Title: The Midnight Bargain
Author: C. L. Polk
Release Date: 15/4/2021
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 51
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Orbit ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar to cut off her powers. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged mage, but her family are in severe debt, and only her marriage can save them.
Beatrice finds a grimoire with the key to becoming a mage, but a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with the sorceress’s brother: the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.
From the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Witchmark comes a sweeping, romantic new fantasy set in a world reminiscent of Regency England, where women’s magic is taken from them when they marry. A sorceress must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family.
I loved this. It was such a fun read and beautifully written. Firstly, I really liked the choice of setting, there was such a rich and lavish world built up around the characters. We got a full view of magic, court politics and etiquette of not just one land in this world but of several and how they treated women in particular. The magic system itself was interesting and I loved that our Main character, Beatrice, was not a novice but skilled when we met her. I liked the Regency feel to the setting without it being overly focused on the descriptions of clothing or decorations. There was just such a rich and lavish feeling to it all, like sinking into plush cushions, with the writing just sweeping you away with it all.
Beatrice was a great main character, confident but also inquisitive. She is not naïve in any way she stands firm in her decisions and how she reasoned and questioned the decisions she had to make through out the plot was fantastic. The romance was also interesting. It was a real meeting of equals. I loved that it didn’t overshadow Beatrice and her story but instead moved with her and her decisions. I really liked how it played out through out the book and I was right there with it till the end. I enjoyed the development of Beatrice’s friendships and the struggles to choose between the friendships, her family, her love and her own freedom. My favourite character was Nadi, the Spirit Beatrice bargains with, I liked seeing the development of Beatrice’s magic and her connection with Nadi grow, it was a fun and very interesting relationship to have such a strong arc within the plot.
My only gripe is that a lot of the plot points that Beatrice falls into could have been easily solved with communication. Mis-communication tropes are my least favourite and a larger part of the denouement of this tale could have been solved if two of the characters just had a honest conversation. That made the book a little frustrating as I could easily see alterative plotlines. The ending however was still exciting and fun to read regardless on my misgivings about the chosen trope. I was still right there with every story beat wanting to know how it would turn out.
Overall, the writing style was really engaging. I found myself wanting to read more and more, wanting to spend time with the characters, worrying for them, getting excited for the romance, wanting to fight there battles. That that is the sign of a great read. Thoroughly immersive and captivating that you are just swept along and the pages just fly by.