Breach by W. L. Goodwater


W. L. Goodwater

Karen, a young magician, is sent to investigate the breach in the Berlin Wall, which is made of magic. Instead, she discovers that the truth is elusive in this divided city–and that even magic itself has its own agenda.

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The first novel in a new Cold War fantasy series, where the Berlin Wall is made entirely of magic. When a breach unexpectedly appears in the wall, spies from both sides swarm to the city as World War III threatens to spark.


When Soviet magicians conjured an arcane wall to blockade occupied Berlin, the world was outraged but let it stand for the sake of peace. Now, after ten years of fighting with spies instead of spells, the CIA has discovered the unthinkable...


While refugees and soldiers mass along the border, operatives from East and West converge on the most dangerous city in the world to either stop the crisis, or take advantage of it.

Karen, a young magician with the American Office of Magical Research and Deployment, is sent to investigate the breach in the Wall and determine if it can be fixed. Instead, she discovers that the truth is elusive in this divided city--and that even magic itself has its own agenda.


Advance Galley Reviews

While I do get the premise, some of it could have definitely been handled better. It has interesting premises and some interesting characters but a lot of things felt rather cliche. Possibly, any future books in the series could fix the more cliches aspects (and I hope it does) but it was definitely worth the read. 3 stars.

Set in an alternate 1950s Berlin, “Breach” presents a different version of the Cold War: one where the bomb did help the Allies to win World War II, but against an enemy that had both an army and magic. The Berlin Wall, therefore, is not here merely a material wall: it is also made of magic, cast by a mix of Soviet magicians at the end of the war. And now the Wall is falling, and it’s up to both the CIA and their counterparts in the East to figure out what’s happening, how to rebuild it, and how to prevent a new war. From the USA, young magician Karen O’Neill is sent to help investigate; of course, as she discovers, things aren’t so straightforward; the men in Berlin have just as much trouble to adjust to the idea of a woman doing something else than having a husband and children; and there’s no way of telling who’s a liar, who’s not, and who’s mixing both so well that finding out the truth becomes the most difficult task ever. The novel has its rough edges and, at times, awkward sentences and point of view switches. Some characters are clearly on the cliché side (like George, the manly-male magician who can’t get over seeing Karen sent to Germany rather than him, or Kirill, who apparently just likes to be cruel and doesn’t do anything else in life?), and not as developed as they could’ve been. And Karen’s way of facing her male peers usually amounts to giving in to the same attitudes as theirs, which makes her look perhaps too much on the defensive, which in turn diminishes her stronger side. However, in terms of the world presented here and of the story itself, this story was a fairly enthralling read. It had, all in all, what I was looking for when I requested it. Spies and a Cold War backdrop. Magic that from the beginning offers a glimpse of its darker side (Karen and her colleague are desperately trying to find a way to use magic to heal people, because otherwise, magic seems pretty much suited for destruction and killing first and foremost). A female character, too, who has her flaws but refuses to give up and wants to get to the bottom of things. Secrets from the War, resurfacing. Extraction operations and forays into more the enemy side of Berlin. While at first, the magic itself doesn’t look terribly impressing (old, musty spells in Latin, etc.), there comes a moment when more about it is unveiled, and it hints at something definitely worth keeping in check. At all costs. (Not going to spoil, so let’s just say it dealt with a kind of effect that typically fascinates me.) Unexpectedly, or maybe not, I found myself rooting for Erwin more than for the other characters. He has his own very dark past, but is also honestly redeeming himself, and not by hiding behind other characters—he gets his own hands dirty just as well. Even though the pacing in the first half was slower, discovering this alternate world was enough to keep my attention here. The second half is more dynamic, although I’m torn about some of it (the finale being both awesome and “too much”, and I really can’t tell where I stand about it). The very ending, in hindsight, wasn’t unexpected; this said, it still got me, so cheers to that. Conclusion: 3.5 stars. This novel has its faults, but also enough good points to make me interested in picking up the sequel later.

There’s a whole generation now who’ve grown up after the Berlin Wall fell. If you visit Berlin, it’s just a thin line of metal marking where it had been and a small section saved as part of a historical museum. Not that scary anymore. But, there was a time that this barrier divided the city, cleaving it in two. And, it was not designed to keep outsiders or invaders out so much as to keep the populace within where they could be subjected to the endless propaganda of the Communist Party. Breach explores the dark period when freedom was stifled in East Berlin within sight of the West. Here, the American, French, and British directly confront the Soviet Empire before Gorbachev was told to tear down this wall. But, this wall in Breach was not constructed of cinderblock and mortar, but of spells and magic. And, there’s a breach in the wall, a pathway, and both the East and the West have magicians ready to confront the magic of the wall. And, what if the Wall is meant not just to cut off East Berlin, but to hold something else at bay, something more treacherous. Real interesting concepts, indeed. Part spy fiction, part science fiction, part alternate history. Featuring a lead character of magician extraordinary Karen O’Neill, a young, innocent, naive magician still feeling her land legs, but often showing other points of view as well. Although the storytelling was not always gripping, there were so many interesting ideas explored. Labeled as the first book in the series, so more are on the way.

I thought the book was an interesting concept, the way magic works was interesting as well. But the story just did not capture me. It bounced around a lot between characters so the flow was off and it sometimes got confusing. I found myself putting it down a lot and reading something else. I didn't feel like I knew any of the characters and therefore wasn't invested in them or their outcomes. I wanted to like it more and I think I will give book 2 a chance but this book was just okay for me.

3.5 Stars Breach, first in a new series, Cold War Magic, is an alternate history in which magic was used to create the Berlin Wall at the end of the Second World War. Karen O'Neil is a young magician at the Office of Magical Research and Deployment, doing research on beneficial uses of magic. She is called to Berlin by the State Department and CIA because of a breach in the Berlin Wall. Over a short period of time, and a series of betrayals, Karen begins to see that there is no good side to be working for. From her boss Dr. Haupt, to Mr. Ehle, an East German agent who claims he wants to help save the wall. Karen faces sexism, treachery as she embarks on search for a mysterious book in terrible former wartime camp called Auttenberg, where prisoners were victims of magical experimentation in Nazi Germany. This book has an interesting premise but the last part left me frustrated with the Mary Sue-like quality of Karen's character by the end of the novel. Also, although the sexism of the era is to be expected if the alternate history remains true to the culture of WWII times, I felt like a lot of Karen's snappish answers to superiors and peers were unrealistic, and even lacking in skill. I can't resist comparisons to Tanya Morozova from The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, who benefitted from the influence of Max Gladstone's writing. I'll probably still pick up the next in the Cold War Magic series but I hope that Goodwater's writing of Karen will grow with the story. Review posted on my blog: I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from the First to Read program in exchange for an honest review

First of all, I have never read a book about the Cold war. I picked this book for the Magic part of it, but as I got more into the book, I couldn't put it down! I wanted to know more about the war and Berlin wall and it's history. I honestly loved it and I recommended it to everyone around me, and im definitely getting my own copy since its out now! 4/5 stars!

A very exciting historical fiction novel. 4/5!

"Magic was never the salvation of mankind. It was our undoing." I think that a reader's reaction to this book might depend on two things: first, their unconditional love for all things magical, and second, their enthusiasm/tolerance for books that aren't written very well and contain the clichéd phrase "something terrible had been released". Karen O'Neil is a 26 year old magician doing research at the Office of Magical Research and Deployment in the United States. In this alternate reality story, the Berlin Wall was created and is maintained by magic, and Karen is sent to investigate a small breach that has opened in the Wall. Secretly, however, the purpose of the Wall is not crowd control, but we don't find out the "real" purpose of the Wall until the second half of the book. Up until that point the book is mostly a spy story with very little (and unimpressive) magic. The last third of the book gets more interesting when the characters enter a space where reality has shifted. The action speeds up and the images becomes very cinematic, with spectral presences, magic that feeds on blood and a breach that "twisted and thrashed like a living thing". I tried to ignore the fact that the writing isn't terrific because I know this is aiming to be great literature, but I just couldn't since it seemed to get worse and cheesier as the book progressed. For example: On the first page: "...a skeletal moon proved to be a disinterested accomplice..." and "The only other light came from the heavily curtained windows reluctantly overlooking the empty road." I don't know what a skeletal moon is and I don't see how inanimate objects can be either disinterested or reluctant. And how exactly is light coming from heavily curtained windows? Also: "Every step was like walking barefoot over broken shards of yourself." and "...the sun decided to burn off a morning mist." From the beginning of the book I didn't think the writing was very good and the pacing was too slow, but near the end when Karen suddenly developed super powers the book finally lost me forever. The book did have some interesting concepts, so I've rounded my rating up to 3 stars from 2.5, but I will not be continuing with the series. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

It's always refreshing when I read a fantasy book that has a new-to-me setting. I remember reading that some of Hitler's cronies in the Thule Society had interests in the occult, so magic in this scenario was not too much a stretch of the imagination. The protagonist, Karen, fights sexism, bureaucracy, and prejudice, and that's before she even gets to Berlin to look at the breach in the wall. I found her reactions honest, the characters she meets to be well-developed and the descriptions of war-torn Berlin to be appropriately horrifying. The best books that deal with magic have it having a price, which I feel definitely applied in The Breach. The climax was tense, and I didn't feel there were any loose ends. Solid four stars. I'd read more in this world.

This was interesting. I’m giving it a 3/5 stars for now, to give me a neutral place to start off with. I love this mesh of magic and history, and this new world building that is equal parts fantastic and real. I think there’s potential for a great series and something I’d be interested in. I picked up a discovery of witches hoping for something a bit more like this, and was disappointed about how long Diana (from a discovery of witches, not breach) took to get to get magic. But Karen is almost there when we pick up this book, and grows as the book progresses. This book has a few issues, and the point of view switches where it takes a few paragraphs to figure out whose POV is was a little annoying, but nothing that detracted from the overall story.

Really enjoyable read! I would rate the book 4/5 stars. The story starts at the end of World War 2, with tensions high between the East and West forces on opposite side of the Berlin Wall. Only, the Berlin Wall is made of magic - and when there's a breach in the Wall, it signals the start of chaos. The book is a touch slow to start - there's a lot of POVs that keep switching that makes it tough to get a hold of the characters, but once you get into it the plot just pulls you along! Most of the book follows the viewpoint of Karen, a young American magician who has to fight to be heard not only because of being a magician (and the US does not like magicians or magic) but also because she's a woman in a man's world. I really liked Karen's snappy comebacks for the insults to her gender, but also that she had doubts about herself that she could live up to the expectations she put on herself. Overall, a really good historical fantasy novel with a fast-paced plot!

Since reading this book I've seen it crop up in a couple of lists of "Best Sci-fi and Fantasy of November," etc. and I think the hype is well-deserved. It is an engaging, thoughtful work of Cold War Fantasy, a trend I'm seeing lately and greatly enjoying. In this Alternate Reality, the Berlin Wall is magic in nature, not brick and mortar. And there is a hole in it. Karen, a young American magician, is sent to help fix the breach, but finds the Wall is hiding more than one secret. I found it compulsively readable but I kept getting sidetracked while reading it to look up history of the Berlin Wall and Cold War Germany, which I consider to be a good thing. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to what the author has in store next for us.

Karen is a magician in post WWII USA and is sent to Germany to investigate a breach in the Berlin Wall. In this reality, the wall is made of magic. As Karen starts working with the CIA to try to determine the cause of the growing breach, she encounters the non-magical variety of secrets and lies and has to figure out if there is anyone she can trust. This book is reported to be part of a new series. I really liked this book. I found it interesting, engaging, and with a well-written female main character by a male author, which is not common enough. The tension of post-WWII Berlin is maintained while the magic is woven through the story in a way that really works. I liked many of the peripheral characters, though I would have liked to have seen a few more female characters. I will definitely be continuing on with this series.

This book surprised me! I’ve never read a historical fiction novel with magical realism and this was so well done and very entertaining. I didn’t enjoy Karen, the MC, and I thought the story could have been trimmed down some. But overall there was an interesting plot with great prose. I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.

It was really Interesting to read a book crossing over historical and fantasy fiction- found myself looking up info about the Berlin Wall later, good to catch up on history! The characterization of the main character was very good - she was very relatable in her commitment to her career and I was rooting for her throughout. The magical element was quite intriguing and original, but I felt a bit let down towards the end as the ending was rushed and the explanation about the principles of magic was not fully flushed out. Really hope as others have said that we get more answers in a potential sequel! Overall a great read, encouraged me to read more fantasy fiction again, was fast paced and had me hooked from start to finish. I would recommend.

This is an amazing story of historical fiction with a fantasy twist. I really was drawn into the intrigue of why the wall is their and all the secrets that are found within. Who on whose side, who do you trust and of course the magic always makes things more interesting. What an incredibly inventive and original story this was! I thoroughly enjoyed it - I am a long-time fan of Cold War spy stories, and this one offered that in spades. I loved how the espionage was melded so seamlessly with the magic - it made for an evocative and unusual read that felt fresh and was exceptionally entertaining. It was done with great nods to world building and chracter development i am intrigued to continue the series.

This is another of those stories that was amazing but that I've found it difficult to review in a deservedly lengthy fashion because I don't want to risk spoiling even a minute of it... What an incredibly inventive and original story this was! I thoroughly enjoyed it - I am a long-time fan of Cold War spy stories, and this one offered that in spades. I loved how the espionage was melded so seamlessly with the magic - it made for an evocative and unusual read that felt fresh and was exceptionally entertaining. The characters, setting, world-building, and pacing were all spot-on, and the writing was engaging and so easy to fall into that the pages flew by... I am definitely looking forward to more in this series!

A fast-paced fantasy Cold War thriller! Is it a little heavy-handed with its villains among other things? Oh yes. But that's how these things tend to work best. Plus, the inventiveness of the magic system makes up for it.

The premise of Breach intrigued me, and I was excited that a young woman was built up to be the heroine. However, I was only able to get about a third of the way through before finally giving up on this book. It seemed like the author was trying to do a significant amount of character building, but I feel that this could have been done more effectively, and overall was at the expense of the story itself. I also disliked the constant shifts between characters, and felt that the story was not as cohesive as it could have been.

I was sceptical when I read the synopsis about the book, but I figured I would give it a try. Sadly I just couldn't get into the book. It was written well but for some reason it just didn't grab my attention enough for me to want to make it past the first few chapters. Maybe when the book comes out I might pick it up again and give it a try, but for now it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Interesting concept having the Berlin Wall be a magical wall. I liked the characters in the book, the plot was quick paced, and I would read the next in the series when it comes out. Thanks to First to Read for the ARC of Breach.

I found the premises of the story interesting and the book kept me hooked until the end. Part spy book part fantasy made for an easy reading. The fact that for a change the protagonist of a spy story was a woman and not a man, even in a world were women were considered less than important, made me like the book better. The idea of a book that contains all the magic, but that it has power on itself, was also a good hook for the read. I hope Goodwater keeps writing, I would like to see more of his work.

The Berlin Wall during the Cold War combined with a magical twist made for an interesting read. Spies and magicians seem to appear from everywhere. And yet none have the ability to stop what is coming. Karen doesn't even begin to realize the magic she has inside. Her magical research is just the tip of the iceberg to the magician she becomes. This is not my normal type of novel I usually read but was intrigued by the thought of the Berlin Wall being magic. The first few chapters seemed a bit flat but once the stage was set, I found this to be a very good read. I am looking forward to the next book in this series. I received an advance copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

It was hard getting into the first few pages. Then I stopped. When I decided to try again, I had trouble opening the file, so I have to uninstall and install again with no luck. Sad that I lost the opportunity to read the book.

When I read the synopsis of Breach I was sold. The Cold War with magic? Yes, please! As a student of the Cold War, I'm always interested to read books on the era. I think it's possible that my expectations, therefore, were a little too high. While I enjoyed Breach, I found the beginning of the book to be a little flat. I know there was world-building to be done and characters to introduce, but I felt that we didn't really get to the "why" of the book until halfway through. I think the magic system itself could have been more developed. I wanted to know more about how things worked and where magic came from, but I have a feeling that's something we'll learn more about in later books. Overall, a decent read. I will definitely give any other books in this series a try, as I feel there's some real potential here.

Due to an error from adobe digital edition I cannot open the book to read which is disappointing as it looked interesting and my kind of story.

This is not the type of novel I typically would choose but the idea of a Berlín Wall created by magic and the part magic might play in creating world order intrigued me. I'm glad I stepped out of my routine choices and chose to read this series debut. Karen is a research magician in a male dominated, post WWII USA. Her former mentor selects her to go to Berlin to investigate a growing breach in the wall created by the Soviets after the war. Karen discovers the dark underbelly of the beast as she undertakes her assignment, getting caught in the maelstrom of lies and half truths revealed by those who might benefit from the fall of the wall and the power of the magic it contains. The characters are fully enough developed to be credible and the plot is believable enough to be thought provoking. The ending leaves the series open to continue but there is sufficient closure for a stand alone story. I received an advance copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

The Berlin Wall during the Cold War and magic is an intriguing combination explored within W.L. Goodwater’s Breach. A decade after World War II, the wall that stands in occupied Berlin has relevance as more than just a barrier between the East and the West – it also serves to contain a dark magic that could bring about the end of the world as we know it. But now the wall is failing, with a breach within it that has been allowing magic to seep out and entice particular magicians to unearth a book with the ability to unlock untold power. On loan to the CIA, young magician Karen, who normally researches ways that magic could be used to heal various ailments, is sent to Berlin to investigate and assist in mending the breach. As Karen gleans more information, she learns that there’s more to the wall than is shared while also gaining knowledge about the true boundaries of her magical abilities, but will her discoveries be enough and made in time to prevent a cataclysmic event from taking place? Well-written and well-paced, this story captivated my attention (though it combines two elements that fascinate me, so perhaps I was always bound to find this tale intriguing) and made for a quick read. Incorporating aspects of tension between the various Allied interests and the Soviets, the interactions between characters and their motivations felt fully-realized. The way that magic fit within the world was developed in a manner that established understandable rules and made sense. In an era where women were undervalued and underappreciated, I enjoyed Karen’s determination to demonstrate her worth as an equal (or better) to the expectations placed upon her. Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Intriguing world where magic plays a role in spycraft post WWII as Berlin faces life with its newly built wall. The players are all known except for the addition of magic; and with that the field changes and tips quite a bit. A good book for lovers of spy tales and fantasy set in that fruitful era of early Cold War Berlin.

Fantastic debut novel. Every part of this book seemed like it was written by a seasoned writer. The storyline, the characters, even the size of the chapters and the number of pages in this book were perfect. The storyline hooks you and allows you to sink into this story till you have forgotten the reality around you. The teaser at the end was a perfect way to end this book. I immediately wanted to remember this author and so wished I had another one to read. An excellent book. If you like fantasy mixed with a little mayhem and a spark of horror you will enjoy this book! I can't wait to see if there is a sequel in the future; I will be first in line to read it. Fantastic book! I really enjoyed this read!

I liked the premise of this book, but just couldn't get into it. I read about 100 pages and couldn't really keep reading. It's not that it was bad, just a bit slow, and I wasn't feeling it.

Cold War novel with an Alternate History/Fantasy twist and it absolutely works. I want more of this series yesterday!

Time was taken at the beginning of the book to show us this world. This foundation may make this book start slow when you are expecting action (and who isn't expecting action) but it really helps with the rest of the book. Some magic is left unexplained but it was things I could except and keep reading. It did not affect my enjoyment of the book. Based on the ending, this could be the beginning of a series. The ending is wrapped up but there is also more to this world than we were given in this book.

The premise of the Berlin wall being created by magic absolutely hooked me. While the book delivered an interesting story, I do think it could have been more developed in terms of character development and world building. My favorite character, Karen, was the most well rounded, but I wasn't a fan of switching POVs to less developed characters that frankly all blended together after awhile. I know with this type of story, one has to utilize a variety of characters to cover what's going on, but I think it could have been executed better. I also wished that the magic system was more thoroughly explained. There are magical items, locuses, incantations, etc., but I never felt like I got a good understanding of the magic available to the magicians and was surprised when one of the characters could do a new trick. Not like "oh, that's cool!", more like "oh, I guess they can do that now because the story calls for it." Maybe it will be more fully fleshed out in the next book of the series. Besides these two things, the story was entertaining and overall enjoyable. The series has the potential to grow from here and it has a decent start.

This is an entertaining alternate history of East Berlin and the Berlin Wall with a female magician protagonist instead of the usual male focused fantasy. Some of the characters could be developed a little more fully and the ending a little rushed, but that didn't detract from the story.

I don't even know where to begin with this book. I really liked the premise of Breach to begin with, but it turned out to be so much more than I expected. This book is action-packed, suspenseful, and a little scary in some places (Auttenberg, this means you), but it was wholly entertaining and I read it in one sitting. A Berlin Wall made of magic is such an interesting concept, and I think the world-building was pretty well done. The rules of magic in this fantasy don't feel fully fleshed out, but that's okay because this is a world where the magic users don't fully understand it themselves. Karen's job as a magic researcher sets the stage for magical rules that evolve and change as the series develops. I'm interested to see where the story goes from here, because though the ending had a crazy twist, it didn't feel like much of a cliffhanger. All in all I think this is a fantastic start to the Cold War Magic series, and I'll definitely be looking out for the next book.


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