C. L. Polk
published: 11th February 2020
spoilers? yes for book 1, tried to be vague re. book 2
After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, praised as a “can’t-miss debut” by Booklist, and as “thoroughly charming and deftly paced” by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong. Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.
Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There’s revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What’s worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace’s heart.
Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?
Galley provided by publisher
It would be safe to say that I should have seen this coming. While I liked book 1, it was nothing special for me. And it was nothing special in aspects that are unlikely to change in book 2. So, really, this is not a surprise rating.
Stormsong continues pretty much from where Witchmark left off. The aether network has been destroyed, its workings exposed, and the Amaranthines have come to glare menacingly at the Aelanders. But now that crisis is past, it is time for Grace to deal with the aftermath and consequences. Namely political ones.
The problem I had from the start of this book was that I struggled to like Grace. In book 1, she’s introduced as a slightly overbearing, if well-meaning, privileged character, who subsequently becomes someone who is willing to enslave her brother and would rather die than to free him. So you can see why I wasn’t inclined to like her. And, ultimately, that first impression of her stayed with me throughout book 2. It’s not that she wholly doesn’t develop as a character – she does, eventually come to see the light – but she develops so slowly that I couldn’t take it. Not to mention that a lot of her characterisation seems to be in the form of:
Character: you have to stop the oppression of witches!
Grace: you don’t understand! I can’t tell everyone the truth!
So that was another sticking point for me. That Grace refuses to tell the truth about witch oppression (until the end), for seemingly no good reason? “Oh they can’t truly know how awful we were!” They can and they should, Grace. And I know this is part of her character development, that she comes to realise this is what needs to be done, but combine that with the fact I didn’t like her in the first place? It’s gonna be a struggle.
Barring the fact that I hated Grace, there wasn’t huge amounts wrong with this book. Yeah, the pacing was as bad for me as in the first book (the number of times something big happens and they just go take a nap and a leisurely meal like. Your country is in crisis! Is this the time??), but this time I was expecting that. It’s just that it didn’t help with the complete and utter boredom I felt while reading it. Because it was all politicky, which would have been great, but it was also all so dry. So unbelievably dry. I found myself skimming long passages because I was so bored. Even when a murder happened I still found myself bored because they didn’t actually do any investigating.
Things did get more interesting in the last 30 pages or so, when everything came to a head, but then the book just ended. Not even in a good cliffhanger-like way, either. It just stopped. As if the actual ending of the book was missing. Nothing was resolved, which is understandable if this is to be a trilogy, but it was just such an abrupt ending that I almost thought there was something wrong with the file. It feels less like an ending and more like the book has been arbitrarily split in two. So that’s kind of another thing that bugged me about the pacing.
But, ultimately, it’s not a surprise I felt this way – the first book should definitely have been a sign. In the end, this book is just one of those that’s not for me.