Rating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Arthur Kenzie is the wealthy son of a New York politician. He also works to track supernatural relics that are a danger to the world. When Arthur gets word that an amulet with unknown, but certainly devastating, powers is heading for New York, he seeks out some supernatural help. Arthur is looking for a psychometric, a person who can see into an object’s past, to help him figure out what the relic does and how to keep it from being bound to a dangerous practitioner. He seeks out the woman who owns a local appraisal shop, as she seems to have the abilities he seeks, but little does Arthur know that Leena Brodigan is just a cover for the real supernatural talent who works for her.

Rory may be a psychometric, but his gift is not fully in control. As with many paranormals, his power can get away from him. In Rory’s case, when scrying an object’s history, he can find himself lost in the past, sometimes for day or weeks at a time. Disreputable folks often try to abuse paranormals for their own ends and so Rory keeps a low profile, hiding way in the back of Mrs. Brodigan’s shop and helping to appraise antiques and determine their authenticity, while Leena keeps up appearances up front.

When Arthur approaches Leena Brodigan for help, both she and Rory try to keep him out of Arthur’s sights, but soon it becomes clear to Arthur that Rory is the real one with the paranormal talent. Arthur doesn’t want to do anything to harm Rory and he is very aware that he is asking Rory to do something potentially dangerous, but if the relics fall into the wrong hands, the potential abuse of enormous power could be devastating. Things start off tense between Arthur and Rory, as Rory has a lot of doubts about Arthur and his motives. But soon he begins to realize that Arthur is truly a caring man who just wants to protect the city–and Rory– from harm. But with old enemies resurfacing and dangerous relics in the wrong hands, Arthur and Rory must fight, along with their friends, to save their city and their lives.

Spellbound is the first book in Allie Therin’s Magic in Manhattan series and the author’s debut work. I must say I am incredibly impressed with this story and think Therin does an amazing job combining some really creative world building, fascinating historical detail, and great relationship development.

First off, I am a sucker for creative world building in my paranormals and I am always impressed when I find something unique. Therin really builds a richly developed world here, where regular folks unknowingly mix with people with supernatural abilities. Aside from Rory’s abilities as a psychometic, we also meet Arthur’s best friend, Jade, who is a telekentic; their friend, Zhang, who can move through the astral plane; and a host of others, including fire starters and people who can turn invisible. I thought it was particularly interesting how these abilities are balanced with consequences, namely that they are so hard to control. In addition to Rory risking falling into the past, we learn about dangers other paranormals face from their powers, so it sets up a nice challenge as those fighting for good can’t push too hard or they risk their abilities getting the better of them. Therin does a really nice job of taking this set up and then crafting a wonderfully suspenseful story as the group rushes to discover what the relics can do, who has them, and how to get them to a place of safety. The end of the story gets nicely intense and quite exciting and I loved how it all comes together. This book starts off the series and while things tie up nicely for the first book, there is plenty left open for Arthur and Rory’s continued adventures.

This story takes place in 1925, during Prohibition and not too far after the first world war. Therin really uses the setting and the time period to great affect here. There are lots of details that really bring the historical elements to life, like shared lines for telephones and Rory thrilling to hear that Arthur has a private bath with his own hot water. But at the same time, the story still flows nicely and doesn’t get bogged down in the details. This is also a time where men can not safely be with other men, of course, though we do learn that Arthur could be more open when he was in Europe. So Rory and Arthur have to be very careful as they approach each other, as well as not to let anyone else know about their developing relationship (though Jade knows and heartily approves). I loved getting a glimpse of New York almost a hundred years ago and I found the historical elements really added so much to the story.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Arthur and Rory. Things start out a little adversarial, at least on Rory’s part. He has aways had to hide his abilities and he sees Arthur at first as someone just snooping around and causing trouble for him and Mrs. Brodigan. Arthur is wealthy and powerful and Rory doesn’t trust him. Poor Arthur is trying so hard to prove himself to Rory, but things keep going wrong and he isn’t quite able to show how much he cares about Rory and wants to keep him safe. I had a giggle when Arthur says to Rory, “Do you have a single thought about me that doesn’t assume I’m an asshole?” But once Rory starts to feel safe with Arthur, their relationship begins to move forward and they form such a wonderful bond that really connects them, both emotionally and magically. This story is mostly closed door on the sexual scenes, but there is an intimacy that still comes through so strongly between them.

So I was thrilled with this story and incredibly impressed that it is a debut work. Therin has created some great characters and a really fascinating world here and I can’t wait to follow along with the series. Consider this one highly recommended.