The Magic of C.L. Polk

“Marlowe had offered me fifty dollars to stand out here in the freezing Chicago cold and do an augury, and like a damn greedy fool, I said yes.”

Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk

I recently had the joy of reading two books by C.L. Polk back to back, and both were equally amazing and beautiful. 

Even Though I Knew The End is a novella set in 1940s Chicago. Helen Brandt is an auspex and a detective who uses her powers to uncover the mysteries at a crime scene. When an augury doesn’t go quite as planned, she finds herself part of a bigger case- to track down the serial killer known as the White City Vampire. In doing so, she will regain something she lost and desperately wants back, but she will also put the love of her life, Edith, in danger. 

As this is a novella, I don’t want to spoil too much of the story. I went in knowing nothing (having read C.L. Polk’s Witchmark, I knew I would love anything they wrote). It is a beautifully evocative story with a lovely sapphic romance. Everything about this novella is gorgeous. The cover, the world, the characters, the world-building. It’s stunning to me that so much was packed into such a small book; it really is a marvel, and I loved it with my whole heart. 

By the time I finished Even Though I Knew The End, I wasn’t sated on C.L. Polk’s gorgeous writing style (and how can you ever be?). So I dove right into The Midnight Bargain which was very different but just as beautiful and stunning. 

“The spirit inside her fidgeted as she took the circle down, spinning the power back into herself. She cleaned the chalk marks off the floor, snuffed out every candle, and carefully picked her way down the ladder into her bedroom, where the clock had only a quarter hour left to tick before Clara would come prepare her for the dance.” 

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain features the amazing sorceress Beatrice Clayborn who will do anything to not marry. Including making a great bargain with a spirit so that she can gain enough luck and wisdom to help her father make good investments, thereby securing her family’s fortune and giving her the freedom to pursue magic without being strapped to a husband. With marriage comes another concern- once a woman becomes with child, she must wear a collar that dampens her magical power so the unborn child will not be afflicted by any spirits. Beatrice does not want this future for herself; she wants freedom and magic. 

In her search for grimoires to unlock the code of the great bargain, Beatrice runs into Ysbeta and Ianthe Lavan. They are siblings connected to a very wealthy and powerful family, and Beatrice’s family is so happy by the connection. But as drawn to Ianthe as she is, Beatrice still doesn’t want to marry. And like her, Ysbeta had her own reasons for wanting to avoid Bargaining Season and being wed. Reluctantly, the two agree to work together to learn the magic they need to in order to bind a spirit and free themselves from the lives their parents have thrust upon them. 

This book was absolutely gorgeous and riveting. I adored everything about it. The magic was so interesting and intricate. There was such a distinction between men being able to use magic in this world versus women, and the fight for this right was a prominent theme in the book- echoing the fight women have made for rights throughout history. 

The Midnight Bargain was rich in detail, and every time I opened the book, I was stepping into another place. (The description of the gowns alone were amazing). 

C.L. Polk is such an incredible writer. I really want to finish The Kingston Cycle so I may start a reread of Witchmark soon and dive back into that world too. I highly recommend both of these stories. They are wonderful to step into.

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