Review: A Power Unbound by Freya MarskeA Power Unbound by Freya Marske
Series: The Last Binding #3
Published by Tor Publishing Group on November 7, 2023
Genres: Fantasy of Manners, Fantasy Romance, Queer
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook
Source: Received from publisher

A Power Unbound is the final entry in Freya Marske’s beloved, award-winning Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light.

"A breathtaking romp of a plot, prose as sparkling and luxuriant as a diamond sautoir, and at the heart of it all a sense of wondrous possibility."—The New York Times on A Restless Truth

"Stunning—the writing is lush, the world-building is fascinating, and the romance is searing hot. I am completely obsessed with this story of unrepentantly dangerous people falling in love with one another."—Cat Sebastian, author of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

A Most Anticipated Book for Paste and BookPage

Secrets! Magic! Enemies to. . .something more?

Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn, would love a nice, safe, comfortable life. After the death of his twin sister, he thought he was done with magic for good. But with the threat of a dangerous ritual hanging over every magician in Britain, he’s drawn reluctantly back into that world.

Now Jack is living in a bizarre puzzle-box of a magical London townhouse, helping an unlikely group of friends track down the final piece of the Last Contract before their enemies can do the same. And to make matters worse, they need the help of writer and thief Alan Ross.

Cagey and argumentative, Alan is only in this for the money. The aristocratic Lord Hawthorn, with all his unearned power, is everything that Alan hates. And unfortunately, Alan happens to be everything that Jack wants in one gorgeous, infuriating package.

When a plot to seize unimaginable power comes to a head at Cheetham Hall—Jack’s ancestral family estate, a land so old and bound in oaths that it’s grown a personality as prickly as its owner—Jack, Alan and their allies will become entangled in a night of champagne, secrets, and bloody sacrifice . . . and the foundations of magic in Britain will be torn up by the roots before the end.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

A Power Unbound is the impressive and satisfying conclusion to Freya Marske’s Edwardian gaslamp fantasy romance trilogy, the Last Binding.

Each book in the series follows a new main couple, with previous couples appearing as secondary characters. Marske keeps the momentum going by maintaining a continuous plot arc across all three books. Brought together by love – and a shared hatred for despotism – our cast of characters includes both magicians and the non-magical. In this final book of the trilogy, we follow Jack Hawthorn and Alan Ross as they try one last time to prevent evil-doers from using ancient fae magic to steal the powers of every magician in England.

I was delighted to learn that A Power Unbound would follow Hawthorn and Ross because I loved their antagonist dynamic in previous books. An English Lord and a socialist working class Italian? Uh, yeah, sign me up. I’ve been quite pleased to find a few working class protagonists in historical fantasy lately, which is something that I’d really love to see more of. Hawthorn masks his emotional wounds with a studied air of aloofness while Alan hides his insecurities behind a veneer of cavalier self-deprecation and cutting remarks. Their verbal sparring was delicious and added a certain sizzle to their chemistry.

Freya Marske makes her characters shine with crisp, witty dialogue and meticulously well-crafted personal histories.

Markse has created an intriguing magic system that has two branches: the first is the mainstream magic, which relies heavily on the concept of legal contracts and the second, which is an underground approach that relies on a person’s connection to the land. This land magic is usually connected to someone’s inheritance of an estate, and so Jack’s relationship to his family seat – and his family – features heavily in this story. We finally learn the circumstances of how he lost his magic…and how his twin sister lost her life. I was really moved by his story of healing from grief and reconnecting with the land of the living. There may have been some dust in the air at a few key moments.

As you can imagine from their backstories, It’s not all fun and games with these characters. I’m pleased to report that Marske treats their difference in stations with care and sensitivity (and a little spiciness, too). Alan is the first truly working class protagonist of the series so far, providing some much needed class commentary on the ease of life for the upper classes. His desperation to survive and help his family also amped up the intensity, creating higher stakes for the gang as they try to build a more equal world for everyone – magical or not.

In my opinion, this series is best enjoyed through audiobooks. The deadpan, so-dry-you-might-miss-it humour is highlighted beautifully through strong voice acting. Josh Dylan, the narrator of A Power Unbound, delivers a performance that is by turns hysterical, sultry, and moving. My hat’s off to him – I’d gladly read another audiobook narrated by him. 

The Last Binding trilogy delivers creativity, wit, and heart. Highly recommended.