Series: The Kingston Cycle: Book Three
Author: C.L. Polk
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 298 Pages
Category: Gaslamp Fantasy, F/NB Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: A lot happens in this book, and Polk manages it all with a steady rise in the action and then delivers on the promise of a brighter future, not only for Aeland but for Robin and Zelind as well.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.
Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.
Review: Author C.L. Polk brings their stunning Kingston Cycle trilogy to a dramatic and ultimately hopeful close as violence, oppression and human atrocities, and a social and political revolution play out against the rekindling of a romance a near lifetime in the making.
Robin Thorpe has been a key role-player in the series since she was introduced as a nurse, and Dr. Miles Singer’s best friend, in Witchmark. Robin is also a witch, a Deathsinger whose magic, along with other witch magic, has been outlawed by the monarchy, throwing into focus the hypocrisy of who is allowed to practice magic, and who isn’t. The brutal use of some witches as a tool of the political and capitalist machine was confronted in Stormsong when it was discovered what, exactly, was powering Aeland, and Chancellor Grace Hensley vowed to ensure the new king would overturn the Witch Protection Act—an absolute misnomer, considering it didn’t protect the witches at all—which she did successfully; though the king conceded for reasons which, ultimately, were purely self-serving rather than out of a sense of honor and beneficence, so Grace learns the hard way to keep her friends close and her enemies closer.
The heinous crimes against the imprisoned witches is laid bare in painful and striking ways when Robin arrives to free them, and then comes face to face with her spouse for the first time in twenty years. Zelind’s capture and imprisonment has left kher (Zelind’s pronouns are khe/kher) scarred but not broken, just as kher relationship with Robin is scarred and fragile, but not irretrievably broken. After a few trials, khe and Robin are challenged to accept that they’ve both changed over the course of their twenty-year separation, to come to terms with the fact they’re both different people, but to recall the love for each other that had been building since they were children. Their romance is not central to the story but is absolutely key to the manipulations that take place alongside the greater calling to demand and implement a government representative of all the people of Aeland, not only the white and wealthy.
The catastrophic winter storm which was brewing and threatening Aeland and its people begins this story, when Grace implores help from the witches to “sing” with the Royal Knights to try and stop it. The storm is quelled, and it quickly becomes analogous to the political stormfront approaching, a no less powerful danger rife with assassination, kidnapping and attempted murder, betrayal and intrigues galore. Robin’s commitment to turn the tide of governance in Aeland offers up no small amount of suspense, not to mention danger to her as she continues to fight for justice and battle a system that’s been corrupted for decades by lies and manipulation and the lust for an absolute power that has corrupted absolutely. It’s impossible not to see real-world parallels, of course, and to find satisfaction in the successes and strides Robin makes to bring both light and enlightenment to Aeland.
A lot happens in this book, and Polk manages it all with a steady rise in the action and then delivers on the promise of a brighter future, not only for Aeland but for Robin and Zelind as well. The focus in Soulstar is less on the world-building I loved in the previous books and more on the preservation of the world that was built, and it brings the trilogy to a close in a satisfying and, for Robin and Zelind, a sweet way.
You can buy Soulstar here:
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