Nostalgia Friday: Spellbinder, by L J Smith

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Author’s website
Publication date – October 1996

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Blaise’s black magic is powerful. The only way Thea can fight back is to use her own white magic, to bewitch Eric herself as a bluff. But soon Thea finds herself getting too close to Eric, feeling forbidden emotions, breaking Night World laws by falling in love. As halloween and the Night of the Witch draw closer, can Thea save Eric and herself from Blaise’s revenge?

Summary: This book holds a particular nostalgic fondness for me because of the way I was always able to relate to the main character, Thea. She and her cousin Blaise are rather disturbingly similar to myself and an old friend of mine, at least in terms of demeanor, and to a lesser extent appearance. Thea also suffered angst over having to choose a magical specialty, unable to choose because she liked all of her options equally, and I know very well that in such a position, I too would have been unable to choose. She seemed the perfect character to relate to, especially during my early teenage years when I was discovering my spirituality. For that reason alone, I think this book gets a higher rating from me than it perhaps deserves on the basis on writing style and plot alone.

On the other hand, the ability of the reader to relate to a character can drastically impact the quality of a novel, so maybe it is justified after all.

As far as plots go, it’s interesting but nothing special. True to the rest of the Night World books, there’s the element of secrecy combined with breaking the rules, and an emphasis on forbidden love, though in this book the forbidden love is a little more normal and balanced than most, which is nice. Smith also takes a lot of popular fluffybunny Wiccan lore about the Burning Times and magic and makes it all real. That’s the truth behind witches in the Night World books. For the time it was written, this kind of information, and the attitude of some of the humans in the story, could be considered progressive and perhaps decently-researched, and an intrigue to those interested in Goddess- or earth-based religions. Nowadays, though, five minutes on Google will reveal a dozen things proving that the background of the story makes no sense.

I know it’s supposed to be fiction, but it’s also supposed to be a hidden world within our mundane world, so having it be easily disproven isn’t exactly a good thing.

On the whole, though, this is one of the more decent books in the series, especially within the earliest books. It’s definitely one of my favourites, mostly because of the associated nostalgia but also because you can really see the author getting into her element with the Night World books. The first book was an okay first book, the second book was awkward, but this one fares better and does a lot to redeem the series for anyone turned away by the lackluster quality of the first two. You could probably even start the series on this book and not miss out on much, since the real continuity begins here. In small ways, of course, but some of them are rather essential for setting up some later large events. Worth reading, I’d say, even as a standalone.

One comment on “Nostalgia Friday: Spellbinder, by L J Smith

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