Spellhaven is an example of expert, well thought out world-building to the point where I hope to see sequels (or prequels) set there in future! The characters are at times admirable and engaging and at other times infuriating—aren’t we all. The story itself has been well summarized by a number of other reviews here, so let me just say that it’s very much like a period piece within a period piece…or perhaps, a period story with a high fantasy story wrapped inside it. Sandra Unerman has achieved a difficult thing by coming up with a new angle on magic in a way I have not yet seen in other novels. Though I think it is quite impossible to drum up anything even close to original anymore, Spellhaven allows the reader a chance to see its magic world through a very different lens.
Our heroine, Jane, is a young woman with a mind and will of her own, when spells are not forcing her to abandon her home. This is both an admirable quality and an irritating stubbornness that traps her and frees her, taking the reader on an emotionally complicated journey. Other characters only give fleeting glimpses of themselves to the reader, whereas others yet are nakedly on full arrogant display.
I will say that I most enjoyed the first two thirds of the story more than I enjoyed the last third, which changes setting and is almost like a separate tale of its own, or a very long post script. But I do appreciate the last third, too. I don’t always like the way things turn out in a novel, but I can respect it as it’s own, separate being over which I have little to no control. Like life.
Read Spellhaven if you enjoy magic, fantasy mixed with history, characters that don’t always (or often) cooperate and if you don’t mind a tale that ends with some ambiguity and strong but mixed emotions.