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By Melanie Rawn

(First in a trilogy)
Tor Fantasy, 2007 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0765354365
ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-5436-5

Reviewed by Katherine Petersen

Melanie Rawn, well-known for her fantasies about dragons and sorcery, has taken a new tack with her latest trilogy. Set in contemporary New York, Spellbinder: A Love Story with Magical Interruptions, fits more in the urban fantasy genre. Rawn combines mystery, magic and romance in this suspense-filled tale. While romance in some books is tantamount to fluff, it, and the romantic elements in Spellbinder prove just as critical as the mystery.

Holly McClure, a best-selling fiction writer living in New York City, is also a descendant of a long line of witches, but Holly doesn’t possess the usual spell-casting skills of other witches. She is a spellbinder which means her blood strengthens the magical workings of others. Unfortunately, the word of her talent has gotten out, and an evil Satan worshipper plans to kidnap Holly and use her abilities for his own purposes.

Holly belongs to a strong New York coven, led by a federal judge, and the group takes both defensive and offensive measures to keep her safe. Holly’s boyfriend, Evan Lachlan, becomes involved as he’s a federal marshal charged with guarding the judge. The fight between good and evil plays a role in this novel, but the relationship between Holly and Evan is the heart of the story. Evan has a difficult time accepting Holly’s riches and success and understanding that she could love a poor man with little social standing. He takes her magical abilities more in stride. The magical and emotional battles in this novel will easily engross the reader as will the ups and downs of the relationship between Evan and Holly.

Rawn’s novel has a level of depth to it not always found in urban fantasy books of today. She also introduces more hard-hitting issues such as Satanism and religious beliefs in general, giving the reader much food for thought. She provides the reader with well-developed and believable characters and immerses them in their lives by giving enough back story, so the reader feels the same emotional pull as the characters. It’s not easy to include this level of romance in a fantasy novel without the relationship leaking into the cliché, but Rawn does a fabulous job of keeping it real. For the most part, the plot moves along at a brisk pace, but the action is sometimes interrupted by bouts of philosophy that made me want to get back to the plot, but Spellbinder is a wonderful read despite this minor complaint.

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