They carried signs that voiced the anger and fear of the people, painted in hand-high letters: “Bring us the light” and “We are hungry—We are cold.” Most of the signs had one word, lettered in black: “Shame.” It pooled in my gut, sour and hot. I couldn’t tell them why Kingston was dark, their wireless stations and telephones silent. If they knew the truth, Aeland would burn with their fury.
Hi all! You may have noticed my blog has been a bit quieter than normal lately. I’ve been in a bit of a reading/writing slump recently, and when I intended to catch up last weekend… well, it didn’t pan out and here we are. If you’re someone who has sent me a review request and hasn’t heard back in the past month or so, I’ll be catching up with you shortly over the next week or so!
The next few reviews may be shorter or less detailed than you would typically expect from my blog, but never fear: we’ll soon be back to business as usual.
Today, however, we’re going to be focusing on Stormsong by C. L. Polk, which is the sequel to Witchmark. I absolutely loved Witchmark; it’s an adorable fantasy murder mystery with a strong romance subplot woven into the narrative. The chemistry between Miles and Tristan was great, the setting was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the murder mystery itself to boot!
Stormsong lived up to it in many ways. I loved the romantic aspects, and I especially loved Grace’s romantic partner, Avia Jessup. However, I have one major gripe that overshadowed the whole experience for me: Grace never once had to truly face any consequences or earn redemption for her horrible actions in Witchmark. It was incredibly jarring seeing everyone pretend as though her actions had unilaterally been above-board. In fact, she’s lauded by the Amaranthians as a savior for having assisted in breaking the aether network. Although she makes a few one-off observations to herself about her past actions and reflecting on how awful they were, she ultimately never has to earn her redemption.
“He deserves all the credit for doing the right thing and staying the Amaranthines’ wrath. He was the one who acted. I just helped.”
“Did you hesitate to help him?”
I shrugged. “No. He was right.”
“Then you deserve credit too. Many people wouldn’t have moved to do the right thing so quickly. But you made the hard choice, for the good of Aeland.”
His approval warmed my cheeks. “Thank you, Your High—Severin.”
If Grace’s upbringing had been explored in slightly more depth, I think that these issues could have been avoided. It’s clear that her relationship with her father was toxic at best and abusive at worst. These are all things that truly would excuse her behavior, if they had been fleshed out into a proper theme and something that was examined critically as part of the text. While I suspect that Polk wanted to avoid going too far down the trauma hole, it ultimately resulted in a character who fell flat and never seemed to face any consequences.
I frequently found myself wishing that it were Avia rather than Grace who was the primary point of view character. Avia was more interesting and more compelling in nearly every way. She sacrificed a life of luxury, spurning her wealthy father, in order to pursue a career as a journalist. She’s dedicated to uncovering the truth behind the destruction of the aether network, and she knows that Grace is involved. As she grows closer to Grace, she challenges Grace’s privileged upbringing and preestablished notions of how normal people live – though she unfortunately doesn’t challenge Grace’s previous actions towards Miles. She was an incredibly engaging character, who I would have liked to see more of.
The murder mystery and politics of the book were slightly less engaging compared to Witchmark (perhaps the lack of bicycle chases?), but nevertheless were still intriguing to read through. It was interesting to see how the Aeland government and the Amaranthians interacted, which is something I’d been looking forward to for some time. Miles and Tristan play their part, of course, though Miles is still weakened after having destroyed the aether network. I was hoping for a few more cute moments between the two of them, but unfortunately it didn’t get much love.
All in all, it was an enjoyable read… but it just didn’t quite hit home for me. Grace as a protagonist simply didn’t work well, even if I did love Avia.
Thank you to Tor.com for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!