C.L. Polk comes to the blog with a fantasy romance, suitable for young adult readers and tied/tinged with regency-era moments with
The Midnight Bargain
I’ll have to admit that I’m not a huge high fantasy reader, but the combination of regency, romance, magic and early reviews promising amazing world building and this book became one that I wanted to read. And I’m very glad that I did. C.L. Polk built a complex, layered and near tactile world that built immediate visual imagery, and allowed me to feel the overtones from the scenery – danger, confusion, darkness, and foreboding, Turning a corner became a whole new opportunity for something – good, bad or indifferent to happen.
Easy to pick up the premise – there is magic, thought to be inappropriate for women to be too ‘skilled’ and not allowed open practice until reaching an advanced age and or widowed. But Beatrice, the heroine, is not only skilled, but very in tune with her magic and the potential it holds for her. So much so that marriage isn’t something she wants, particularly as women are collared to ‘prevent’ their magic for influencing any children they carry. She’s curious, headstrong, and a dreamer with plenty of obligations resting on her shoulders – bring her family out of debt by marrying well and leave all the pieces of her that make her who she is, behind.
I wanted to love the book. But I had issues: Beatrice was determined, headstrong and curious – but only superficially. The whole equal rights (which we think we’re close to achieving) struggle, along with her manner in ‘demanding’ her rights to do as she chose was often overplayed and felt more a curious habit than something truly ‘ingrained’ in her personally. There is a flatness that never quite deepened and filled out her character to the point that I’d want to know more, and often I couldn’t care about her ‘next rant’ about equality. Ianthe, the love interest, is charming, honest, up front and perhaps a bit too eager – but the contrast between the two, as she double thinks and questions intentions, showed up the lack of development in her character. There were some saving moments and people beside Ianthe – Nadi who was meant to help Beatrice locate the grimoire we see her seeking in the first pages was lovely and had a bit of a humanizing effect. Overall, there were moments to love, a romance that never quite felt “true’ and a character who made it her mission to be difficult, leaving me highlights to cone from other characters and the cleverly designed and built worlds. I’m curious to read others by this author, perhaps without a ‘romance’ element, to see if the magic, world and characters truly soar to the heights that this story had held within.