Witchmark by C.L. Polk
You know when you read really good fanfiction, and yes, you know that there might be a few tropes, but you are just so invested in everything within the story, and you want to praise it forever and send it to all your friends? That’s how I feel about this book. This has all the good qualities of really good fanfiction [well-used tropes, story beats we can sense but still aren’t bored by, excellent and likable characters] and then all the good qualities of a good fantasy novel [great worldbuilding, compelling thematic journey] and it is so so lovely.
Witchmark is sort of steampunk-fantasy murder-mystery with paranormal romance vibes set in a world inspired by WWI Britain, following a witch disguising himself as a doctor to avoid being essentially enslaved by his sister, Grace.
So first of all, the worldbuilding of this book is completely excellent. The inspiration for this book is super palpable and clear and it works very well. I don’t tend to get that into worldbuilding.
→plot & pacing←
I mean, see what I said above about tropes used well; the plot isn’t necessarily the most original thing ever, but it has some good moments. This murder mystery, especially, is super interesting. This book is full of twists and cool reveals and interesting points. And also… I kind of devoured this? I think aside from the first hundred pages, I binged the entire thing in a night, and I was so addicted.
I really liked both Tristan & Miles as characters. Miles especially has a lot of inner depth, and his conflict over his family is really well-done and lovely, and also I talked about him more below, and he means a lot to me. And then there’s the romance between Miles & Tristan. And… so listen, this romance does have a bit of instalove going on. But their dynamic is so lovely and full of care and I am so into it.
So first of all, I would die for the way agency is tackled in this book. Miles is absolutely driven by his need for agency, for independence, for release from being under the boot of his family. And even when he’s offered freedom within that role, he doesn’t want it because he knows that freedom would be conditional. He knows it could be taken away at any moment. It’s also a very good exploration of class privilege. I really love discussions of agency and I think this book really did a great job playing with it. I also love everything my blogger friend Acqua mentioned here.
I was confused at first about why another book is coming [I want more but this wrapped up so well!!] but it turns out it’s focusing on Grace, a character I liked but was not obsessed with.
But basically, I would die for this book. I would die for the Super Important Agency Focus and I would die for the plot twists and I would definitely die for Tristan and Miles. This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year and I would totally add it to your list of 2018 releases, because it is not to be missed.
Have you read Witchmark? Are you interested? When are we going to build a shrine to Tor’s constant queer characters? Let me know in the comments!