Witchmark

C.L. Polk. Tor.com, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-16268-7
Polk’s stellar debut, set in an alternate early 20th century in an England-like land recovering from a WWI-like war, blends taut mystery, exciting political intrigue, and inventive fantasy. Miles Singer’s influential family of mages wants to turn him into a living battery of magic for his sister to draw on. Fearing this fate, he runs away to join the army and make use of his magical healing abilities, although—like all magic-users—he must hide his powers or risk being labeled insane and sent to an asylum. When Tristan Hunter, a handsome, suave gentleman who’s actually an angel in disguise, brings a dying stranger to Miles’s clinic, the two pair up to uncover the reason for the man’s mysterious death. The devastating war has left most young men shell-shocked, and many veterans are inexplicably killing their families. Miles struggles to find a socially acceptable physiological explanation for the veterans’ dark auras, while Tristan hopes to understand why no souls from this country have moved on to the afterlife. A sudden reunification with Miles’s social-climbing, deceitful sister upends progress on solving the riddles (and on the gently developing romance between Miles and Tristan) as she pulls him back into the secretive and manipulative world of powerful mages. Polk unfolds her mythology naturally, sufficiently explaining the class-based magical system and political machinations without getting bogged down. The final revelations are impossible to see coming and prove that Polk is a writer to watch for fans of clever, surprising period fantasy. Agent: Caitlin McDonald, DMLA. (June)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 06/19/2018
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