Snowspelled: Volume I of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis
Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.
Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.
But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.
To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.
This is, quite wonderfully, enjoyable, frothy fluff. It’s a mix between Georgian romance (mostly likely Georgette Heyer), Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series, Etiquette and Espionage, and Sylvia Hunter’s wonderful Midnight Queen series. It’s fairytales, Regency house-parties, feminist worldbuilding and magic all mixed up in a political mystery, along with a large dash of romance – and it’s fabulous.
Cassandra is spiky, frustrated, frustrating, charming and captivating, all at the same time. We don’t see much of her ex-fiancé until the end, but when he turns up, he’s rather a character. Cassandra’s surrounding characters are fun, too – notably the strong-minded, political Amy and Cassandra’s scholarly brother Jonathan, in amongst a host of others. The plot is moderately complex, but relatively easy to follow – and all gets explained at the end – and the action is fun. I’m not entirely certain we found out what actually caused Cassandra’s accident, so it felt that this was a little glossed over… but maybe that’s in the next book? The worldbuilding is fun, too; even though the action is restricted to (mostly) one place, we get a brilliant sense of the political structure, the social niceties, the gossip and the courtesies that make up the world.
This is going to be a series, which is going to be great – this first story is a light-hearted read with an occasional thought-provoking undertone, and was definitely enjoyable. Pick it up if you think you’ll like your Regency romances with a dash of magic!