BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Thornbound


Title: Thornbound (The Harwood Spellbook Volume II)

Publisher: Five Fathoms Press

Author: Stephanie Burgis

Pages: 186pp

Price: $2.99 (ebook)

Release Date: 25 February 2019

Cassandra Harwood -- once Angland's only recognized woman magician -- has lost her magic. Finally married to her long-time love, Rajaram Wrexham, she is determined to do something for all of the women out there who possess magical abilities, but lack proper training. And so she creates the Thornfell College of Magic, the first of its kind in Angland. Unfortunately, the inspectors sent by the Boudiccate are determined to shut down the school and the only weather wizard whom Cassandra could find to teach at Thornfell is an obnoxious egomaniac. And then she finds the altar in the library, splattered with blood. And then Wrexham goes missing. And then there are the vines, great thorny vines creeping out of the woods and making their way ever closer to the school ....

I read Snowspelled, the first volume in the Harwood Spellbook series*, in 2017. I absolutely loved it. So, when author Stephanie Burgis approached me about reviewing the upcoming second volume, I leapt at the chance. I am happy to report that Thornbound is just as good -- perhaps even better -- than the preceding story.

Fierce, intelligent Cassandra has grown immensely as a character. She has a purpose now. Lost without her magic, she now has a goal: to support and teach other women, contrary to all social convention. Wrexham is the perfect foil for Cassandra; he is just as loyal, but has dreams of his own, and he gets frustrated that Cassandra keeps trying to make decisions for him. Cassandra's brother and sister-in-law stand by her side, despite the social censure they face. Luton the weather wizard, on the other hand, is so busy being full of himself that he can't be bothered to worry about anyone else.

I love the world that Burgis has created. It's like a matriarchal Regency England with magic and elves and faeries and spirit-haunted woods. Angland is (literally) a matriarchal island in a sea of patriarchy. Ever since Boudicca and her magician husband drove the Romans from Angland nearly two millennia ago, society has followed very strict rules: men study magic, women run the government. Women who wish to advance in the government take magician husbands, no matter the true direction of their hearts. Cassandra's school threatens to upend everything ... even put the women of Angland at risk of being oppressed and subjugated like women in every other country in the world.

Or, at least that's what her opponents fear.

And then there are those creepy, creeping vines ....

Thornbound is a delightful read. It is the perfect escape: sweetly romantic, exciting, and just a bit scary. I spent the entire book rooting for Cassandra and her students, worrying for Wrexham, and wondering what exactly was going on in those woods. Highly recommended to fans of Burgis' other books, as well as fans of Lois McMaster Bujold, Aliette de Bodard, Kathryne Kennedy, Ana Mardoll, and Patricia Wrede. 


* In addition to Snowspelled, Burgis has also written a prequel to the Harwood Spellbook series. Spellswept centers on Cassandra's brother and sister-in-law, Jonathan and Amy.


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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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