Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Witchmark by C.L. Polk

(The Kingston Cycle #1)
C.L. Polk
Release: June 19, 2018
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C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

I've heard nothing but great things about Witchmark since it came out but nobody told me just how good it really was until my best friend dropped it into my lap. This book was freaking fantastic and refreshingly original! It's basically a queer magical murder mystery set in a post-war fantasy world that's very reminiscent of a post WWI England. It was both familiar and strange at the same time.

Once you start reading Witchmark, there's really no stopping. It quickly cast its spell on me and I was utterly enchanted with it! It had me on the edge of my seat and wholeheartedly invested in the characters and the plot. The characters are all super interesting and engaging and the romance is a believable backbone to a fascinating universe with a plot you can't see coming. It breaks the mold and it's delightfully refreshing while being quietly and unapologetically queer.

This book was delightfully tropey and reminded me of fanfiction in the best way. There were even bicycle chases! And the queer romance was lovely even if it was a bit instalovey. But it was instalovey in a way that worked for me. I fell deeply in love with Miles and Tristan's relationship. The romance was sweetly and expertly portrayed even if it developed super fast. I am writing this review a few weeks after I read the book and what remains with me most vividly is the romance between Miles and Tristan.

The world Polk created was intriguing and I'd like to see more of it in subsequent books. We are focused so tightly on the characters that we do not see much of the politics of this world. Even though it's clear they're
critically important, they take a backseat to the murder mystery in this story. It leaves a lot for future books to explore. And I hope she will. I just want more books about Miles and Tristan in my life in addition to any other stories she wants to write in this world.

There is a hopeful undertone to this story that builds throughout the book as the characters deal with the consequences of war and of the unfairness of life. It was so expertly written that I'm a bit in awe that this is Polk's debut novel. On top of an A+ depiction of mental illness and PTSD, I loved how agency was so focused on and how that concept was woven into the story. 

I went into this book expecting to enjoy it but I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. This book will definitely be on my favorites books of the year list. is totally killing it with the content they're publishing this year! The wait for the next book about Grace is going to be a hard one. 2020 is SO far away!

  5 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk
The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish

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