next instalment in the Harwood Spellbook with anticipation.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: February 2019, Five Fathoms Press
Series: Yes. Book 2 of 2 so far + 1 prequel in The Harwood Spellbook. An ongoing series.
Format read: eARC
Source: Courtesy of the author

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