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.
Polk takes Grace on a rollercoaster of a journey through a fantastical dystopia that nonetheless feels organic, genuine and believable ... Polk’s accessible, elegant writing makes it possible for readers new to the series to jump in and immerse themselves in her magical vision of an alternate Edwardian England, which incorporates concepts that are no stranger to the contemporary reader ... Readers will grow increasingly anxious as Grace’s world slips into war, genocide and corruption, but her budding romance with Avia adds warmth to this otherwise chilling tale of deceit and dishonesty.
In the first book, Polk asks the hard questions and in the second she answers. There are many who don’t like the questions and reject the answers, but we can’t expect the future to be better without examining the past and present ... What I find so fascinating about C.L. Polk’s Kingston Cycle is how layered it is. You can, as many have, read it as a cute queer romance in a sweeping, vaguely historical setting. You can also read it as a dense fantasy series with hints of action-adventure and political thriller. Or you can read it like I did: as a subtle, sly commentary on the ways in which Western society relies on oppression and exploitation and what we can do as individuals to not just resist but rebel and reconstruct ... wonderfully written and teeming with characters that defy tropes and demand attention.
Although the book reads a little predictably, and attaches to its predecessor strongly enough to be difficult to understand at first, it’s a marvelously readable novel set in a fun world, mixing and matching elements from a variety of subgenres ... Grace has a lot of power, both political and magical. As a narrator, she’s engaging and sympathetic without being terribly distinct, which for many readers will be just right ... Walking the middle way like this makes for compelling conflict, but it also makes Grace seem overly conciliatory and a little bit cowardly. I detail this because the book’s parallels to our current political situation are unignorable: a climate crisis, a selfish national leader, a wealthy ruling class disconnected from day-to-day realities, and concentration of power among nepotistic relationships. In light of these parallels, Grace’s reluctance to choose a side feels less sympathetic ... Despite this heavy business running along below, the fantasy elements above are delightful ... an active, churning book, packed with dialogue and scenes, hardly stopping for a moment. The end result is a cracking read, if not a perfect book ... The biggest problem with Stormsong is its dependence on Witchmark. I read at least the first 50 pages without understanding much of what was going on ... Polk has assembled a compelling political context and a winning combination of elements on which to stage character dramas. Many avid readers look forward to finding out who she taps next for the central spot.