Review: Whitley: Witchmark

Book Cover
title: Witchmark
author: C. L. Polk
pages: 272
format: Paperback
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5

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.

A murder mystery set in a post-world-war pseudo-England, this book was engaging and deft and juggling a lot of different themes and plots. There were so many subplots going on, and yet I never lost the thread of the plot in the least, and everything was tightly plotted and excellent and keeping the reader consistently engaged throughout it all.
I loved Miles as a character, but specifically as a PTSD veteran doing his utmost to help his fellow soldiers. He had really beautiful soft side that I absolutely adored, this kind of...stubborn softness, almost. He was so determined to do the right things, and those things were usually being comforting and kind and gracious to his patients. His fraught relationship with his family was less soft, but every bit as stubborn, and it rounded out his character in a marvelous way.
His family I rather hated, though, especially Grace who was supposed to be more of a morally-gray type. I'm not sure if I was just reading too much into it, but I kept waiting for a twist that never came because a lot of her actions read as deeply wrong to me, and the reveal that there's no reveal soured me on her whole...everything.
The only problem I had with the plot was the romance. The romance because there wasn't enough of it! Our two leads were both great characters in their own right, and they worked well together and had chemistry and a really soft, sweet attraction to each other. But the romance didn't seem to be a focus for the book, due to all the murder investigating going on, and the leads actually didn't spend much of the book together. By the end, while they had a lot of potential, I just didn't feel like they'd gone anywhere with it and then *boom* proposal. I was really taken aback by that.


Review: Whitley: To Kill A Kingdom

Book Cover
title: To Kill A Kingdom
author: Alexandra Christo

pages: 352
format: ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Yesssssss killer girls who actually kill things, why did it take so long for me to find one? Feels like every book I've had so far that promised 'brutal' girls winds up with no on-page death, or the plot twists in knots to justify things, or some other 'out' so the girl can still stay 'good.' Not Lira, tho. Nope, she's murdering boys in the first few chapters just for the pure pleasure of it.
And ooooh I love Lira so much. I love her whole story, from fucked up childhood to kinda-redemption arc. I love that it was clear from the start that she was molded into being a killer and probably wouldn't have picked that for herself, but also that the book doesn't shy away from the fact that she thoroughly enjoys it anyway. I love the way her affection for her cousin is displayed without going over-the-top with the whole 'what is love, I don't know this emotion' angle. I just love her.

Elian is cool, too, I guess. But have I told you about Lira? lol, okay, being serious again, Elian is a fine hero and counterpart to Lira, and the two have good chemistry and play off each other really well. I liked the way his passion was described, but let's be honest, his greatest asset was as a foil to Lira. The rest of his crew was more interesting as individuals.

The plot was a solid adventure story with lots of swashbuckling and fighting and an epic battle and satisfying ending and I'm sorry, I just don't have much to say about books that I like? It was a good, more adventure-y retelling of The Little Mermaid and you should read it.