Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain is the first book I’ve read by C. L. Polk, and I received a free copy from NetGalley for reviewing. It’s a stand-alone fantasy romance in a historical setting, with magic and automatons.

This is a fairly good book. The stakes are high: Beatrice Clayborn has to choose between living a life as a sorceress, which she desires, and marrying, which her family wants. First choice will ruin her family economically, plus she won’t be able to marry and have children. The second will put her under the direct rule of her husband and completely rob her off her magic, as it could damage her children. The choice seems clear to her, until she meets Ianthe and falls in love.

This is also a really exhausting book. Everything is stacked against Beatrice from the start, the society, magic and all the people around her. There isn’t a single character that is on her side, not even those who seemingly are. There’s no room for her to breatheand consequently no room for the reader to breathe. The unfairness of the society is brought up repeatedly, with same arguments, as if everyone, the reader included, hadn’t understood after the first couple of times. The repetition bogs down the narrative and takes room from the plot, like the romance, which feels glued on and not romantic at all. The couple only talks about politics when they’re alone. The focus is mostly on Beatrice’s attempts to escape her fate. I ended up skimming through most of the book, but I was curious enough to learn how it ends, so I didn’t put it down.

The world is fairly interesting. The magic especially is well-developed. I liked Nadi, the spirit of luck Beatrice summons to help her. There were some things that puzzled me, like why was everyone forced to speak a foreign language? Was the country conquered by a wealthier one, or was it purely fashion? And why was a young woman thrown into the hostile society without any help or escort from her parents and just told to deal with it, when all the other debutantes had large support groups? If it was to allow Beatrice to escape parental notice for plot reasons, she managed just fine on other occasions, and only made the writing seem lazy.

The ending was good. It had a slight ‘deus ex machina’ feel to it, but not so badly that it would’ve disappointed. Beatrice is basically saved, not actively saving herself. Again the romance took a side-line for Beatrice’s self-actualisation, but it was given a moment too. The epilogue wraps things up nicely. I was left satisfied with it.


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