Spellbound

Title: Spellbound (Magic in Manhattan Book One)

Publisher: Carina Press

Author: Allie Therin

Pages: 243pp

Price: $4.99

Welcome to Manhattan. It’s 1925, Prohibition is in full swing, speak-easies hide on every corner, and a deadly magical artifact is set to arrive in the city in a matter of days. Only a small group of allies stand between Manhattan and destruction: Arthur Kenzie, a son of privilege who accidentally discovered the reality of magic during the Great War; Jade, an African-American woman gifted with telekinesis who runs an illegal speak-easy; Zhang, an American of Chinese descent who can walk the astral plane; and Rory Brodigan, a powerful psychometric who has the ability to unlock magical artifacts and bind them to those who would use them — for good or ill ….

I came across a copy of Spellbound on netgalley, liked the description, and downloaded it. Unfortunately, it took me a few weeks longer to get to the book than I had intended. I’m sorry for that, because this is a delightful historical/paranormal romance.

In the world of Spellbound, magic is hidden from the majority of the populace. Those who possess abilities — ranging from invisibility to pyrokinesis to precognition — are the distant descendants of the Fae, who long ago left the mortal realm. The Fae took most of the magic with them, leaving behind their much-weaker progeny and a handful of powerful artifacts. And, unfortunately, while most of the world has forgotten the Fae and no longer believes in magic, a few do, and they are actively seeking those artifacts.

That makes Rory quite valuable, indeed.

Probably a good thing that he’s fallen in love with Arthur, then. And never were two such different people so clearly meant to be together. Arthur is book-smart, suave, and elegant. Rory is street-wise, prickly, and living hand-to-mouth. They are both deeply lonely, and find in one another the comfort, acceptance, and completion that they so desperately need.

That is one of the things that I found particularly appealing about Spellbound. Through her characters, Therin calls out the hypocrisy of not only the past, but also the present. Arthur is brave, loyal, and committed to protecting those he loves — but he cannot openly express his love for men without risking his family’s political standing. Rory was the product of an affair between an Italian woman and a Protestant minister; his father refused to marry his mother and, when she died, Rory had no choice but to seek shelter with his father. The upstanding minister never acknowledged his son, and eventually had Rory committed when his psychometric abilities proved to be too much. Jade was a skilled spy and assassin during the Great War, but, as a woman of color, she has virtually no rights in the country she fought to defend; on top of that, she runs a speak-easy; the very people who enjoy her illegal booze and listen to her jazz band are the same people who rail against civil rights and immigration. Zhang can barely leave Chinatown without being accosted.

The magic of Spellbound is unusual. There is no distinction between “magic” and “psychic abilities.” They are one and the same. There is no waving of magic wands or incantations in ancient languages. Instead, there is the individual’s force of will, and blood, and nature. As Jade notes, the phase of the moon can affect one’s abilities, and the artifacts (they soon discover) are similarly influenced by the season, time of day, lunar phase, and even the presence of a particular element (like water).

Spellbound is a terrific addition to the paranormal romance genre. I am looking forward to the next book, and the continuing adventures of Arthur and Rory and their circle of allies. Highly recommended to fans of Astrid Amara, K.J. Charles, Rhys Ford, Jordan L. Hawk, and TJ Klune.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been previously published in a wide variety of venues, a complete list of which can be found at EHS.]