I reviewed the first book in the Kingston Cycle the other day, but I feel like the second in the series deserves its own review, as the mood is entirely different, and yet it’s also really enjoyable.
After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, praised as a “can’t-miss debut” by Booklist, and as “thoroughly charming and deftly paced” by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong. Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.
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?
If Witchmark was mainly a fantasy murder mystery/romance, this second tome is more like political intrigue/romance. With a side of murder mystery, too. I quite like novels that have some political intrigue, or rather I love to hate all the despicable politicians, so this worked really well for me.
I was not expecting the point of view character to change between books, so I was unsettled at first. Miles was a likeable character from the start, but Grace… She takes some warming up to. She’s a much more complicated character, morally speaking, and she can be Wrong sometimes. I found that I actually enjoyed that a lot more, because she was really struggling with how to do the right thing, which was not always obvious to her, while in the first novel it was very clear to Miles what The Right Thing was. So, sometimes I really wanted to slap some sense into her, and yet she was not despicable. Her logic was flawed, and she could be offensive, but my favourite part about this book was seeing her realise her upbringing left her to believe some things that were entirely false, and that the people she respects are perhaps not worthy of it. I found myself liking this a lot more than I do most straightforward good characters.
It also helps that the novel is narrated by Moira Quirk, who also read Gideon the Ninth. I find that I really enjoy her voice, and the way she brings out the humour in a book.
I also was more interested in the romance in this one. Grace’s interest in Avia, the very journalist who might ruin her career if she’s not careful, was a lot more entertaining, and also played a great part in Grace’s realizations around morality.
There were a lot of moving parts in this one, but they all come together in a way that makes a lot of sense. You can see that CL Polk has this all plotted perfectly, even if it means the ending is just a Happy For Now. I’m only sad that we won’t be following Grace in the last book, because it switches narrators again and follows Robin, apparently. And like I said in my Witchmark review, I love Robin! I’m excited to read from her point of view and it makes sense for where the story is going. But I’d have loved to see Grace’s relationship with Avia blossom even more, and especially to see them work through whatever will no doubt be thrown at them very shortly. When your main complaint is “I want more of this” though, you know the book’s a good one!