THANKS TO THE PUBLISHER AND NETGALLEY FOR PROVIDING ME WITH A COPY FOR REVIEW, THIS DID NOT AFFECT MY OPINION OF THE BOOK IN ANY WAY.
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.
Witchmark is so refreshingly different from everything else I’ve read lately. It pulls elements from all sorts of familiar story types in fantasy and yet it feels like something completely new. Fans of urban fantasy might like the murder mystery plot and all the investigating that goes along with it. There’s also a strong romantic side-plot which I adored. Fans of historical fantasy might like the feel of the world as it’s an analog of post-WWI England, while fans of the fae may enjoy this fresh take on the immortals here. I could go on, there are so many things to love about this book.
The descriptions and the prose were great and very much inserted me into the setting of the book. I felt like I walking the hospital with Miles, or hanging out in his cramped little closet of an office. There was a bit of a vague feeling to the prose too, especially when Miles was using his magic to help his patients. The thoughts conveyed could sometimes be dreamlike in quality, that they weren’t fully fleshed out and something seemed missing, but in a good way. I think this worked great for setting the atmosphere just a bit off kilter. This is one of my favorite things writers do and not everyone pulls it off so well as it is done here.
I loved the world-building in Witchmark. It’s not our world but it’s a mirror so it feels familiar enough that one can fill in the blanks. And yet it’s different enough that you wanted to know more about it. The magic in the world and how it’s utilized is one the most thought-provoking aspects of the book. I found it interesting how this system existed, or how it was even allowed to exist as it did where one kind of magical affinity took precedence over every other kind of power to the point where those with ‘secondary’ abilities are being utilized as human batteries for a class of elite magic users. There is some explanation behind this, but I feel like I still want more answers on how this happened and why it was able to persist for so long. Then again, horrible things happen all of the time and are able to persist for centuries in real life so it does make sense in that context.
The pacing is a bit slower at times. There were a lot of meetings with various people and less action, but that’s to be expected with investigation plots. That being said, while I don’t need action all of the time, some of the interactions between characters (like some of the stuff at the hospital) dragged on just a bit for me. Really, a very minor complaint. The only other thing that bugged me a bit was Miles’ relationship with his sister and father, how he so willingly went along to help even though he’d been hiding for so long. And even though Grace comes around in the end, some of the stuff she does to him feels irredeemable to me. His father is definitely a mustache twirly villain, but that’s ok! I don’t mind those so much when they’re a good balance for the rest of the story.
I think most of the characters were really well done. This isn’t the type of story, I think, where you get as close to the characters as you may want. They’re always just a bit at a distance. Usually I’m all about the characters and if they feel at a distance I’m not as much into the story, but for the most part that wasn’t an issue here because it worked with the overall atmosphere of the book. Miles was great and felt very realistic (this is also probably why he irked me when he made a stupid decision), but Tristan completely stole the show for me. I pretty much love everything about him. Like, is there a Team Tristan I can sign up for? Anyway, I loved the relationships between the characters too. Grace and Miles had a curious sibling relationship that had layers of complexity built into it. I’m still not quite sure how to feel about some of it. But Tristan and Miles…woooh. I could read about them quietly seducing each other with nothing more than glances and loosening of neckties all day.
Overall, I really loved Witchmark. I think all the elements brought together here worked well to create something new and refreshing. The murder mystery plot had a few surprises and I absolutely adored the romantic aspect. 4.5/5 stars.