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Spellbound by Blake Charlton

Spellbound by Blake Charlton
Book Name: Spellbound
Author: Blake Charton
Publisher(s): Harper Voyager
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: September 13, 2011

You can read Fantasy-Faction’s interview with Blake Charlton here.

Spellbound is the highly anticipated sequel to Blake Charlton’s debut Spellwright, and continues the story of Nicodemus Weal as he journeys to recover the missing part of himself. Ten years have passed since he finally came face to face with the demon that had stolen his ability to correctly spell magical texts and rendered him an untrustworthy cacographer and an outcast from the only home he had ever known.

Now, with only one magical language at his command and a mere handful of allies, Nicodemus seeks revenge on the demon Typhon and searches relentlessly for the emerald in which his powers are confined. His skin, covered in the purple tattoos of Language Prime, mark him as an outsider and his reputation as a notorious killer and cacographer precedes him wherever he goes. Accompanied by his inhuman kobold students, Nicodemus reaches the location of the emerald and is so close to achieving his goal after all these years of searching. But he can’t quite get there this time.

A second protagonist carries much of the novel’s narrative, presenting Nicodemus with a greater challenge and a new kind of temptation. Francesca is a talented physician, although she always feels that her talent is slightly below where it should be. A critically ill patient lays on her operating table just a few breaths away from death. Francesca writes the magical text to save the woman but she uses an indefinite pronoun and in the very first line, we are reminded of Charlton’s tight control over language. Francesca tries to save her patient, wills her heart to beat, feels it spasm in the throes of death between her fingers. Then it goes still.

All of Francesca’s doubts come to the forefront of her mind. Because of her inability, her mistake, someone has died. But before she has time to come to terms with her actions the patient wakes up and tells Francesca that she is in great danger and has to flee the infirmary immediately. The pace of the book rockets from here as Francesca, and the reader along with her, are plunged into a journey paralleling Nicodemus’ to lead to the same ultimate aim: to defeat the demon Typhon.

The sinister Savanna Walker, a half-dragon, is under the command of Typhon and pursues Francesca’s patient with the unerring mission to return her to his master. As the women flee, they hear him approaching and feel their bodies suffer under the strange ability he has to befuddle their minds and magic. Just as it seems he might catch up, the patient hurls Francesca into the arms of a hierophant who whips her away to safety on his air kite.

Here, Charlton introduces a new magical language to his world. This time it is the hierophantic language of Sarsayah, which is written in the muscles of the heart and manifests itself as a pale blue text. This is a good reminder of how visual and well-realised the magic in this series is. The idea of words being formed in the body and cast out as coloured text is so simple in its conception yet stunning effective in its execution.

Back to the story and as it happens the hierophant rescuer is none other than the highly talented Cyrus. It becomes evident very quickly that Francesca and Cyrus have a romantic history. Unfortunately it seems the relationship did not end so romantically and now they can either bury or face their past as they work together to avoid the Savanna Walker and find Nicodemus before Typhon can use Francesca’s powers for evil.

Magister Shannon wakes up confused. Nicodemus and his parrot construct, Azure, are gone. He is not sure where he is. What he is sure of; however, is that he used to be blind but now he is not. Magical sentences give him a piece of the puzzle telling him simply: “you can see again because you’re dead”. With no other option but to follow the clues left behind by his mysterious author, Shannon’s ghost must find Francesca and uncover the truth of what happened to him.

Spellbound introduces a host of new characters and allows us to see more of their world as the story plays out amongst a landscape rich in magical complexity. Francesca and Nicodemus’ allies are not always what they appear and if that isn’t enough conflict, the arrival of a warship bearing two powerful wizards from Astrophell adds a little more. The competing prophecies about the Halcyon and the Storm Petrel play out and we are still left to wonder whether Nicodemus is really the one that will restore order or bring chaos.

What is perhaps the most magical gift of Spellbound is that it opens our minds and allows us to see what life is like for people living with disability. All of the key characters in this book are, at some point, rendered bereft of ability in one way or another. Through the narrative and the eyes of his point of view characters, Charlton cleverly allows us an insight into the prejudices and limitations suffered by millions, including himself, on a daily basis. Having been open about his dyslexia and the struggles in his own life, I think there is much of Charlton in Nicodemus and it is truly admirable for the author to be able to evoke such understanding of the condition and display such a mastery over language in this way.

Spellbound was an enjoyable read and I devoured it in a single day. The plot builds to a climax that is pleasingly unexpected and this book has certainly laid the groundwork for an epic conclusion to the trilogy. Whilst the series may not exhibit the most complex worldbuilding or the greatest depth of character, it is definitely recommended and is worth a read for its use of language and uniqueness of magic alone. I found the detail of this volume and the intricacies of the magic easier to understand than its prequel and I suspect the third installment will certainly be worth the wait.


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