Rating: 4.25 stars
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Edison Rooker grew up adjacent to the magical world, living with his grandmother who was a low-level sorcerer. However, once she died, the Magical Consortium would no longer let Rook live in her home and so he has spent a lonely year on his own. Now that he has finished high school, Rook is looking for job — and a way to connect with magic once again. Rook has invented a device he calls the Spell Binder that gives him the ability to see the ley lines, something only those with magic should be able to do. He hopes that with this device, magic may actually be possible for him. Rook goes to see Antonia Hex, one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world, hoping for a job. At first, Antonia has no interest in hiring a human with no magical skills, not to mention officially she isn’t even allowed by the Consortium to bring on an apprentice. However, eventually Rook’s enthusiasm and his ability to repair all the electronics she keeps breaking (combined with Antonia’s desire for some minor rebellion against the Consortium), see her hiring Rook to help manage her office. Rook is disappointed that Antonia detects no magic in him, but still happy to be a part of the magical world again, even if just tangentially.
One day, Rook meets Sun, the apprentice of Fable, Antonia’s friend and sometimes rival. While Sun is grumpy and doesn’t seem to want much to do with Rook, Rook can’t help find them adorable. The two teens end up spending more time together as Antonia and Fable work with one another on some jobs, and eventually a friendship begins to form. Sun still is very reserved, but the pair are starting to connect and an attract is growing between them.
While things are going well with Rook and Sun, there is still the matter of Rook’s illegal Spell Binder device. And the fact that technically Rook shouldn’t even be working for Antonia. And, Antonia definitely shouldn’t be teaching Rook magic. Not to mention that while Rook and Antonia may be ok breaking some Consortium rules, Rook and Fable are less so and it is causing tension among the group. But when the Consortium gets word of what is going on and come for the mentors, Rook and Sun must rely on each other to find a way out of the situation. They may just be apprentices, but they are determined to stand up to the Consortium and help their mentors, no matter what it takes.
I really found this magic-filled, young adult story by F.T. Lukens to be just delightful. There is a nice sense of world building, a sweet couple in Rook and Sun, and a fun dose of adventure. Lukens has created a world that is very much like our modern one, with the addition of magic. Rook grew up surrounded by magic only to have it ripped away from him when his grandmother died and he is desperate to reconnect with that part of his life. He has not just lost something important to him in magic, but the sense of comfort and love from his grandmother. This past year has been hard, as Rook is really on his own, despite being not even 17. Rook’s story dovetails nicely with Antonia’s, as she is being punished by the Consortium for transgressions related to her last apprentice and so she too understands the idea of being held back from your potential and being kept away from something that is a part of you. So there is a kinship there that has Antonia serving as a friend and mentor to Rook. She enjoys breaking the rules a little, so she lets Rook get away with things he shouldn’t in terms of learning magic and helping out. But she also becomes someone solid in Rook’s life, which he really needs.
The initial conflict here is Rook figuring out how to get magic back into his life, then it slowly morphs in to the conflict with Sun and Fable, as they are both much more strict rule-followers and it doesn’t take long before they realize that Rook and Antonia are breaking plenty. It causes a nice conflict for Rook and Sun as they build a friendship, and then start some shy feelings for each other. Philosophically they contrast in terms of their views on the rules, but also they really like one another and struggle for that balance. The larger conflict here that develops is with the Magical Consortium, which gives Rook and Sun a chance to work together to fight the Consortium’s threats and the danger that results when they learn more about what is going on. I did feel the pacing was off a little here, as a lot of the story seems to be setting up for this conflict, which doesn’t come until the second half of the book. Things take a turn in intensity, danger, and adventure here and it feels a little later in the story than I would have wanted it to really kick off. I so think this story has a nice young adult arc, with the teens being forced to stand up and fight against the authority figures and even to save their adult mentors. So I found their adventure a lot of fun and it gives the teens a chance to really come into their own in the later part of the book.
Sun and Rook are sweet together with a grumpy/sunshine vibe. They are shy and adorable and trying to find their way with one another. They are also strong and brave and smart and figure out how to save the day together. While there is some danger and a few intense moments with their fight against the Consortium, on the romance end this is very much on the tame side. Rook and Sun share a few kisses that are very much G-rated, so definitely more sweet than sexy. I really liked the dynamic between them and watching them grow both individually and together.
I found this one a lot of fun and a very engaging story with a nice magical twist. Lukens has a great writing style and I enjoyed this one a lot. If you like magical world building and young adult adventures, Spell Bound is definitely one to check out.
This does sound appealing, Jay. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.