Cover Image: Witchmark


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This is an alternate history novella set around the time of WWI. There is a rich magic user class that protects version of England from bad weather. The Storm Singers link with less powerful magic users known as Secondaries. Miles left home and joined the army to become a doctor and use his healing gift instead of being bonded to his sister as a secondary. When a dying man shows up at the veteran’s hospital he is working as psychiatrist his world is turned upside down. Turns out his family did know he was there and they are bringing him back to the family business. Even as his sister has the best of intentions, things don’t go as planned. Miles is also trying to find out who poisoned the man that found him and figure out who is the bystander that helped the dying man to his door.
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Witchmark is hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year. On the surface a pretty standard historically set fantasy, in practise it’s a sweet M/M romance, a steampunk murder mystery and deep meditation on choice and freedom. I read the book in one sitting and totally didn’t care when it shied a bit too close to obvious tropes because it was just so well done. In fact anyone wanting to learn how to do tropes right should read this book. I loved Miles – he was such a sweetheart. I loved the aesthetic. This was fun as well as cleverly plotted book. I can’t wait for more from the author.
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Though not actually set in WWI (or on our earth at all), the setting is very reminiscent of London during that time period.  Our hero, Miles, is a witch with healing abilities, but must hide that fact from everyone, and his current location from his family.  Witchcraft is illegal and reviled, although, unbeknownst to most of the population, all the members of the nobility are witches, who use their abilities in elaborate ceremonies to control the weather and ensure prosperity for their nation.  Unfortunately for Miles, ONLY the ability to control weather is valued, and witches from noble families (like his) use children with other magical abilities only as batteries for their weather-controlling siblings...hence, his escape to the army, and, eventually, a faked death so he can plot his own course, caring for the veterans he once fought beside as a seemingly average psychologist/neurologist.  

His careful plans are disrupted, however, by several seemingly unrelated events - a powerful fairy brings another poisoned witch to his hospital, and demands his help in solving the mystery.  At the same time, more and more war veterans are being overtaken by a disease of the mind, which only Miles can see, which causes them to suddenly snap and murder everyone around them.  And then Miles' family finds him, as well...

The whole story is well-written and compelling, and presents a curiously timely reflection on what sacrifices are acceptable for the good of the many.
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I’m always on the lookout for a new Womxn of Color (WOC) author in the fantasy genre.  Thanks to NetGalley, I had the opportunity to read Witchmark by C. L. Polk just in time to celebrate #PrideMonth.

Dr. Miles Singer as a protagonist is a mixture of a really brave and a really paranoid person. It is a literary art to create backstories without info dumps in the middle of the narrative or add oddly placed facts in conversations. Polk’s mastery over character-building allows the story to unfold naturally. She creates a full and complex character that the reader will relate to in his attempts to separate from familial pressure and expectations. The voice of the protagonist is strong. I’m not sure it’s intended, but I found him humourous - much more like the friend who’s skeptical of everyone and just wants to live in peace. In spite of his reasonable suspicions, he still feels compelled to journey through a mystery and fulfill a promise made to a dying man. 

The handsome secondary protagonist, Tristan Hunter,  fits well within the background of the story while highlighting the best parts of Miles. In many ways, I suppose all relationships should exist in this manner. Tristan helps Miles realize inner truths while teaching Miles how to handle his own magic.  

The urban environment that surrounds the story line is cozy. I imagine bicycles, warm fires, buttered toast and sweet oranges eaten while planning out the next moves in the adventure. I wanted to be there and intrude upon the electric connection between Miles and Tristan. The romance was sweet, not overly done, or filled with sappy “I love you” scenes; yet, it still maintained a measure of steam worthy of a good summer read. 

The magical system was creative and didn’t lean on conventional understandings of fantasy. Polk’s use of innovative analogies to describe serious situations kept the book entertaining and easily digestible. I would like to get additional understanding of the legal or regulatory system of how magicals are “handled”. It’s a little light on that part, but this novel is the first in the series, so I suspect that further explanations will happen as the series unfolds. 

“They make slaves of you for the sake of their prosperity.”
-Tristan Hunter

One important discussion is the bad good person. Grace, the protagonist’s sister, realizes the cruelty of her family and exists as both her brother’s supporter and an enabler of her family’s actions. She is a willing participant in a system that gives her privilege and power - even if it comes at the cost of her dear brother’s freedom. This topic is relevant in today’s political climate. There are plenty of us that are silent in the face of the unethical treatment of refugees and immigrants. Silence ensures capitalist success by removing economic competition under the guise of “protecting our borders” or safeguarding the “common good”. We reduce the conversation to a “difference of opinion” which removes the accountability of those silent or in support of outrageous policies. Recently, y’alls president signed an executive order that “ends” family separation, and instead detains them all together ( serious side-eye). I suppose now that this order is signed we’ll see less coverage of crying babies as to not offend lily white hearts. But we can’t stop! We cannot be silent. We must be moved by the wrongdoing of a people and not only by images shared on an Instagram post. Don’t become the bad good guy. Speak up, Speak out!

“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. ”
― Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals 

Review submitted to for future posting. Excerpt posted to goodreads
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Despite on paper having the perfect ingredients (Fantasy setting! Mystery! Romance! Queerness! Sibling relationship!), I thought WITCHMARK fell short on almost all of them. What I did enjoy was how the dialogues, and Miles’ inner thoughts, were interspersed with subtle clues, making the final revelations deducible but not too obvious (Real Villain notwithstanding, because that’s plain as day); I do love plays on language.

As for the rest, from the beginning it felt like I was supposed to be already familiar with its world and protagonist (I’ve noticed other readers mention that the book reads as “fanfiction,” which, having never personally read one, I took it to mean that both setting and characters are very lightly developed because a reader knows them and wouldn’t need much exposition). There’s a general lack of characterization and growth, and most of the conflict seems to be primarily, if not solely, external. Each character is a basic archetype, and that’s all they remain. The romance, as well as the “evolution” of the sibling relationship (the latter being the biggest initial draw for me), I also found nonsensical, and definitely not of the slow-burn variety, in that the attraction between Miles and Tristan is immediate but it, too, remains undeveloped (I guess they drink a lot of tea together? Which normally would be exactly my kind of thing, and yet; there's a lot of domesticity in this book that did not have the quiet impact it should have). And what happened to Robin? I have the feeling she was supposed to have a much bigger role, and I wanted to know and spend so much more time with her, but she pretty much disappeared into thin air.

What ultimately made WITCHMARK an unpleasant reading experience, though, was the way it centers a need for freedom, agency, and consent while essentially stripping its hero (and its more vulnerable characters, in this case soldiers with PTSD) of them, even going as far as to make it conveniently necessary for Miles to be bonded to two different people (to save Miles’s life!), one of whom had previously enslaved him (and had *just* freed him), and finally framing his bonding to his love interest as romantic (Amaranthines bond for marriage). 

As for the soldiers, I understand that WITCHMARK has an alt-history setting, but considering how in some cultures mental health problems are *still* believed to be caused by demon/spirit possession, I found the choice of using this device here rather peculiar.

And Grace, Miles’s sister, who is something of a weaponized-femininity kind of female character. She is basically a “good oppressor”, someone who has literally enslaved Miles, and continues to do so!, and is presented as the lesser evil, while still being, well, someone who *literally* enslaves someone else (in one of the most gruesome scenes, she would literally rather die than free Miles). 

From what I understand, the sequel will be from Grace's POV, and I’m really not sure how that’s going to work out.
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When I first started this book I thought it was all steampunk-y cliche - just substitute "aether" for "steam" - and was prepared to not like it or enjoy it very much. Imagine my surprise when the bad thing the main character has been fearing actually comes to pass and I find myself with tears on my face and my concerned boyfriend asking me what's wrong ("Nothing, honey; just a book")! The characters in Witchmark snuck in under my defenses when I wasn't looking and grabbed ahold of my heartstrings, and I don't begrudge them for it one bit. Yes, I did get tired of the word "aether" being used every couple of pages and the novel did wrap up a bit too quickly after the climactic last battle, but overall it was a highly pleasurable read that I'll definitely be recommending to others

I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.
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Our protagonist Sir Christopher Hensley goes by the alias Miles Singer, in order to escape his discovery and continue living a mundane life as a psychiatrist in a veteran’s hospital. His country has been at war; one which Miles has seen first-hand. He went to war to escape his destiny as Sir Christopher, but when he returned home, he couldn’t leave his past behind. When his patients start murdering their families, Miles has to quickly discover what is truly hiding within the veterans who have returned from war, and how he can cure it, quickly!

Miles is a witch. As the son of a high-ranking Minister and the brother of the woman running for Voice, Miles is assumed to dedicate his life and his powers to his family. However, Miles has better uses for his affinity of healing and his smarts as a doctor. Instead of binding himself to his sister and becoming a Secondary, Miles changes his name, escapes to the war and then starts working with the veterans who have returned with demons, just like him.

The setting in this novel was very reminiscent of Edwardian England and post-world war. It was a fun steam punk meets Oliver Twist setting, with a dash of political intrigue. Polk describes his characters and the atmosphere magically.

This book was very enjoyable, however, I believe it could have been more enjoyable if the world was further explained to the reader. From the beginning, the reader is aware that there is a war taking place and our protagonist is at the centre of it, however, we don’t know much else about what started it, who’s on each side and why its continuing. I hope that this is explained more in the sequel and can give the readers a more in-depth look at the magical world Polk fabricated.

I genuinely enjoyed this book, but because of the lack of explaining when it came to the ins and outs of the war, I was genuinely confused around the 60% mark. Things became slightly clearer and I was able to understand and thoroughly enjoy the ending of the novel, however, more insight would have made the star rating become much higher than what it is.

This is the first in the Witchmark series and the following books have yet to be announced. I will definitely be continuing on with the series when the books are released.
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Witchmark suffers from poor world building. Days of the week and months are named differently, but for no apparent reason. The central conflict is narrated mostly by the main character justifying his decisions. The magic system makes no sense. It's got potential but in my opinion, the writing needed work.
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What an unusual and lovely little baggage this book is.  An Edwardian style world, set in a time of war with steampunk elements.  This book includes a murder mystery that eventually reveals a much deeper plot, there’s a romance woven in along the way and in a world where magic exists you know there are going to be more surprises.  I really enjoyed this, it was intriguing, it addresses issues of privilege and power and the plot is much more in depth than I first anticipated.

The story is told by Miles.  Miles is a doctor working in a veteran’s hospital, he specialises in treating soldiers suffering from mental illness. Miles is in hiding, the hospital he works in struggles for funding being from a poorer part of the city but this suits him as he’s trying to stay below the radar of the upper echelons.  Miles ran away from home a number of years ago in order to avoid a life of servitude and he’s managed to stay in hiding ever since.  However, his luck is running out.  As the story commences Miles treats a patient who has been poisoned.  The patient dies but not before extracting a promise from Miles to hunt for the murderer.  And so the mystery begins.

The world here is an unusual place with lots of interesting concepts but in particular the magic.  For the most part the unwashed masses seem to remain unaware of the use of magic although there are witches among them and when they’re discovered they’re usually whisked away from society and incarcerated in asylums.  However, it seems that there is a powerful cabal of mages, rich and privileged people who can wield strong magic, particularly to control the climate.  These mages remain a secret from the general populace, meeting in private.  Miles was born to such a family but having a lesser ability (healing magic) means that he would have been bonded to his sister (a powerful mage) in order to contribute to her ability and secure the family position.  Basically, witches are treated as inferior and used as little more than batteries to supplement a mage’s power or breeding machines to strengthen the noble families magical ability.

In terms of the characters we have Miles.  He makes the acquaintance of Hunter and, for different reasons, the two investigate the circumstances behind the poisoning.  Hunter is a character straight out of legend -I can’t tell you anything more without giving away spoilers though.  Miles is a likeable character and a good narrator although he seems to have such a lot going on that he makes me dizzy, in fact I think he rushes into things like a headless chicken sometimes but, still very likeable, just – take a breath Miles for goodness sake. We learn quite a lot about Miles and his past as the story unfolds and he feels well rounded.  The rest of the characters are not quite as well developed and feel a little thinner somehow.  As I mentioned I can’t really discuss Hunter but he becomes the love interest of the story, not being overly fond of romances on the whole I can say this is a subtle part of the story, very well written and it doesn’t overwhelm the plot at all – although there is an element of instalove given the timeframe involved here.  Miles sister Grace – well, she annoyed me more often than not but I do think that she eventually came good – and, again, I can’t really go into too much detail about her other than to say her intentions were well meant but she was maybe a little naive.

In terms of criticisms.  I think there was a slight feeling of being rushed along somehow, the romantic element was very quick and the plot progressed at a fairly rapid pace – which isn’t really a bad thing and not something that spoiled the read for me.  However, it did leave a few things lacking, for example why Aeland and Laneer are at war.  In fairness this is a fairly short novel and there’s only so much that you can fit in, especially with a plot of this depth – frankly I wouldn’t have been averse to the page number being increased to provide a bit more detail. but I can understand the desire to keep this a bit more punchy.  There’s a fine balance between too much information and too little and I believe that the next book will focus on Grace so perhaps more detail will be forthcoming from her perspective.  The father is something of a tyrant and Grace is very ambitious – to such an extent that it’s sometimes difficult to understand why Miles still cares for her – and yet, at the same time she hopes to use her position of power to help witches such as Miles – so swings and roundabouts really and like I mentioned, I hope to find out more about her motivations in the next book.

Regardless of a few little niggles this was a highly readable story with an almost softly spoken demeanour (by which I mean this isn’t grimdark or violently brutal).  It concludes well and I would have absolutely no hesitation in reading the next instalment.  This story hooked me virtually immediately, the pacing was really good and it tackles some big issues such as exploitation, lifestyles and consequences without resorting to a preachy tone.  It has a lovely period feel to it with the inclusion of some surprisingly modern touches and has a style that I simply enjoyed reading.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.
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If you’re a fan of Martha Wells’ work, you may enjoy this debut fantasy novel with a gay lead.

Miles Singer is in hiding. He ran away from his family, escaping a dehumanizing future as a walking magical battery. But if witches like him aren’t bonded to the elite weather mages, then they’ll be carted off to an asylum for sure and never heard from again.

Nobody knows about Miles magic or who his family really is. He values his freedom, and he’s careful to keep it. He’s working as a doctor in a veteran’s hospital when a patient arrives who recognizes Miles both for a witch and for his family background. He begs Miles to help find his murderer before he dies of a fatal poisoning. One person overheard all of this: the mysterious Tristan, who has his own reasons for wanting Miles to investigate the murder. And he promises that if Miles helps him, he can teach Miles how to hide his magic, even from other witches.

Witchmark is a very compelling book. I read all of it in… maybe a day? I was on a trip to Ireland at the time, and I kept getting torn between looking at the scenery and reading! I ended snatching pages whenever trees blocked out the view.

What makes Witchmark so compelling? For starters, the writing style is great. It’s smooth and flows so well. The plot is also full of the twists I love, and the murder investigation soon leads Miles towards a huge conspiracy. That plus the world building makes me think of Martha Wells’ Death of a Necromancer as a comp title, so if you like her work, you should probably read Witchmark. Oh, and side note, if you haven’t read Martha Wells, you should go read both her work and C.L. Polk’s.

I also really loved the world building. World building is a large part of what draws me to science fiction and fantasy, so excellent world building is always important for me. Witchmark certainly has that. The setting is inspired by Edwardian England, although this is a second-world fantasy. Miles’ country has just ended a colonial war with another country, and his veteran’s hospital is being swamped with men returning from the front. So many of his patients have lingering mental health problems from the war, but he’s being made to release them anyway, as the hospital doesn’t have the necessary funds to provide much treatment. Miles himself is a war veteran, and he has PTSD. I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to talk much about the portrayal, but mental health is an important topic in Witchmark.

While the world of Witchmark is inspired by Edwardian England, there’s obvious differences. For one thing, it’s not the only world within these pages! There’s a race of people who are basically fae and have their own realm. You find out pretty early on that the mysterious (and gorgeous) Tristan is one of them. Oh, Tristan’s also the love interest, if you hadn’t cottoned on.

Sexism and homophobia both also work differently in the Witchmark world. It seems a bit less sexist (but still somewhat sexist) than our own corresponding time period, and there’s references to some controversial, historical king who expanded rights for women. There’s no religious backing for discrimination against same-sex relationships, and they’re not referred to unnatural or any such. They seem to be accepted for certain age ranges, but people are expected to grow out of them and start having children.

Remember when I talked about Miles’ family and dehumanization? Power and oppression also play a large role in the story. The discrimination against witches sort of reminds me of how some stories will use magical discrimination or some such as a metaphor for other things. In this case, it feels like it has some parallels to queerness, but we get an actual canonically queer lead.

Oh, back to power and dehumanization. There’s some really messed up stuff going on with Miles’ family. His sister’s one of the esteemed weather mages who pretty much secretly run the country, and his future was supposed to be becoming bonded to her to provide her with more magical power, in a relationship where he’s magically forced to obey her every command. Yeah, no wonder he runs away. Not to mention, mages like him are basically breed by their families with no choice in the matter? Again, so messed up.

You do meet his sister. She says she wants to change the system… but can Miles really trust her? As a reader, I never really knew. She is an interesting character, and she’s also the most significant female character in the novel. I don’t really have complaints about this, but if what you’re specifically looking for in a novel is lots of female characters in lead roles, this isn’t that particular book. Again, sort of like Death of a Necromancer in that way.

The only other potential criticism I can think of is that the relationship between Miles and Tristan seemed to move pretty fast. But I’m not going to get whiny about queer characters being happy. If you’re worried: this isn’t a queer tragedy. At the end of the book, both Miles and Tristan are happy and alive.

All in all, Witchmark is one of my favorite debut novels yet in 2018. I bet it’ll end up making my best of the year list! I highly recommend it.
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I loved everything about this fantasy novel! It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The story takes place in a fantasy land named Aeland that is modeled vaguely on post-World War I England. Miles is a former soldier and psychologist treating patients with combat fatigue at a hospital for men returning from the war. He also possesses magic, which could lead either to him being condemned as a witch or enslaved by more powerful mages who would use him as the equivalent of a magical battery to power their spells.

When a dying man who claims he has been poisoned outs Miles as a magic user to a handsome stranger named Tristan, Miles is recruited by Tristan to help him figure out who murdered the man, and why. The investigations of the two men uncover a perilous threat from outside Aeland as well as a horrifying rot at the very heart of the country Miles loves.

The worldbuilding here is terrific. Yes, it’s roughly based on England following the Great War, but the author adds enough differences to make her world unique. For example, technology is powered by a mysterious substance called aether rather than electricity. The magical aspect of the story is fascinating, in that some of the great families of Aeland are secretly mages who protect the Queen and the nation while concealing their power from the general population, who have been taught to fear witches. The fact that those mages essentially enslave and manipulate the less powerful among their families makes the situation even more complex and interesting.

Miles is everything you could want in a hero—honorable, brave, and willing to sacrifice himself to save others. Tristan is a good partner for him, plus he’s got his own magical secrets that add an interesting element to his character. (Can’t say more—spoilers!) They are perfect for each other, and the romance that develops between them is very sweet indeed.

The ending makes it clear that there’s more to come for Miles and Tristan and their adventures in Aeland, and I for one can’t wait to find out what’s in store for them. I certainly don’t want to wait a year for the next book!

A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own. And then I bought my own copy, because I had to add it to my collection.
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I have to admit that the stunning cover of this book was what first caught my eye. Then, I read the blurb and my weakness for a world that is like our, but with magic won me over. Just imagine a world that is a reminiscent of Edwardian England, where a war has been going on, between Aeland and Laneer. Miles Singer is a doctor, but he is also born with powers that have destined him to be a slave to his family. A fate he didn't want, so he ran away, to use his skills for healing. He fought in the war, was captured and reported dead. With a new identity is he now working in a veteran hospital trying to figure out why men that are returning is coming back having the same delusion. That someone inside them trying to take over and kill everyone. And, then a man arrives at the hospital, dying, knowing Miles true name and ask for his help...

You know what I wanted more when I read this book, more knowledge about Aeland and Laneer. It did feel like you only got tidbits of information and I wanted to know more, More history about the countries, etc. I felt a bit lost now and then, but I liked the story. I liked the M/M love story that blossomed between Miles and a certain gentleman that shows up with secrets of his own. I liked the writing, the story had great flow. The last part of the book, when the pace stepped up as Miles started to untangle the truth about what is going on is truly great. I hope to read more books set in this world.
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I love a book that's a bit different to a lot of whats out there and whilst its starting to become a bit of a trend to have a crime novel in a fantasy setting, this title from CL  brings cracking world building to the fore alongside characters that are fully rounded whom you'd love to spend time with, so much so that putting the book down will be a real hardship.

Add to this great prose, some top notch twists alongside some political machinations to help muddy the waters alongside the characters trying to fight for their own beliefs and desires which colours the story and all round you have a cracking novel that leaves you desiring more.  A cracking example of a story done well and with the building that has gone into the piece, plenty of scope for future outings.  A real joy to read.

(Review goes live on 26th June)
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This is the same review as I have posted on Goodreads, but without the spoilers!

Would you be surprised if I said I read this book in one go? No, probably not. Damn son, this was a good read. 

I think one of the good things about Witchmark is that you are left to wonder along with Miles. You might have suspicions, but you won’t know for sure what’s true until it’s confirmed. 

Relationships are a big part of this book. Miles’ relationship with his sister, his father, with Tristan, and Robin, and his patients. They make the characters compelling. Or well, most of them anyway. 

The characters were truly amazing on itself too. Let’s break it down a little: 
-	Miles is a healer in more ways than just being a doctor and he loves his patients so goddamn much. He’s dedicated to his job and honestly? I aspire to be like that. 
-	Tristan is the ever so handsome love interest.  He has his own reasons for investigating Nick’s death and I liked that he had an ulterior motive without exactly having an ulterior motive. I think you know what I mean.
-	Grace is hard to describe. I don’t have any particular love for her, but that happens with 99% of all the characters I encounter, so that doesn’t say much. I get that she’s a strong female character, but it didn’t necessarily make her likable to me. 
-	Daddy Hensley is… well… not a nice man. 
-	All the different female characters! Bless them. Especially Robin. Bless her some more. 

I do like to say Witchmark really reminded me of The Last Sun. Maybe because both work magic of some kind and both protagonists are gay men trying to solve a murder with a potential love interest. HMMMM. Not that I’m complaining though, I’d totally love to read more of those stories. 

One thing that did kind of bothered me is the time span of this book.  Another thing is that the writing sometimes sounded a bit repetitive? At times the book would give an (almost exactly the same) description of things it had done just pages before (or longer, I can’t really tell anymore). I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into that though. 

Still, this was definitely worth spending my whole day on! I probably want to read the sequel, even though I heard it’s centered around Grace. I would see it as an opportunity to hopefully meet with Miles and Tristan again.
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Witchmark is a fantasy novel about Miles, a young man who has run away from his wealthy family to avoid his expected role as Secondary – a magical slave to his sister, who will inherit their father’s position as Voice upon his death. To escape the magical binding that happens to Secondaries, Miles runs away to join the army, and is sucked into a horrific war with the Laneer that leaves soldiers mentally scarred with battle fatigue, coming home to slaughter their own families. Home from war, Miles dedicates his career to work as a psychologist at the veteran’s hospital, trying to find a cause for his patients’ illness before more lives are lost.

There were so many wonderful things about Witchmark, but most come down to the stellar world building done by the author. The novel is set in a fictional world that feels similar to post-WWI England, but there is a whole culture developed in Witchmark with bike riding. There is language for the movements of the bike swarms as they move throughout the city, and complicated cultural standards for behavior inside one of these bicycle “drifts” – how to move in and out, how to switch from one side to the other, how to turn, etc. The magic in the world was equally detailed – there are different types of magic that different characters have, and certain expectations based on indivual wealth. Among the wealthy, the mages that can bend the weather are “Storm-Singers”, and the mages that can’t are only referred to as “Secondaries” – and while the author makes it clear that there is little difference between these two, the character still does not realize this until it is pointed out to him by another character. The author just did so much with language and details while still making the world feel realistic and understandable, and that really contributed to the realism of Witchmark.

It’s pretty rare for me to talk about pacing unless there is something wrong with it, but the pacing on Witchmark felt so perfect for this book. The author did a fantastic job of keeping things moving quickly without rushing through the character-building moments. I am not a person with a whole lot of time to sit down and read (most of my reading is done via audiobooks, or squeezing reading into 15-20 minute spurts throughout my day) but I devoured this novel in about 3 days because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. That does say a lot for the world building and the plot, but moreso for the pacing, because when a book slows too much I am less likely to jump in as soon as I find the time.

The characters in Witchmark were quite well done as well. Much of the novel depends on the reader being suspicious of most of the characters, so that did make it hard to relate to some of the secondary characters, but Miles and Tristan were complex characters with developed back stories who interacted with each other in realistic ways. Even Grace, who the author holds at arm’s length for most of the novel, still was sympathetic and well-developed, and if nothing else is a strong female character with a goal and a mind of her own.

In all, I will give Witchmark a 9 out of 10. There is so much to love – the setting, the plot, the characters – with a good fast pacing that held my attention until the very end. Fantasy readers will love this book, and readers who are interested in trying fantasy should like it too.
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A really lovely, lyrical romantic fantasy novel with an Edwardian feel and a really distinctive magical system. I was lucky enough to get an ARC, and I enjoyed it so much! It isn't fast-moving, but it's really lush, gorgeously written and full of emotion.
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<a href="" target="_blank">This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart</a>

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I'm not often influenced by the cover of a book but I loved this cover. <strong>Witchmark</strong> is also the first in the <em><strong><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Witchmark series</a></strong></em> and has magic.

I enjoyed the  world-building of a unique time and place. It had enough details for realism but not to be overwhelming.  The feel is historical, sort of steampunk.  Each kingdom has its own sorts of magics and there is fighting between kingdoms. There is also definitely a class system. smh.  There always some greedy bastards who not only have to be in charge of a kingdom and take everything for themselves while making others work hard but then they also want to take over more land and workers.

Miles is a likeable character. He is a doctor and compassionate for the all classes, those with magic and those who don't have it. He fought in the war as a healer and now treats soldiers at a hospital with mental issues after a war. He has some great friends and some serious family issues. I loved Miles and wanted him to succeed.

The end of the war and the family issues come to a head, along with a new friendship. There is a bit of romance.  A suspected murder and a mysterious PTSD of his patients lead him on a wild ride at great personal risk.  A great start to a new series - I will be reading.  The sequel is <strong>Stormsong</strong>.

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Witchmark is the first book in a fantasy series set in a world inspired by Edwardian England during WWI.

Witchmark is a novel I find very difficult to sum up, because it’s one of the few books which are many different things at the same time – a sweet m/m romance, a paranormal, a murder mystery, an exploration of class privilege, a novel about the consequences of war – and manage to develop all those aspects.

I have to say that the first few chapters weren’t exactly easy to get into. I was a bit confused by the world at first, I didn’t understand what aether was supposed to be or what was the difference between mages and witches, but everything had a point, and the rest of the book was totally worth my initial confusion. The worldbuilding was wonderful. We have a city with vaguely steampunk technology (=great aesthetic), a lot of carriages and bicycles, and we have magical people hiding their magic in their everyday life – the main character is an army doctor – and even Amaranthines, beings I can only describe as the mix between an angel and a faery, and it doesn’t even feel weird.
I love weird, but I also loved how these aspects didn’t clash with each other at all.

I loved the romance. If you look at it as a paranormal romance, Witchmark is somewhat tropey, but I didn’t care – most paranormal romances aren’t a m/m story between a witch and a angel-like faery, and very few of them are as well-written as this one. It’s a cute, tropey romance done well, the kind where you really want the characters to end up together, and you feel for them, and the fact that you totally know how the story is going to end doesn’t detract anything from your enjoyment of the journey.
This isn’t true only for the romance, but also for the murder mystery aspect: there are many reveals and I guessed almost all of them, but it wasn’t a problem for me. It’s a gay magical murder mystery, and I loved every moment of it even if I knew what was going to happen.

Also, “cute” and “tropey” don’t mean “lacking in depth”, because another thing I loved about Witchmark were the themes. It’s told from the point of view of an army doctor who is now working with veterans who have delusions and PTSD – and this book looks at the way the people in power don’t even try to help those who won the war for them and made them richer. And, once one gets to know the truth about the magic system, Witchmark becomes also an exploration of class privilege: something rich people do every day (magic) is considered dangerous and morally corrupt when poor people do it. And is technological progress worth the exploitation of less privileged people?
There’s also a focus on agency I really appreciated. Miles has run away from his family, who only saw him as a tool, someone who only had to be useful to his sister, who has the right power – a storm-singer instead of a healer like Miles. But if Miles will help his sister, it will be his own decision.

The character themselves were well-rounded. I usually prefer selfish narrators because I find them more interesting, but it was refreshing to read about someone who wasn’t and still felt very real. I really liked Miles as a protagonist and his romantic relationship with Hunter. Miles’ relationship with his family is more complicated and often toxic, and he has conflicting feelings about his sister; I liked how the situation developed.
The next book will be in Grace’s PoV and I can’t wait to see what will happen to her.
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Due for release on 1st July 2018, I had this review copy from Netgalley. The book is already available to pre-order from that large company named after a South American River – and it's well worth getting. The setting is Edwardian in feel with an ongoing war about to draw to a close. Id say it's steampunky, but instead of steam it has magic and bicycles. Magicpunk? Anyhow, the main character in Miles Singer, a young doctor who has survived his part in the war, discharged after a spell in an enemy prison camp. He's left his wealthy and influential family behind to work as a psychiatrist in a veterans' hospital where his can (with all appropriate caution) use his magical talent for healing. If he's caught he'll be confined to a witches' asylum or enslaved by his own family. He puts his own freedom at risk to solve a problem with his patients, which turns out to be a wider problem and intersects with the concerns of a handsome stranger from another world. This certainly kept me reading and while not perfect it's an excellent debut
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Miles is a good man.  He’s eminently likeable, an honorable person and it’s easy to see why he’s trusted by his patients at the Veteran’s hospital where he has been working since his return from The War.  He hoped to help others while the nation of Aeland rebuilds itself, but is instead thrust into a mystery.  Why are the returning soldiers suffering abrupt personality changes and heightened rage? What is behind the message he receives from a dying man? Who is the incredibly handsome man who insists on helping Miles find out the answers to these questions?

Miles could use his powers as a witch to heal his patients, but has to hide who he really is.  He faked his death to avoid a system where witches like him are enslaved.  He has hard choices to make if he’s going to help others.

I must admit I picked this book for it’s cover, which as you all know is a decision that can turn out oh so bad! In this case I was in for a happy surprise. I mean, look at that cover.  It’s all misty & Edwardian & magic & stuff. Right up my alley!  I was even more pleased to find that Witchmark is also LGBT inclusive! Miles and his love interest share some excellent chemistry. The book is full of these two handsome, dashing gentlemen flirting endlessly with each other.  It takes me back to Downton Abbey. I mean, if Thomas were a nicer guy and had better luck in love he could be Miles.  Well, and if he had magic. Ok, so it’s not Downton after all, but you know what I mean.

I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the next installment.  I think this author is one to watch.

Song for this book: Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, 1. Winter
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