by Colleen Cowley
Publication date: September 27, 2020
Series: Clandestine Magic Trilogy #1
**I was provided a copy of the book by the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own. (If you’re wondering, the book is superb!)**
Peter Blackwell returns to his former hometown Ellicott Mills to serve as the town’s resident wizard, an omnimancer to help with illnesses or other problems that may arise in the town. Requiring an assistant, he manages to steal Beatrix Harper from her current place of employment (against her wishes). Although initially adverse to the idea, Beatrix agrees to help him, not realizing that helping Peter will require her to break the law because he didn’t exactly return home to just be an omnimancer.
There’s something to be said about reading a book you hope is going to be good and have it meet your expectations, possibly even exceed them. Reading Subversive was one of the best experiences I had all year. It felt like all my favorite genres—fantasy, romance, regency (not a real genre I know…but it’s historical but yet not and I get regency vibes from it )–melded into one. I had a difficult time trying to figure out that something to say, how I might capture how wonderful it is in a blog post—the answer is that I couldn’t but still tried.
Cowley’s magnetic storytelling and distinct magic system had me enamored with the book and its characters. The social system and the political system are reflective of the present United States but this somewhat dystopian U.S. lags in women’s rights—women don’t have any. Okay, they have limited rights but it feels more like no rights at all. For instance, women have a curfew, and single women are not allowed to be alone with single men or else their reputations will be tarnished. The lack of women’s rights and the privilege that comes from having magical abilities serves as a compelling backdrop to the events that unfold. The book poses multiple questions, and among them is the question of what those in power will do to stay in power.
I immediately liked Beatrix upon meeting her. Family is everything to her, and she is determined that her sister has opportunities she never had, even though it can lead to resentment and go unappreciated at times. She isn’t infallible. She can be stubborn and doesn’t have a problem speaking her mind or apologizing when she has erred.
Peter is a bit harder to figure out because it isn’t immediately clear what his motivations are. What is clear, though, is that he knows exactly what he is doing when he hires Beatrix, and it isn’t because he is just a nice wizard trying to help her out. The relationship that blossoms from their work arrangement is a complicated one and kept me turning the pages.
I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed it! It felt like stepping into a Jane Austen novel in an alternate 21st century made extra complicated by the presence of magic. I wasn’t always able to predict what was going to happen next. I both loved and hated how it kept me on my toes just as I thought I had it figured out. I kept wanting to skip to the end so I wouldn’t be so anxious about what was going to happen next. I didn’t but I really wanted to. It’s perfect for fans of romantic fantasy with strong, capable women fighting for what they believe in.