At the beginning of the year, I had a little Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, and I used it to preorder some of my most-anticipated books of 2018. It turned out to be super fun to get books in the mail, especially books that I was so excited to read. I still like to get new releases from my library, but due to their limited budget, there’s often a long wait for library copies of highly anticipated releases, so it’s a special treat to get them delivered right to my door on release day.
Because I’m still working on the whole independently wealthy thing, I am judicious about my preorders. I have to be pretty sure a book will be a home run before I’ll plunk down cash for it months in advance, sight unseen. Mostly I stick to authors I already know and love or widely praised debut titles. Witchmark was more of a whim--I hadn’t heard a ton about it, and I’d never heard of C.L. Polk, but when I read the description I just knew it was a book I had to have. And I was right!
This is a fantasy set in a historical-seeming world--lights run on something called “aether” instead of electricity, and cars are so new and expensive that bicycles are the preferred mode of transport. The nation of Aeland is recovering after winning a brutal world war, and Dr. Miles Singer works in a veterans’ hospital where the most grievous wounds are invisible to everyone but him. Miles has a secret--he’s a mage, born to a prominent family in a world that is run by a clandestine group of wealthy and powerful magicians. Common folk with powers are called witches and end up in asylums--the claim is that the power eventually drives them crazy. Miles, not wanting to be used as a pawn, escapes his fate by running away to war, and now in his new life he can use his supernatural talent to heal the sick and wounded men he fought beside. However, his carefully crafted disguise comes crashing down one day when a dying witch is carried into the hospital, calling Miles by his true name and setting in motion a series of events that tosses Miles into a new, terrifying reality.
That’s more plot summary than I normally like to do in my reviews, but I’ve included it because I think this is the kind of book where it helps to know a little going in so you can hit the ground running. It begins with a frantic opening scene and from that point on is like a runaway train with no brakes. There’s no info-dumping, ever--no lengthy exposition setting out the rules of the world. All the details you need are worked seamlessly into the action, which is the way I prefer my fantasy novels and is certainly much more difficult to execute as a writer, but it also means those details may take a while to coalesce in your mind. This book, at least for me, required careful attention on each page. I love a book that rewards that kind of effort with a big payoff, and by the last page, I was in love with Witchmark. If you’re confused, just keep going--I promise that by the end, everything will become clear!
If you love fantasy novels set in creative worlds, if you like to be surprised and delighted, if you need more magic and gay romance in your life, Witchmark is the book for you.