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Witchmark Review 

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Novel Synopsis:

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

 

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

 

Spoiler Free Review:

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 written by CoCo

Kindle, 272 pages

Published June 19, 2018 by Tor.com