Review: Witchmark by C.L. Polk (The Kingston Cycle #1)

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Witchmark ended up being the book that finally got me out of my March reading slump. It’s a charming, easy read, that hit precisely the right spot.

The plot is one third murder mystery, one third romance, and one third historical fantasy, which makes for a lovely mix. In a world where lower-class witches are persecuted and shut into asylums or enslaved, Miles only wants to lie low, be free, and work as a doctor in a run-down veterans’ hospital…until a mysterious stranger brings in a dying patient who knows who and what he is. Then, of course, things get complicated.

First things first: I loved Miles. He reminded me a bit of Cazaril from The Curse of Chalion, and I’m a sucker for this type of character – people healing from their past experiences who remain compassionate and nevertheless try to do their best. The second thing I’m a sucker for are stories that contain some aspect of healing and here it’s important both in the thematic sense (healing from war) and in the sense of Miles’ magic being essential to the plot. The romantic subplot is adorable, slow-burn, and unobtrusive. I’m still fairly new to romance, there’s a boatload of tropes that irritate me, but this was fine.

The setting is a very rough analogue of post-WWI England – a bit more advanced than most fantasy books. There are bicycles galore (even a bicycle chase scene!) and the beginnings of magic electricity. I found the change refreshing. And while it’s inspired by our world, it isn’t the same except renamed at all.

The only thing that brought down this book for me is the protagonist’s sister, Grace. She’s manipulative, hypocritical, treats Miles horribly, and does absolutely reprehensible things using excuses that it’s for the greater good of her brother and their country. He doesn’t really rebel much either, but I think that’s more a result of trauma and not too unrealistic. Still, she’s infuriating. I never wished a character would go die in a fire as much. Even though she comes around a bit by the end and they’re up against things worse than even her, I find what she was doing for most of the book is completely irredeemable.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: fans of historical fantasy, mysteries or m/m romance, those looking for healer characters and unusual settings, anyone who needs a slump-breaker
Not recommended to: those who don’t like it when horrible characters get away with a lot, content warning: abuse

4 thoughts on “Review: Witchmark by C.L. Polk (The Kingston Cycle #1)”

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