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(The Kingston Cycle #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  8,583 ratings  ·  1,704 reviews
C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

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 M
Paperback, 318 pages
Published June 19th 2018 by
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Nameless No. The author has explicitly said on her twitter that it is not YA but adult. The main character is a thirty-two year old physician
Marlowe The main character is gay, and the central romance is m/m. It's shy and they take it slow (the culture isn't tolerant of long term queer relationships…moreThe main character is gay, and the central romance is m/m. It's shy and they take it slow (the culture isn't tolerant of long term queer relationships, though it does seem to be allowed as a "youthful fling"), but there are some moments of strong chemistry.

The romantic aspect is explicit, but there isn't explicit sex.(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  8,583 ratings  ·  1,704 reviews

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Elle (ellexamines)
You know when you read a really good romance, or your nostalgic favorite childhood series (and yes I'm using these both as positives), and yes, you know that there might be a few tropes, but you are just so invested in everything within the story, and you want to praise it forever and send it to all your friends? That’s how I feel about this book. This has all the good qualities of really good romance [well-used tropes, story beats we can sense but still aren’t bored by, interesting and likable ...more
chai ♡
A witch works secretly as a doctor to escape enslavement by his sister and meets a cute boy? What could possibly go wrong?

I think the novel introduces many formidable themes (free will, the inhumanity of war, the grinding machine of capitalism), but fails to take them in its teeth. The characters are difficult to embrace and could step more wholly into the page, and the novel's exploration of their relationships demand a lot more depth but only skims the surface, like skipping stones. That said
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of idyllic pacing, Edwardian England
It's quite, so very, very twee.

The good stuff: it is very charming. There's a sweet romance. There are men bicycling. There are feisty ladies. And I wasn't inclined to either fall asleep or throw the book once.

The background: There's a very Edwardian England feel about it, all waistcoats, dressing for dinner, carriages, and well-bred women chaperoned when with the opposite sex.  The story surrounds a man who has essentially escaped his family to live under an assumed name as a doctor. His family
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq-fantasy, m-m
historical ✓
magical ✓
gay ✓✓✓
murder mystery ✓

I adored this. it wasn't anything like what I expected
I honestly did not know what to expect with this except that a ton of people I know swore by it. So sure, I barely looked at the blurb and dove right in, basically clueless.

What I found was a mystery soon after a world war, featuring a hounded mage serving as a doctor in England. Cool. And yet, for me, the charm was in the strong voice, the genuine sympathy, and the wonderful details of the time and place.

Of course, there's a lot of really horrible situations going on here, like being bound magi
2.5 stars

Wanted to love this one but struggled to connect to its writing and characters. I most enjoyed the elements of class conflict and family strife. C.L. Polk writes about class privilege and servitude well, and the tension between our main character, Miles, and his family helped imbue Witchmark with surprise, intrigue, and betrayal. However, as other reviewers have said, the book reads like fanfiction at times, where the characters and world-building receive little development and the writ
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 differ
Mel (Epic Reading)
This is a beautiful love story, with an engaging magic system and led by a political intrigue story. Just wonderful. I'm especially enamoured by it now that I know it's written by a Canadian who lives near me! I'm hoping that when I get my physical copy (as I read an eARC) that I can find a local event where it can be signed at! As always the highest compliment I can give any book is to purchase it for my physical library. Especially when I buy an ARC! This one is more than worthy of my shelf.

Allison Hurd
This could have been amazing. It had so many great elements--I see why so many found it cool. But it needed to slow the eff down! We jumped around constantly from plot point to plot point, revelation to conflict in a scene with no time to orient or attach to anything. A shame, because I think there was a lot here that I would have fallen in love with if it had been built a little more.

CONTENT WARNING (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics): (view spoiler)
An amazing book; an extraordinary first book.

Enthralling, fast-paced, and romantic, Witchmark unveils a fascinating world. Polk writes with assured ease. I can't wait for her next book!
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I spent the first half of this book wondering whether I particularly liked it and by the end I loved it! Great magic system, complex main characters, exciting denouement. Fabulous!
Para (wanderer)
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Para (wanderer) by: Sharade
Witchmark ended up being the book that finally got me out of my March reading slump. It's a charming, easy read, that hit precisely the right spot.

The plot is one third murder mystery, one third romance, and one third historical fantasy, which makes for a lovely mix. In a world where lower-class witches are persecuted and shut into asylums or enslaved, Miles only wants to lie low, be free, and work as a doctor in a run-down veterans' hospital...until a mysterious stranger brings in a dying patie
This novel (it’s difficult to believe it’s a first novel, it’s so accomplished) is invigoratingly original, crisply and subtly and wittily written, and features a propulsive narrative peopled by richly drawn characters. I’ll be very much looking forward to reading its sequel(s) upon release.
Y'all, please read this book. Cool magic and happy gays.

s/o to for sending this to me.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from my place of employment.

2.5? Maybe?

My main problem with this is that it reads like fan fiction (I'm saying this as someone who has read more 100k+ fics than I could possibly count). When you start reading a fic, you already know who the characters are, so the author only has to give minimal development of their personalities and motivations, as well as the world they live in, because it's assumed that you already know. I feel like that's what happen
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short fantasy with a setting inspired by Edwardian England and with a compelling protagonist.

Dr Miles Singer is a returned veteran working at a hospital as a psychiatrist. Only that's not the whole story: he's also Sir Christopher Miles Hensley, a powerful Secondary Mage, who would be bound as a living battery by his family of Mages had he not run off to war and disappeared. But the war is won, and the returning soldiers are putting an immense strain on the country's mental health facilities a
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely adventure/romance featuring a shell-shocked veteran working in a hospital in the wake of a devastating war, and the mysterious and aloof being who is here to investigate the disappearance of dead souls. Very strong atmosphere and strong characters (sister/brother relationship ftw), and an intriguing magic system.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding this book, and it’s no wonder, having been nominated for the Nebula, Locus, and Lambda Literary Award. Having been nominated for all these awards may have been a detriment to the book in the end. I was expecting a lot. Something like my reaction to The Wolf in the Whale.

I’ll be honest and say that I read most of this in one day, so it certainly started on a good note. When I finished the book, I initially rated it 4 stars, but upon reflection felt like I should
Another book that I went into feeling lukewarm, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

Firstly, the prose is lovely. It has a crisp and fresh feel, making it hard to believe this is a debut novel. There is a certain maturity to the writing that makes it seem like the work of a more experienced novelist.

Secondly, the story is tight and well paced. Things move along very steadily, with clues to the mystery being revealed and the characters being developed in a way that feels natural
Amy Imogene Reads
3.5 stars!

I fell in love with this world and its characters. Historic London-type vibes, murder mysteries, witches in hiding, a queer love story, and a massive world-ending plot twist?? Y'all.

Pacing: ★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★

Miles Singer is trying to hide the fact that he's a witch. In Aeland, a realm that feels like an alternate Edwardian London, being a witch means a one-way ticket to an asylum. Or in Miles' case, a one-way ticket to eternal servitude to his rich family. (Because the r
✨    jamieson   ✨
Me and this book got off to a bit of a rocky start but once we got going we really got along. A lot of my friends loved this book and I see why - it's a really cute fantasy with an m/m relationship at the centre and a really unique setting.

Anyways, you know when you just don't have strong feelings about a book either way, like it's just a solid three star read? Yeah. We all know those are the hardest books to review, so this will be brief.

Witchmark is a fantasy set in a world that feels like a
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, fantasy
I think the only reason this exists is because Tor was looking to push themselves as a diverse SFF publisher, and nary anyone sent in some LGBT+ fantasy except Ms Polk lmao.
It’s a very thin, straightforward book, and I thought it might be otherwise because of the reviews and the promotion and the promise of the setting and premise.

I’ve read better worldbuilding, characterization and romance in self-published and indie-published queer fantasy books (hellooooooo The Rifter). Seriously, this book
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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 ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5* re-read

Was about to dive in book 2 but had to remind myself of what happened in this one, as you do.
Still a great read. Polk is brilliant at creating angst, slowly building, but ever present.

The cover is what attracted me first to this novel, but I ended up absolutely loving its content.

Witchmark features a world that feels very similar to our Edwardian times, but for its magic system, ‘technologies’, and resulting social classes and order. Still, with a few strokes, Polk’s setting is b
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
And we have to wait till 2020 for the next book????
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightful magic, an intriguing mystery, a well-shaped world, sweet M/M romance, a sexy shaving scene, and bicycle chases. It's a good one. ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-releases
Where do I even start...

I’ve struggled a lot while reading it. The atmosphere of the story is oppressive and unsettling, it’s been some time since I’ve read the book like that and my poor heart has tried to abandon me but I’ve finished the book and I’m very pleased about it.

Witchmark is adult fantasy novel, set in a world resembles our of mid 20th centuries. It feels like alternate England of 1930-50s based on customs, traditions and strong class system. The basic world building is as follows: t
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I really liked this. It’s a rich world (beware, you do get dropped in the deep end), with a compelling main character and a wonderful romance to boot. I will eagerly read the next one!
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mm, urban-fantasy
This is going to be one of those reviews where I generally liked the book but am going to spend most of my time complaining. TL;DR: it was fun and kept me reading, but I found the characters somewhat frustrating and a bit stupid. :)

I don't entirely know how to categorize Witchmark. It's got a bit of a gay romance element, but the fantasy and mystery elements are more the drivers. The setting, which I liked, is kind of early 20th century, but an entirely fictitious world. (I still insist on think
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Other books in the series

The Kingston Cycle (3 books)
  • Stormsong (The Kingston Cycle, #2)
  • Soulstar (The Kingston Cycle, #3)

Articles featuring this book

Fresh off the success of her World Fantasy Award–winning novel Witchmark comes a standalone romantic fantasy from author C.L. Polk. In The...
44 likes · 2 comments
“It was as good as magic. It was magic. I let it seep from my fingertips when I touched him, and Tristan gripped me tight even as he shuddered. I did it again, again. I’d never touched a lover with magic. I had never been myself, even in those most private moments. Always hiding, never free. Freed, I dragged him down for another kiss.” 3 likes
“He laughed, and I caught my breath at the sound. I wished I was funny, just to hear him laugh again.” 1 likes
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