Start End

Review of A Power Unbound by

A Power Unbound

by Freya Marske

5 out of 5 stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Reviewed .

Shelved under

Another satisfying conclusion to a fantasy trilogy? What have I done to deserve this? Freya Marske joins a small yet hallowed group of authors for wrapping her fantasy series with aplomb. A Power Unbound brings together the threads from the previous two books, resolving the story of the Last Contract and the more personal stories of the characters Marske has breathed into life over two novels. I was so excited to read this, and it does not disappoint.

As usual, spoilers for the first two books but not for this one.

This book is told primarily from the limited third-person perspective of Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn. Featured in the previous two books as a remote, unforgiving chap who had lost or given up his magic, Jack becomes more accessible to us in this third book. We learn more about his tragic past, the incident that claimed the life of his twin sister and robbed him of his magic. We also see how far Jack will go to take care of the people he loves. That includes family, friends, and lovers—because yes, there is more romance here. As the equinox approaches, the bad guys looking to bring together the three pieces of the Last Contract are dogging every move of Jack and his allies. It will take everyone working together to outwit and outfight those who would take the magic of England for themselves.

I’m not sure what I can say that I haven’t already said in my reviews of A Marvellous Light or A Restless Truth … Marske is just a phenomenal storyteller. She knows how to set up a conflict, ratchet up the tension scene after scene, and then pay it off with a big, desperate climax.

As far as character goes, the standout is, of course, the other perspective character, Alan. As we get to know this journalist/smutty writer better, we learn what drives him: the big family he feels responsible for taking care of, his desire to better himself in a world where upwards mobility is frowned upon. It’s through Alan and his attraction to Jack that we finally see fully Lord Hawthorn’s cold exterior melt—and yes, I mean that in every way, including the romantic.

Like with the first two books, the romance and smut here did nothing for me and were, if anything, things I skipped over—if spice is your thing, though, then whew, yes, read these! Nevertheless, I love the mixture of queer smut and fantasy set in Edwardian England. This is a rich, layered setting that Marske uses to her full advantage.

Probably the standout aspect of this novel, however, is simply the way Marske finally brings this series to a close. I love how she wraps this up! Without going into spoilers, let’s say that the story of the Last Contract is definitively resolved. Is there room for more stories with these characters? Certainly. But don’t worry about any cliffhangers connected to the main plot. I love how Marske plumbs the depth of this world that she has created, bringing together the threads of magic: faerie, ley lines and the land, spirits and ghosts—it all comes back, and it’s all put together in a way that makes sense.

Paramount to the plot is the theme of one’s connection to the land. One’s heritage. It’s so interesting to see this appear in a non-Indigenous story. Marske positions the contractual magic of English magicians against the land-based magic of hedge witches and sorcerers, essentially positing that contractual magic is associated with the rise of mercantilism and capitalism in England, whereas land-based magic is far more humanist, natural, forgiving. It’s a beautiful, anticapitalist sentiment lurking beneath a book that, after all, has relatively well-off people as several of its main characters.

My only complaint is that, since this book follows Jack and Alan, we don’t get to spend as much time with Maud, Violet, Edwin, or Robyn. I expected as much given how Marske changed things up for A Restless Truth. Nevertheless, I’m left wistful for more stories, especially from Maud’s point of view because I have a soft spot for her!

Beyond that, this is a fitting and feels-worthy conclusion to one of the most original, fulfilling, and spicy fantasy trilogies I have read in the past decade. If you like historical fantasy set in England, don’t mind a little queer romance/smut, and want a tense mystery along the way, then stop sleeping on this series. Read these books: you won’t regret it.


Share on the socials

Twitter Facebook

Let me know what you think

Goodreads LogoStoryGraph Logo

Enjoying my reviews?

Tip meBuy me a tea