Witchmark, C.L. Polk's debut, introduces a magically infused world reminiscent of early 20th-century England, with gas-lit rooms, cloaks and carriages.
Dr. Miles Singer has created a life for himself mostly devoid of magic. Having fled his powerful family as a young man, he joined the Aeland army, went to war against the Laneeri, and now works in a veterans' hospital. But in a world where most witches are sent to asylums, supposedly for their own safety, Miles must be careful about how--and where--he uses his magical gifts. When a handsome gentleman brings a poisoned journalist into the hospital for treatment, this careful balancing act becomes increasingly hard to maintain--especially as his feelings for the gentleman evolve. And when his sister, a member of the elite magical class, shows up on his doorstep, he is drawn right back into the world he fled so long ago.
Polk's worldbuilding is done with finesse; information on the magical systems at play in Aeland are revealed smoothly and as appropriate to the story. But the magic is only the smallest part of what makes Witchmark the impressive novel that it is. The subtle ways Polk builds her characters, reveals the systems under which they live and unwinds a complicated, twisting plot with both personal and political implications are testaments to her skill as a storyteller. She builds toward a satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, but with just enough wiggle room that these beloved characters may make appearances in future installments--which would be a welcome treat. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm