Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I was broken, and broken again, until I became someone else…”
Morgan le Fae, the Light Fae Queen’s Captain of the Hounds, is a man who has gone by many names. Kingmaker. Sorcerer. Advisor. Bard. Merlin. The power behind the rise of King Arthur and Camelot, he was devastated when Isabeau, Queen of the Light Fae, and her consort, Modred, murdered his boy, stole Avalon, and placed him under a geas that demands total obedience. Having spent centuries emotionally cold and barren, he is shocked by the cyclone of emotions that whirl through him when he stumbles upon a musician whose music speaks directly to his soul.
Sidonie Martel, a very talented and famous musician, finds herself at the mercy of the Light Court when she is kidnapped and given as a tribute to the queen. Unable to hold her temper at her despicable treatment by the fae, she insults the queen and pays a terrible price. With no magical ability or even knowledge of where she is at, Sidonie is a prisoner with no means of escaping. She is grateful and soon very intrigued by the mysterious man who comes to her in the middle of the night with food, water, and healing.
Using her wits, Sidonie gains an audience with the Queen and a chance at survival if she is able to amaze the court with her playing. As Sidonie and her mystery man find themselves growing closer and giving into the passion flowing between them, a pair of unlikely allies offer this couple a slim chance at escape. But Morgan’s gaes can only be broken upon death…he just has to make sure it’s not his.
Spellbinder is the 2nd book in Thea Harrison’s Moonshadow trilogy. Set in the same world as her Elder Races series, the focus here is on the Fae demesnes and the ongoing war between the Light and Dark Court. Set in the UK, Harrison further expands on the ongoing Fae storyline, making use of some interesting mythology and legends. Easily read as a standalone, you do not have to read the Elder Races to enjoy though I do recommend starting with Moonshadow.
Spellbinder is a dark paranormal romance with an ambiguous and engrossing storyline that is the perfect blend of romance, intrigue, danger, suspense, adventure, and of course, magic. The fantastical world building, complex characterization, and dynamic narrative is further enhanced by Harrison’s inclusion of Merlin and the legends surrounding his disappearance after Arthur fell. I felt it really gave the story an energetic boost.
The story opens with Morgan Le Fae presenting himself to his Queen after his rousing defeat In Moonshadow. Terribly wounded, Morgan takes Isabeau’s order to heart that she doesn’t want to see him again till he is fully healed and disappears before she can circumvent that order with a new one. The nature of his geas is exact. He is forced to do what Isabeau’s says to a tee unless he can avoid hearing her order. He hides away to heal and to continue his research on how to break the geas when he stumbles upon a flyer for a concert. He attends and is mesmerized by the oung woman playing. Angry over the power she unconsciously wielded over him, he buys tickets to the rest of her concerts and follows her across the UK.
“The first strains raced after each other, like hawks lunging through the air…and all his emotional distance shredded. He didn’t welcome it. Part of him went into shock. That part of him hated it, hated her for doing it to him.
When he learns she has been kidnapped and taken to Avalon, he sneaks back over and is horrified to learn the extent of her torture. He places both their lives in danger by helping her survive and with each passing day, he falls more in love with her.
… he fell into her as inexorably as Icarus, who had flown too close to the sun.
I was very curious to see how Harrison would redeem Morgan. To recap, Morgan has been Isabeau’s enforcer for centuries. Insane and deadly, Isabeau has used Morgan’s magic against all the fae, especially the Dark Court. Harrison humanizes Morgan for us by creating an intimate connection with him and he goes from villian to hero pretty quick. We learn he is as much a victim as Sidonie. His aggression against the various Courts and the Wyrs are through no fault of his own and he suffers daily for everything he has done. His choices were taken from him a very long time ago. He burns for the chance at freedom and revenge for himself and those he lost but despairs at ever getting it.
He still felt passion, but long ago his passion had turned dark and tinged with crimson. It had died down to a single thread, a burning desire to destroy those who had laid waste to his homeland and had enslaved him. That had become his mission in life.
Harrison builds the perfect match for Morgan with Sidonie. Intelligent, strong, forthright, and clever, Sidonie is the bright star he never knew he needed. A child prodigy, music is both Sidonie’s freedom and prison. A lifetime of practicing and tours has left her socially awkward and OCD. She is most comfortable on stage or in her apartment. Her world is completely turned upside down by her kidnapping and torture. For the first time she is faced with her own mortality and it is eye-opening. Especially when she learns she is nothing more than a pawn in a much larger game.
“You’re perfect. You’re so perfect I couldn’t have found a better weapon if I had tried.”
Sidonie adapts as best she can, pushing aside her innate shyness as she grows stronger, bolder, and more educated to her circumstances. She also becomes a bit bloodthirsty which I thoroughly approved of.
“I want to rip her face off.”
Morgan and Sidonie’s connection is a powerful force felt from the beginning allows them to flourish and heal, even in their dire circumstances. The first time Morgan enters Sidonie’s cell, his need to protect and defend is brought roaring to the surface. He gives everything he has to her, over and over and over again, until she is able to stand on her own. Unable to give way his feelings for her another due to Isabeau’s jealous nature, their love becomes even more precious with each and every stolen moment.
“…taking his revenge against Isabeau and Modred was no longer enough. Destroying them for the sake of all the people Isabeau and Modred had killed so long ago was no longer enough. Now he was fighting for Sidonie’s sake.”
The intense and violent tinged storyline stays insulated around the protagonists and the setting. Harrison offers little in world building, choosing instead to elevate the characters, though she does firmly connect the series to the Elder Races with a cameo or two. Some dry humor helps to offset the darker nature of the storyline. The climax of the story is heart-wrenching but everyone knows every great love story must have its grand moment and Harrison pulls out all the stops for this one.
She became the music. She was the story, the vibration. She became the story of love, the notes written in kisses and caresses on her skin. She felt the symphony, the swelling highs in the lifts, and the terrible lows in the falls, and hope was the cruelest note of all, the devastation that came afterward, utterly intolerable.
Spellbinder is a swoon worthy romance that gives a man with no future the chance at a love for the ages. Harrison continues to enthrall readers with her larger than life characters and intense storylines that take readers on the paranormal adventure of a lifetime.