Favorite Quote: “…there is more to you than your magic. There always was.”
Reviewed by Tori
Snowspelled is a historical fantasy novella set in the alternative world of Angland. Its history dates back to Queen Boudicca (Boadicea) and her war against the Romans. Only in here, she succeeded in defeating the Romans and driving them out of what is modern-day Britain. In this world, women dominate the political arena and the men control the magic. Both humans and various paranormal entities coexist in this world and survive through delicate treaties. This story revolves around the rewriting of one such treaty and one woman’s journey to rediscover herself after a huge loss.
It was a truth universally acknowledged that women were the more pragmatic sex; that was why we were expected to run the government, while the men attended to the more mystical and imaginative realm of magic.
The novella opens with our heroine Cassandra Harwood, conversing with her sister in law, Amy Harwood. Cassandra is displeased to have been coerced into attending an important politically motivated house party and upon learning her former fiance will also be there.
When Cassandra and her party arrive at their destination, they learn that the hostess’s niece and her party have suffered a mishap and are now lost in the surrounding woods. The hostess is putting together a search party and Cassandra volunteers to help search, needing to get away from all the looks of pity being tossed her way and to avoid her ex-fiance. Unfortunately, he follows her, determined to discover why she broke their engagement.
A nasty winter storm and a chance meeting with a vindictive elven prince leaves Cassandra in a bind. A bind that could lead to a fate worse than death if she doesn’t figure out exactly what is going on and who is responsible.
I picked this novella on a whim, intrigued by the concept of a historical fantasy that portrays an alternative world separating men and women through magic and politics but not in the way one might expect. The first in a series, Snowspelled opens the doorway to a clever little world, introducing us to a cast of well-defined characters and setting the stage for the overarching storyline. Strong descriptive narrative, a charming second chance romance, and an engaging storyline grab your attention from the very beginning as Burgis uses familiar parameters to explain to us her world and it’s residents.
The atmosphere is a curious mixture of hope, intrigue, and humor as we begin to learn more about Cassandra and the reasons behind her broken engagement; which goes far in explaining more about this world and its flaws. Cassandra is a relatable heroine. Bold, intelligent, witty, and forthright, her actions are perfectly understandable for someone who has lost something they worked very hard for. She pushed against the status quo, attempting to seize her destiny, and lost. Her feelings of failure are understandable though those close to her do what they can to show her she has more to offer than she believes.
Not every man could do spellwork, of course, even in our elite cohort, just as I couldn’t possibly have been the first woman to be born with that natural ability. I was only the first to be bold enough, brash enough and ― most of all ―lucky enough, in our modern era, to finally break free of the roles we’d all been assigned centuries earlier, and win a public space for myself that others might follow.
A diverse cast of characters helps to define and develop this world with their different personalities and agendas. The relationships in here are quite affectionate and well crafted. Even though the scenes are short, Burgus does an excellent job of conveying the feelings experienced by all those interacting. Multiple pathways are opened and I can’t wait to see where they all eventually lead to. I enjoyed seeing the strong bonds Cassandra has with her brother and sister in law. No matter what has happened, they all have each other’s backs. I also found myself smiling at Cassandra’s attempts to protect her ex-fiance’s honor which highlights the gender switching in here in terms of historical etiquette/ properties. Cassandra worries about being seen alone with her ex-fiance and compromising him so she avoids him as best she can. Her brother’s attempts to force them to be caught are amusing.
“It’s like watching an opera, but far better because there’s so much less tuneless shrieking involved. No, it’s all wordless emoting and high drama with you two and ― ow!”
I did have a couple issues with the story concerning the mystery and conflict. Everything we see and hear relies on Cassandra so it has a disconnected feel to it at times. I would have liked to have experienced first hand what happened to Cassandra in the past and how she solves the mystery but this being a novella, I can understand the time restraints. Hopefully, Burgis will divulge deeper into the elven/human history and Cassandra’s struggle to become a magician and her downfall as the series progresses.
Regardless of my issues, Snowspelled was an enjoyable bit of escapism, perfect for fans of lighter regency romantic fantasies. I am looking forward to the second book in the series, Thordbond, which is set to release in 2018.