A Fantasy Worth Savoring: The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

Release Date: October 13, 2020
Publisher: Erewhon
Genre: Fantasy


“Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?”

My Thoughts

Polk plays in historical settings of opulence and industry without ignoring the oppressions that facilitate that opulence and industry. Her closest literary cousin besides Jane Austen is probably Zen Cho. Both found the gaps in Austen’s work (and the subsequent deluge of remakes and adaptations) and filled them with meditations on racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, colonialism, and queerphobia. As someone who lists Jane Austen as one of her all time favorite authors, who re-reads Pride and Prejudice at least once a year, and who has seen the 2005 film so many times she has the entire script memorized, I relished how Polk (and Cho) expanded on Austen’s work. No, not expanded: enhanced. She makes explicit what her predecessor left implicit or didn’t even consider in the first place…

Read the rest of this review at Tor.com.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.

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