Tag Archives: fantasy

Review of Witchmark and Stormsong, by C.L. Polk

I purchased a copy of Witchmark (by C.L. Polk) some time ago but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then Netgalley offered a copy of the sequel, Stormsong. I accepted a copy so I could read the whole Kingston Cycle together. How could I not want to with those covers? So gorgeous.


Description of Witchmark:

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

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. Description of Witchmark:In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

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.

Review:

I don’t know why I held onto this so long, reluctant to read it for some reason. But it was a mistake. I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, I was confused in the beginning. It took a while for the magic and political system to untangle itself enough to make sense. Once it did, however, I was hooked. Then I was outraged. Then I felt vindicated.

The world is an interesting one, with some electronic gadgets (run on aether), early cars, carriages, and complex bicycle etiquette. Men and women seemed to hold equal positions of power (and victimization). And, while not deeply explored, there appear to be several species of ‘human.’ For a small book, it packed a lot in.

I loved Miles and Turner as characters and appreciated the difficult position Grace was in. Though, I only appreciated that in the end. At the middle mark, I was wondering why Miles wouldn’t just let her die. (That would be my extended moment of outrage on his behalf.)

All in all, I’m really looking forward to reading book two.


Description of Stormsong:

Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There’s revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What’s worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace’s heart.

Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?

Review:

I must admit that I didn’t love this as much as Witchmark. It was still enjoyable, mind you, but not as good IMO. The reasons being that it ended quite abruptly—with a lot still in the air (pending you don’t simply assume everything will work out as planned, nothing else has)—and I didn’t feel the romance AT ALL.

The problem with the romance was that though you know in advance who the romantic interest is (it’s in the blurb), for half the book any affections she showed Grace felt like manipulation to get a story. I didn’t believe for a moment a woman as astute as Grace would see all the touching and soft words as anything else, given their limited acquaintance and the circumstances. What’s more, when later Grace makes decisions, stating they are to be with Jess, it feels like a leap. She wants to be like Jess, her brother, and Tristan. She likes who she is with them. But that’s not the same as being in love with someone, especially since it’s not limited to one person. So, I didn’t make the connection to love, be it romantic or otherwise. All of which left me pretty cold on the romance front. I liked them both, but I didn’t feel a romance bloomed between them.

All in all, however, I’d be happy to read more in there series (if there is any) and certainly more of Polk’s writing.

Review of Heartstone, by Elle Katharine White

I borrowed a copy of Heartstone, by Elle Katharine White, from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in a world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Review:

This was ok, just a little more YA than I was prepared for. Of course, I can’t criticize it for being what it is. I’m just admitting that I went in with a misconception. I saw that it’s a fantasy retelling of Pride and Prejudice and decided to go for it.

The writing is fine and I liked the characters well enough. However, this has a serious case of a love interest who never actually shows any love, not even any curtesy. Up until the moment he declares himself, I (and the heroine) thought he distinctly disliked her. So, love came as a surprise. Yes, I could tell he was being set up as the hero. But we’re never given any reason to tolerate, let alone like him. I appreciate that the heroine told him all of this. But she then turned right around and decided she loved him anyway. I didn’t feel this love develop AT ALL. The sister’s secondary romance was far more developed.

My biggest complaint about the book, however, is the fact that the heroine threw herself into danger that should have killed her, somehow miraculously survived, and her mere presence made things happen. As an example (and this is a SPOILER), hundreds of people were fighting and dying to kill the big bad at the end, had been for days. She literally showed up, said three sentences and within five minutes (maybe less) the big bad was dead, the hero was saved from something that should have killed him, and everyone lived happily ever after. All she had to do was show up. I found this anticlimactic and unbelievable.

I have book two. This was originally going to be a multi-book review. But, at this point, I’m undecided if I’ll read it or not.

Review of The Absinthe Earl (The Faery Rehistory #1), by Sharon Lynn Fisher

I borrowed a copy of The Absinthe Earl (by Sharon Lynn Fisher) from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:

They crossed centuries to find each other. Their love will shatter worlds.

Miss Ada Quicksilver, a student of London’s Lovelace Academy for Promising Young Women, is spending her holiday in Ireland to pursue her anthropological study of fairies. She visits Dublin’s absinthe bars to investigate a supposed association between the bittersweet spirit and fairy sightings.

One night a handsome Irishman approaches her, introducing himself as Edward Donoghue. Edward takes absinthe to relieve his sleepwalking, and she is eager to hear whether he has experience with fairies. Instead, she discovers that he’s the earl of Meath, and that he will soon visit a mysterious ruin at Newgrange on the orders of his cousin, the beautiful, half-mad Queen Isolde. On learning about Ada’s area of study, he invites her to accompany him.

Ada is torn between a sensible fear of becoming entangled with the clearly troubled gentleman and her compelling desire to ease his suffering. Finally she accepts his invitation, and they arrive in time for the winter solstice. That night, the secret of Edward’s affliction is revealed: he is, in fact, a lord in two worlds and can no longer suppress his shadow self.

Little does either of them realize that their blossoming friendship and slowly kindling passion will lead to discoveries that wrench open a door sealed for centuries, throwing them into a war that will change Ireland forever

Review:

Meh. It wasn’t bad, but I also thought it was fairly shallow. Everyone was just so darned nice all the time that I felt very little tension. Yes, there was the whole Ireland/Faerie war bit. But even it was essentially just dropped on the reader. It was never given the buildup it needed to give it the importance it needed. Lastly, I hated that D & C were not given their chance, even if only once. I felt like the reader was denied satisfaction. But I also doubt D would give up so easily. [That is left purposefully vague to avoid spoilers.]

The writing itself was fine, however. And other than some over-formality, the dialogue flowed well enough and I had no issue with the editing.

All in all, an OK read. I’d pick up another of Fisher’s book. But I’m not rushing out to buy them either.