Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis (The Harwood Spellbook #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy of Manners

Publisher: Five Fathoms Press on September 4, 2017

Source: Author

My thanks to the author for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules…

  

A fascinating world of magic and politics packed with charming characters and plenty of wit makes Stephanie Burgis’ novella SNOWSPELLED a delight for historical fantasy fans. Add a dash of romance and a pinch of sexual tension and it’s a winner for romance lovers too!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman looking to avoid society – and one stubborn gentleman in particular – must be tricked into attending a week-long party in the country…with said gentleman in attendance. Several months after calling off their engagement, Cassandra Harwood wants nothing more than to avoid Mr. Wrexham – and the painful reminders of the time when she was still in possession of her magical abilities. But with Wrexham dogging her every step and a new acquaintance pestering her for information about being a female magician, a peaceful week in the country seems unlikely. Things go from decidedly uncomfortable to downright dangerous when Cassandra, desperate to escape the house party, stumbles into a trap set by a devious elven lord. If Cassandra can’t figure out the cause of the unnatural snowfall plaguing Anglia, she’ll be forfeit…and so will the peace between humans and elves.

In the span of less than 200 pages, Burgis has built a complex and nuanced world run by politicians and magicians. Everyone in Anglia knows that only women have the cool tempers and sound reasoning required to run the country, so Cassandra’s refusal to join the Boudiccate and pursuit of the flighty and whimsical – and male – art of magic was a scandal of epic proportions. But through determination, talent, and a fierce competitive streak, Cassandra graduated from the Great Library with top honours and proved to all of society that a woman can work magic just as well as a man. This gender-swapped version of Regency England was a ton of fun to read about and I loved the apologetically feminist angle Burgis took – especially since she incorporates significant PoC and queer characters. 

As an great fantasy of manners should, SNOWSPELLED features a swoon worthy, subtly tension-filled romance. While it’s true that Cassandra and Wrexham are no longer betrothed, there’s no question that they’re still in love…despite Cassandra’s protests to the contrary. In the background of all the action, Cassandra’s brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Amy are doing their best to reunite the pair, often with hilarious results. I found myself nodding along with their arguments and imprecations – Cassandra and Wrexham clearly belong together! As annoyed as Cassandra might be by their antics, she’s going to need their help – and Wrexham’s – to put things to rights and save the alliance between humanity and the elves. I was pleasantly surprised by the direction SNOWSPELLED took in the end, and now I’m dying to read the sequel! Highly recommended.

Have you read any memorable stories that feature a gender-swapped element? What do you think of historical fantasy? Let me know in the comments!

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