Spellbound - Allie Therin

This is one of those books I picked up off Netgalley because it sounded like it might be my cup of tea and, for the most part, it pretty much worked for me. It's historical urban fantasy, for lack of a better descriptor, set in the Prohibition era in the US but with added magic - a number of the characters we meet during the book have various powers and this is not generally known. 

 

Their way of life is under threat from the import of artefacts which can be used to devastating effect by people who have these magical powers, though usually at a high cost. One of our protagonists (Rory) has such a power, in his case the ability to see the history of an object, which he uses to determine whether or not antiques are fakes and he helps his aunt run a profitable business in Hell's Kitchen. Early on, Rory crosses paths with our other protagonist (Arthur), who has no magic of his own but who hangs around with a hell of a lot of people who do - he and his friends also have a troubled history with magic and its misuse, which led to the death of people they cared about.

 

There's a lot to like about Spellbound, the adventure plot of which mostly hangs together well and the setting of which also promises some future issues around period-typical discrimination even if those are only alluded to in this particular book. There's enough period detail to make the setting work without falling into infodump territory or the perils of an author wanting to demonstrate that they have Done The Research. 

 

In terms of the romance storyline, this book was on the knife-edge for me between 'these characters are delightful' and 'these characters are annoying me now' and I'm not completely sure which side they landed in the end. For a novel-length story, there's a temptation for miscommunication to get over-used and I think this was a little too heavily done here. There's only so much mileage to get out of 'surely he can't feel about me the way I feel about him?' and this was a fraction overdone for my tastes.

 

There's also some messing about with names, as one of our heroes is commonly known as 'Ace' and that's used interchangeably (and not always consistent with the temperature of the relationship at the time) while it's revealed partway through that Rory is actually using an assumed name and not only does he get called by both names, there's also a nickname added in too. I initially thought that Rory's big secret, one of those 'you wouldn't like me if you knew the truth'-type secrets, was that he was trans and that then led me down the wormhole of dead-naming someone, which made the name usage really not work for me. 

 

Anyway, an enjoyable enough read even with the issues above and apparently the first of at least a trilogy, so I guess if I end up reading those then we'll see whether the author can push the characters firmly back into 'delightful' for me!

 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.