Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Spellhaven by Sandra Unerman


The Unseen Spirits must be entertained, so that the city may prosper......


SPELLHAVEN
by Sandra Unerman
Fantasy, Adventure
August 17, 2017
Mirror World Publishing
In the summer of 1914, Jane Fairchild, a young English musician, is kidnapped by magic and sent to Spellhaven, an island city ruled by magicians. Here, peace and prosperity are maintained with the assistance of Unseen Spirits bound to the service of the Lords Magician. The Spirits must be kept in good humour by the performance of all kinds of shows, dance, drama and music. Jane is one of many people kidnapped from the outside world and forced to contribute to these entertainments for a set period of service.

Only Jane is having none of it. She will not perform for her kidnapper, Lucian Palafox, but agrees to undertake an apprenticeship with another magician impresario, provided she is taught magic in return. Jane's forays into magic lead her deeper within the mysteries of Spellhaven, her rivalry with Lucian escalates and the quarrels between them grow strong enough to shake the city to its foundations.


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MY TIDBITS

(Note: This starts with a normal YA read style, characterization and plot, although Jane matures in the last chapters.)

This magical world lures in and adds exciting twists and tension with every turn.

After completing a musical performance, Jane is approached by a strange man who insists she play a solo performance for him. She declines and finds herself put under a spell, which makes her feet act on their own and lead her to a magical island, Spellhaven. There, the magicians perform shows to keep the demons entertained so that they can continue to live, using their own magical powers. But Spellhaven holds many mysteries, some which should never be uncovered. But Jane does and now, she has to deal with the consequences.

The first chapters opened with a wonderful scene of Jane and her love for music, and it immediately takes off with tension as she finds herself under a compelling spell. Although it was easy to feel for Jane's plight from the first moments, the beginning scenes felt a little rushed and jumbled as there was no time to first settle into Jane's circumstances or surroundings. But after this beginning stumble, the story opens up into a fantastical world and plot.

The writing is gentle yet gripping. The world and scenes unfold with carefully placed details, letting the surroundings gain depth and feel. It's a fantastic island to visit, making it hard to want to leave. Which is important not only for the world-building but for the plot.

There is a lot of light-hearted fun and dreams built into the tale, letting imagination take flight. This throws a great contrast to the darker shadows and secrets Jane faces. But it's much like her own character. She's determined, has a golden heart and is easily liked, but on the same hand, her personality as its own deeper sharp edges and flaws. Some of her decisions leave a sour taste, but she's still a heroine to forgive and cheer on. Even those around her dance on a grey border as their actions and decisions waver from good to evil and back again. It makes for more realistic personalities and keeps the reader guessing the whole way through. 

Tension and mystery keep up a steady-pace and make it hard to set the book down. The plot held many surprising twists and kept a logical thread going even with fantastical turns. With a sudden switch in atmosphere, the last chapters take on a different tone and pace from the rest of the novel. The relationship between Jane and her hero rushes to pass time and loses the chemistry which made the rest of the book so interesting. It made the last chapters less grabbing and dulled even Jane's character a little. Although, the ending did pull it back together and close it off to form a satisfying read.


EXCERPT

Jane Fairchild lowered the flute from her mouth and curtseyed to the audience scattered around the lawn. She could not help smiling at their cheers, even as Toby Scott, the leader of their consort, bent down towards her and muttered, ‘You weren’t supposed to play that. You promised to behave.’

They had played one solo each, as agreed, but Jane had abandoned the Gounod she had rehearsed for some variations of her own on a nameless tune from her childhood. Toby despised that kind of music making and none of the others cared for it much. Jane had meant to be well-behaved this evening, when they wanted to impress Lady Waverley and her guests. The consort, music students in their final year, had been invited to play at this garden party in July chiefly because the Waverleys’ son had been at school with Toby, but their guests were likely to include several potential patrons and aficionados who might help them in their fledgling careers. The year was 1914.

The trouble was, as Jane had looked round in the deep evening light, she had felt a need to stir up the audience. They stood in little clusters under the trees or on the paths in the rose garden and listened politely between sips of champagne, but they were not properly engaged with the music. Most of them were young and busy flirting by whisper or touch, or staid and on the edge of somnolence. At least Jane had caught their attention and made some of them laugh.

She shook her head at Toby while she put her flute away and did not answer him. Now that they had finished their set, people were quick to surround the musicians and compliment them, and she was able to dodge round him without a fuss. She was thirsty, so she headed towards the refreshments promised earlier. She doubted champagne would be provided for the musicians but lemonade would be more welcome in any case.

A stranger stepped in front of her, a young man, dark and thin. ‘That last piece was the real stuff. Couldn’t you strangle your First Violin with his own strings and play some more of it?’ he said.

‘Good evening, Mr.…?’ Jane said.

The stranger inclined his head. ‘Lucian Hunter, at your service.’ There was a glint in his eye, as though at a joke he did not expect other people to understand.

‘Mr. Scott is a very fine musician and a friend of mine.’

‘But deadening. You ought to quarrel with him and strike out on your own.’

Jane drew breath to argue and then decided not to explain herself to this person, whoever he was.

‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Excuse me, I should go and find Lady Waverley.’

‘Wait!’ Hunter’s voice was not loud but compelling. He spoke clear English but with the shadow of an accent Jane could not place. ‘I have something else to ask you. Will you meet me next week and play for me?’

‘I’m afraid not.’

‘I could pay you for some lessons. Surely you take pupils?’

Not arrogant young men, Jane thought. ‘It really isn’t possible,’ she said, and turned away.

She felt a hand on her arm and swung back to glare at Hunter. He dropped his clasp at once but he said, ‘You’ll regret it if you don’t. It’s the music I want, you know.’

‘Not from me. Or from anyone else I know if you lay a finger on me again.’

His smile was swift and infuriating.

‘I don’t need to, now,’ he said and turned away.

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook:  

Mirror World Publishing Paperback:

Amazon US:  
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spellhaven-sandra-unerman/1126613810?ean=9781987976342


And here she is. . .


Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in SF and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. In 2016, these included stories in Three Drops from a Cauldron, the Midwinter issue and Aurora Wolf, the September issue, both available online. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.

Connect with Sandra :

Website:
https://sandraunermanwriter.com/

Amazon Author Page:
https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Unerman/e/B0034NS9VM

Goodreads Author Page:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6566116.Sandra_Unerman

Goodreads Book Page:

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reviewing Spellhaven! Glad you enjoyed it :)

    ReplyDelete