Series: The Kingston Cycle: Book One
Author: C.L. Polk
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 320 Pages
At a Glance: Witchmark is a crunchy sweet paranormal fantasy steampunk lover’s brain candy. I recommend treating yourself to it.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: 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.
Review: Psychiatrist Dr. Miles Singer is a decorated war hero who practices at the Beauregard Veterans’ Hospital. Miles also happens to be a witch who’d run away from his powerful father, assumed a new identity, joined the military to learn and then practice medicine, and faked his own death…because if he hadn’t, being born a Secondary would have meant forced bonding and enslavement to a Storm-Singer, a more valuable and powerful witch in the world that debut author C.L. Polk has created. And that Storm-Singer would have been Miles’ own beloved sister, Grace.
There is a sociopolitical foundation to this story which adds to its intrigue, specifically in terms of the Secondaries, who are, in essence, a witch’s familiar, to put it in more common terms. Secondaries are treated precisely as their name might imply—they are second-class citizens, used for their powers, trapped in a class system from which there is no escape for all but the few, like Miles, who would rather run than be a slave to and used by anyone. The world building is handled with care and an attention to detail that I appreciated for my ability to feel fully immersed in a complex and wholly realized realm of magic.
In a blend of the mystical, the mysterious, the murderous, and with an added bit of steampunk, Polk has created a world of intrigue and awesome imagination. I was thoroughly enthralled with this story from page one as Miles’ narration invites readers into his life, the hospital, the challenges he faces in hiding who he is, what he is as well as what he is capable of doing, and into the sinister miasma that affects some of the veterans in the psychiatric ward, an affliction that drives those men to commit murder. Miles is immediately the sympathetic hero of this story as a deadly mystery is delivered to his doorstep by Sir Tristan Hunter. Their meeting is accidental but Nick Elliott’s death is anything but, and just before Nick perishes, he not only tells Miles he’s been poisoned, but he also offers Miles an invaluable gift. One Miles doesn’t realize the full extent of until much later. This propels Miles into danger as well as into Tristan’s life, as Tristan has been assigned to investigate what’s happening to the Aelanders, and especially to those who’ve lived through the war with the Laneeri.
As an unwelcome reminder of why he ran and what was at stake if he hadn’t, Grace discovers that Miles is alive and proceeds to rather bully her way back into her brother’s life. Truths about who Tristan truly is have emerged, and the question of who is behind the pall, or indeed, what it even is, piggybacks with the search for who is responsible and which, if not both, of these people Miles can truly trust. There were some moments of incredible tension and suspense coupled with explosive revelations woven into the plot at perfect intervals and with a precision that makes this debut novel even more remarkable.
Although the relationship that begins between Miles and Tristan runs parallel to the mystery and intrigue rather than being the primary focus of Witchmark, there is no doubt that the close proximity the investigation provides is the perfect environment for their growing attraction and feelings. The time that’s devoted to them at the end of the book is the very definition of romantic, and the question of what’s next makes the following books set in this -verse some of the most anticipated on the shortlist of sequels I’m salivating to get my hands on.
Betrayal, political intrigue, the lust for power, prejudice and revenge are the counterpoint to heroism and a love story that’s superbly written and supremely spellbinding. Witchmark is a crunchy sweet paranormal fantasy steampunk lover’s brain candy. I recommend treating yourself to it.
You can buy Witchmark here:
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1 thought on “Review: Witchmark by C.L. Polk”
This looks really good!! Congratulations on your new release!!