For a book full of myth and mysticism, not to mention an epic battle against true evil, Spellbinder is a real snooze of a read. The heroine and hero are both blandly likable in a certain sense, but it is difficult to feel truly close to them and this distance, paired with some less-than-captivating worldbuilding, make this a big “Why bother?” book in the vast realm that is paranormal romance these days.
Holly McClure lives a dream life as a successful author in New York City. She has a lovely apartment, good friends and a wonderful boyfriend – Evan Lachlan, a US marshal who works at the same courthouse as her best friend Susannah. However, there is another important side to Holly’s life. Unknown to Evan and Susannah, she is part of a coven working in the city. Though Holly’s powers are themselves limited, she is a spellbinder and her blood can strengthen and bind the spells of others.
Beyond that, it’s hard to describe the plot. There is a fight against some type of nasty villain and, of course, the fact that Holly can bind spells makes her very desirable to evil folks who want power. If this sounds a bit blasé, that is most likely because this tale contains the most boring struggle against evil that I have ever encountered. At times it does rise to the point of being gory and vile, but mostly it’s pretty dull stuff.
The main fault here lies in the characterization. There’s an awful lot of telling going on – and not a lot of showing. For instance, we’re told that the magistrate of Holly’s coven is rather off-putting and that people don’t entirely like him. Why is this? Even by the end of the book, the reader doesn’t have much of an idea beyond the little bit we’re told.
Unfortunately, this glossing over extends to the main characters as well. They meander through a relationship throughout the course of the book, but it’s hard to muster up the mental energy to really care about it because we never get to know them closely enough. Even after enduring many pages of small print about Holly’s life, I couldn’t begin to tell you what motivates this woman, why she cares so deeply about her magic, and so on. The fact that she is a spellbinder obviously makes her an important tool for others to use, but something more is needed to make readers care about her, otherwise the author may as well present us with a novel extolling the wonders of a heroine whose head is pointed like a Phillips head screwdriver. Useful tools alone do not a compelling novel make.
While this is not a bad book, it is a very bland one. Neither the world-building nor the characterizations are vivid enough to really carry the day. At hardcover prices, this is definitely not worth the effort and, even in paperback, there are many better paranormals out there for the money.