” Enthralling, fast-paced, and romantic, Witchmark unveils a fascinating world. Polk writes with assured ease. I can’t wait for her next book!”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk is a feminist fantasy set in a time and place that is reminiscent of Regency England. Our protagonist Beatrice has a powerful natural streak of magic, but in the society she lives in , she will never really get to use it. Instead she will be married off to a rich or powerful man and then “collared” to cut off her link to her natural power. Society deems that this is the only way to protect her unborn children from the dangers of magic, most notably the spirits involved who would grasp at any opportunity to possess them before birth. Beatrice is dreading this future, she dreams of being able to develop her magical abilities just as the young men of the country do, but her family’s debts mean that instead she must make an impression at “bargaining season” , where all the young magical ingenues are paraded and displayed before the eligible bachelors who are seeking a wife. The right match will not only settle the debts, it will improve her younger sister’s prospects too. Her determination and ambition comes into question however when she finds herself drawn to the very eligible Ianthe Lavan, and becomes friends with his similarly minded sister Ysbeta and soon she will have to make a very tough choice, one that could have consequences for her whole family.
I love fantasy tales that have a grounding in the real world, so this was right up my alley. The pacing is definitely on the slower side, especially for the first half of the book, but I did not mind as I was enjoying the writing and the world building. While there is a romance at the heart of this book, it was the relationships between Beatrice and the women in her life that really held my interest. The most obvious of these is her relationship with Ysbeta, which starts on rather rocky ground but progresses into one of mutual support and true friendship. I also liked the realistic dynamics between Beatrice and her younger sister and appreciated that despite her frustration, Beatrice still worried about how her actions would impact on her sister’s future prospects. Though it was only a small moment in the book, when Beatrice’s mother shows her what her future could be like and urges her to do what will make her happy, it was incredibly moving and hopeful.
One of the biggest strengths of the book was how well it held my interest and what a good job the author did of making both Beatrice’s options so attractive that it was difficult to be certain which future she would choose.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Added 10th December 2020