Hugh Likes Fiction: Even Though I Knew the End

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Even Through I Knew The End
Written by C. L. Polk
Audiobook Read by January LaVoy

The Skinny: A quick mix of Fantasy and Noir that hits hard and fast.

Helen Brandt is a Private Investigator living in 1940’s Chicago. She’s also a lesbian, and a warlock. She takes on magical work for her mysterious clients, gets paid well for her work, and doesn’t ask questions. But when she’s recruited to investigate a notorious serial killer whose murder scenes have a magical connection, she turns the job down. There’s too much risk involved, and people she cares about could get hurt, including her estranged brother and her girlfriend. But she changes her mind when her client offers her something she can’t refuse: Her soul.Even Though I Knew The End is a delightful little jewel of a fantasy noir novella. Polk’s recreation of 1941 Chicago, layered with a tantalizing hint of a rich magical world, is stunning and vibrant. The city breathes, and you can practically smell the stale cigarette smoke and stale coffee on the narrator’s breath. The combination of enticing fantasy world and impending doom with palpable and exciting. Polk’s well-researched noir prose is spot on, giving just enough to bring the story to life without turning purple.The audiobook, read by January LaVoy, is outstanding. Her narration brings the characters to life, and her performance of Brandt brings out the perfect amount of hard-luck noir sympathy for a protagonist who has undoubtedly done awful things for awful people (Marlowe in particular) but we want to root for her anyway, even though, well, we know how things are fated to turn out. Her performance of the rest of the cast is also excellent, giving otherworldly touches to the characters where appropriate and garnering sympathy when necessary.Even Though I Knew the End is a brilliant Fantasy Noir novella. You can find it in Print and eBook from the usual marketplaces, and as an audiobook from Audible.


Hugh Likes Fiction: Witchmark

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Written by C. L. Polk
Published by Tor


The Skinny: Polk’s debut novel is a perfectly crafted queer fantasy masterpiece.

Witchmark is a remarkable queer fantasy novel that I picked up almost on accident. It follows the story of Dr. Miles Singer, a psychiatrist (and secretly, a magician) in the country of Aeland. Aeland recently won a war with neighboring Laneer, but thousands of veterans are returning with unusual psycological trauma. When a dying man is brought in to the hospital by handsome stranger Tristan Hunter, Miles will join him to unravel these mysteries. But finding the truth will mean returning to his past, and risking a fate worse than death.
Polk’s story is an excellent puzzle box of a story, with an incredible Edwardian-inspired setting that is richly conceived but also elegantly told. There is a lot of world-building that is vitally important to the story, and Polk is deft at delivering it without bogging down the reader in fictional history. Her other really great triumph is the way she depicts the motivations of her characters. As a gay man myself, I can strongly relate to Miles and his sister Grace’s situation, and being at odds with your family but still loving them. This dynamic is really well represented, and it isn’t one I often see in queer fiction.
And yes, this book is very queer. It’s so queer that the magic system has top and bottom roles. But it is also very sweet. I loved Mile’s and Tristan’s relationship and the way it unfolded. The romantic elements are definitely safe for work, in my view. All of the naughty bits occur off of the page.
Witchmark is a stunning debut novel from C. L. Polk and I can’t wait to read the follow up due out in February. You can find it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookshop.