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The Midnight Bargain

5 stars
2,864 (22%)
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5,029 (40%)
3 stars
3,646 (29%)
2 stars
827 (6%)
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172 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,489 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,308 reviews44k followers
March 11, 2022
Hmmm stuck in my inner evaluation purgatory: Another book gave me mixed feelings and I couldn’t decide if I hated it or loved it.

There are so many things I truly enjoyed: having equal rights between men and power to hold and use magic, to have rights to be Magus parts are thought provokingly well established.If you are a woman, you have to sacrifice your potential to have and hold the magic because when you get marry, you may put your unborn children’s lives into danger( they may be corrupted by vicious spirits)

Overall: The world building, bargaining system to choose yourself a wealthy, charming husband, rules of magic were the original, well developed and most interesting parts of the book.
But... yes... here comes the parts which bothered me a lot:

Firstly let’s talk about characters:

I found the characterization a little flat, superficial. MC Beatrice carries feminism vibes to fight for her rights to use her magic and become a Magus as like the other men do. But she was mostly too annoying, irritating, acting selfishly. Those facts made her unlikable. Her character suffers from lack of emotional depth. Poor, charming Ianthe shows his feelings from the beginning and I wanted to scream at her face and tell her “ get marry with this guy, what are you waiting for!”

Thankfully even though we suffer from heroine’s obnoxiousness, Nadi, lovely spirit she summoned to help her get back the grimoire, was my favorite character.

Romance parts are haphazard, instantaneous, too. I couldn’t get the part how they suddenly fell for each other. I really thought maybe I missed some pages and returned back to find them. Oh, no. I didn’t skip or miss any pages!

And the pace was a little bumpy. It gets slower and something happens to captivate your attention back. But a few chapters later the boredom comes back!

Fantasy parts and creative world building were truly amazing. I wish there would be less romance and more magic in this book with more tolerable characters. I’m so sure with this formulation: I would give it five stars.
So I stayed in Switzerland territory: it was not great but it was okay read so let’s meet in the middle by giving it three stars.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Erewhon books for providing me this unique ARC in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
250 reviews998 followers
December 17, 2020
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

Let’s see if I can build some buzz. (Cracks knuckles.)

C.L. Polk’s latest offering, The Midnight Bargain, is a Young Adult Fantasy Regency Romance that, for some reason, hasn’t received much attention in the bookish community. And the minor attention it has received has been somewhat mixed and unenthusiastic.

But I hope to change all that. I want to give it a little love. Shower a little praise upon it. Because The Midnight Bargain is quite good – and I would be thrilled to see more YA Fantasy fans give it a go.

Beatrice Clayborn dreams of magic and freedom. A talented young sorceress who hides her magical skills, she is torn between her own wants and her sense of responsibility to her family. The Clayborns are nearing financial ruin, and Beatrice, alone, has the means to save them. For Bargaining Season has arrived in Chasland, the time of marriage negotiations, and all she must do is make a financially-beneficial match. With the right husband, Beatrice and the Clayborns will avoid monetary disaster.

But what exactly does marriage mean for Beatrice? It means a life without magic. It means a life spent wearing a marital collar that will stifle her powers in the name of protecting her unborn children. It means a life where she will never become a Magus, as all women are denied that right – even though for men, it is considered the highest of callings.

Desperate to avoid the marital collar, Beatrice devises a plan to save both herself and her family. She will cast the Great Bargaining spell to become a Magus, thereby making herself unmarriageable, and then use her magic to serve as a financial advisor to her family.

But then Beatrice crosses paths and becomes entangled with the Lavan siblings, Ysbeta and Ianthe. Like Beatrice, Ysbeta yearns for a marriage-free life as a Magus, and the two women form a tenuous bond founded on like-minded goals.

Ianthe, however, complicates matters for Beatrice. He stirs her heart in ways she previously thought impossible, and she suddenly finds herself longing to share her life with him. As the pull towards Ianthe intensifies, Beatrice is soon forced to choose between the two greatest passions of her life – magic or Ianthe.

While reading The Midnight Bargain, I was reminded of why I, at the ripe ol’ age of 43, still enjoy YA Fantasy from time to time. The novel is compelling, fast paced, and highly entertaining. It sweeps you away to Chasland, a dazzling world of ballrooms and parties, traditions and courting rituals, and vibrantly-colored fashion.

The novel’s premise, though, is not one that is particularly innovative or new. It’s your typical feministic YA tale of a magical young woman who bucks the unfair constraints imposed upon her by the misogynistic, patriarchal society in which she lives, having to then choose between romantic love or freedom and independence. It’s a very familiar story – yet this one still manages to stand out.

And I think part of the reason for this is Polk’s writing. Her prose is gorgeously elegant and romantic; her words gracefully dance across the page. And her writing style perfectly befits the fantastical version of Regency England she so expertly creates in the novel.

Polk’s world-building of Chasland is also quite formidable for a YA novel, with the exception of one aspect – the magic system. She gives us a clear sense of how magic works for women in this society, but when it comes to the male magicians, the details are noticeably vague and fuzzy. We never receive much of an explanation as to the full extent of their skills and range of abilities, thereby leaving a hole, of sorts, in the world.

Now, on to the love story of Beatrice and Ianthe.

I’m about to be the bearer of bad news. I realize that what I’m about to tell you may be a deal breaker for some of you. It may cause you to do an immediate about face and run far, far away from The Midnight Bargain. But nevertheless, I feel I should tell you that –

Beatrice and Ianthe fall in insta love. (Whew. There, I said it.)

It’s true. Their relationship is flimsily based upon nothing more than this oft-despised trope, and because of it, it is difficult to fully buy into the two of them being all googly-eyed for one another.

But I expected it, going into the novel. I braced myself for it. And when their insta love manifested on the page, I decided to just mindlessly go along for the ride and accept it. Had I not done this, I would not have enjoyed the novel to the extent that I did.

I do wish, too, that Ianthe would have been a stronger romantic lead. He’s a little bland. Dull, even. He’s not nearly dashing or daring enough. He’s also a bit ignorant of the plight of women in Chasland, even though he staunchly believes himself to be a more progressive supporter of their cause. And in some ways, he is of a progressive mind. But he still doesn’t really get it in the beginning, which is annoying.

Beatrice, on the other hand, is a fantastic character. She’s fiery and brave. Fierce and independent. She unapologetically fights for control of her life and for what is right, refusing to back down. Some may say her actions are those of a selfish woman, but I firmly disagree. Beatrice is not the selfish one in this story – society and her family are selfish. For what right does society or the Claypools have to force her to live her life a certain way? To force her to marry and birth children if it is not her desire? And is it not also appallingly unfair of her family to even place the financial burden on Beatrice’s shoulders in the first place? To make her pay for and fix their mistakes? How it infuriates me, just to think of it.

But that’s the feminist in me talking. I will shush her for now and say no more.

No more, that is, apart from this – I absolutely adored The Midnight Bargain. Really. Truly. Please read it.

And again, try not to focus too much on the insta love. I fear the novel will not work for you if you do.

Perhaps we should just be grateful. At least there isn’t a love triangle, too.

My sincerest appreciation to Erewhon and Edelweiss+ for the Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
July 26, 2021
3 stars for this Nebula and Locus award-nominated fantasy novel. Review first posted on

Regency romance gets both a fantasy and a feminist twist in C.L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain. Beatrice Clayborn’s family has fallen on hard times and, as a final, last-gasp strategy for recouping the family fortunes and position, has spent money they don’t really have to rent a reasonably townhome in a good part of town, buy fashionable outfits for Beatrice (making her younger sister Harriet envious), and otherwise get Beatrice ready for the Bargaining Season, when the country’s gentry gather to make matches.

Despite her family’s strained finances, Beatrice is an attractive marriage prospect because of her strong magical abilities. The catch: As soon as she is married, she’ll have a metal collar locked around her neck that nullifies her magic, and it will be kept on her until her childbearing years are over, with her husband holding the only key, because the spirits attracted by magic are so extremely dangerous to unborn fetuses. The prospect appalls Beatrice: she’d much rather give up marriage and become a full-fledged mage.

When Beatrice lucks upon a grimoire that could hold the key to her future, she loses it to a rival young woman magician, Ysbeta Lavan, who has far more wealth and social status. As the two sorceresses face off, Beatrice seeks the help of a spirit to get the book back from Ysbeta. Part of the spirit’s price for helping is experiencing a kiss while sharing Beatrice’s body … and hey, there’s Ysbeta’s handsome and kind brother Ianthe. Attraction strikes like lightning, as it usually does in Regency romances, and Beatrice is soon faced with a seemingly-impossible choice between love and her family’s well-being, on the one hand, and her deeply desired destiny as an independent woman and mage, on the other.

Polk hits the subjugated women and oppressive patriarchy angles hard in The Midnight Bargain. Beatrice’s 15-year-old sister Harriet argues eloquently for the charms of a social season, lovely clothing, and “proper” behavior, but it’s abundantly clear that Beatrice is never going to be happy fitting into a highborn woman’s typical place in this society. Almost none of the men in her world — and in fact, very few women, for that matter — have sympathy for Beatrice’s dilemma and desires to be a practicing mage rather than a wife and mother. And as Beatrice makes a series of reckless and sometimes ill-thought-out choices, aided and abetted by Ysbeta, it was hard for me to sympathize with her as much as I wanted to.

The social themes in this novel are on the heavy-handed side, but there’s a strong scene toward the end between Beatrice and her mother, who wants to prepare her for the shock of wearing the magic-suppressing collar, that humanized her mother greatly and helped to clarify the awfulness of what married women are forced to do in this society. With all the angst of the plot, it was a bit of a shock to hit the last few chapters, when Polk waves the author wand and everything and everyone (at least, everyone important) suddenly and rather dubiously fall into place for a happily-ever-after ending.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
January 2, 2022
“That wasn’t freedom. That was permission.”
Books like this leave me a bit torn.

On one hand, it seems like an easy paint-by-numbers idea of showing a very young woman rebelling against the standards set for her by the patriarchal society — society that views her as little else but a pretty womb on legs whose job is propagating the family line while supporting her husband’s ambitions, prettily, while what she wants to have is a fair go at pursuing her heart’s desire at things society deems acceptable only to males.

On the other hand, prior to sighing about how redundant and repetitive such themes seem I can’t help but recall that these stifling societal standards for women are still omnipresent, even in the supposedly progressive societies (in those they are less obvious but still very much there), and that perhaps we do need a steady stream of literature reminding us that there should be another way, even if it is quite heavy-handed.
“Women should have a voice in their futures, and her decisions and her decisions alone matter when it comes to how she will use her own body.”

Of course, it doesn’t help if so many of these books follow the usual trend of focusing on very young and beautiful women (attractiveness and boundless potential of youth, after all, have always been very tempting), add the usual throes of first love and the awakening of self-actualization and such. And of course, as a package deal, there is also that overused ridiculous heart-eyes insta-love.
“An hour ago, the only thing she wanted was magic. An hour ago, she didn’t know what it felt like to look at a man and have her heart leap.”

Midnight Bargain tells us a story of this kind. Beatrice is a young woman in a gentry family on a brink of financial ruin whose parents are working hard to find her an advantageous match with a rich husband. I mean, that’s the premise that captured countless hearts back in Pride and Prejuduce. But Beatrice does not want marriage, as in this world it means wearing a warded collar from the wedding day and until menopause — to cut off magic and prevent spirits from infiltrating that woman’s future children. Beatrice instead wants to be able yo yield her magic and study it — but the society needs her to take on a role as a wife and mother, of the “don’t you worry your pretty head about this” type.
“Then don’t watch me marry a man who will keep me warded day in and day out, forced to have child after child! Don’t desert me in a country that strips me of my wealth and property, my very rights—simply because I am a woman!”

Along the way she meets a kindred spirit Ysbeta, and of course falls for Ysbeta’s rich and handsome brother Ianthe — who, although a very nice guy, just doesn’t initially quite get the desires of his sister and his beloved.
“Ianthe waved one arm in a circle that encompassed the world. “But women do it all the time. They marry. They have children. That’s the point of marriage.”
“And we die in childbirth all the time,” Beatrice said. “And what if she just didn’t want to have children?”
Ianthe scoffed. “But it’s—”
Beatrice pounced. “Natural?”

What I liked here was the portrayal of female friendship. In books like that it’s not rare to see young women pitted against each other, backstabbing and plotting and using cheap tricks to underscore how our heroine is “not like other girls”. Here that does not happen. There are female friendships and bonds, and the realization that it’s not necessarily the uniqueness of our protagonist but rather women having to act in conformity with expectations in order to survive.

But where it faltered, even if I disregard the use of familiar tropes and heavy-handed messages as some of them are important enough to be repeated ad nauseam, was the very young feel of how it all ended. Happily, easily, with zero sacrifice from anyone involved, with zero consequences except for positive outcomes creating a shiny pretty happily-ever-after. Obviously everyone gets to have their cake and eat it, too, and that makes it quite toothless. It’s one giant group hug, which is sweet — but rings false. You can’t please everyone by being sugary-sweet. And having solution to giant problems handed to you on silver plate feels a bit unearned.

Now, this is still vastly better than a lot of young adult fantasy out here, but not great.

3 stars.


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2021:
Profile Image for Camilla.
185 reviews268 followers
October 2, 2020
I requested the ARC because I loved the cover, but unfortunately this didn't work for me. The author's writing style is very similar to Renée Ahdieh and Naomi Novik, so if you enjoy those two, you might like The Midnight Bargain better than I did.

The story follows a seemingly historical world, in which women have way lesser rights than men. The magic consists in summoning spirits and only men can be mages. The protagonist, Beatrice, wants to study magic and stay away from the society patterns for women.

This is a classic Young Adult book, but it failed in a lot of aspects. I was confused by the magic and it wasn't the actual focus here. To me, it read more like a historical romance, because it starts with instalove and the main complication is socioeconomic differences. I couldn't really understand what the main point of the story was, but at least it was a fast read.

(NetGalley ARC)
Profile Image for ☀ Kat Nova ☀.
70 reviews131 followers
July 21, 2020
“The talent for sorcery in women is a curse when it ought to be a blessing.”

Basically, in a world that doesn’t allow women the freedom of sorcery, there are secret grimoires that Beatrice learns magic from. She plans to make a deal with a great spirit to live her life as a mage and not have to get married.

Knowing that alone made me so excited to read this. I was ready for some magical badassery, but unfortunately, I was not feeling the magic. I really liked the story, and I believe a lot of readers will be captivated by it, I’m just not of one them.

Rating this is difficult for me because reading The Midnight Bargain was such a rollercoaster. So let me break it down:

Beginning - 3 Stars. Pretty good start, solid intro to the story but the conversations felt slightly forced and there was more "tell" than "show". What really made me groan though, was the insta love.

“Could she give all of that up, even for him? Could she give him up, even for power?”

^That’s from chapter THREE. Guess how many conversations they’ve had at that point? ONE. THEY’VE HAD ONE CONVERSATION AND GIRLIE WAS ALREADY SWOONING OVER HIM.

Middle - 4 Stars. At some point, I started warming up to the characters and even rooting for our main couple. Things were interesting. At the very least, Beatrice wasn’t oblivious about Ianthe’s feelings for her. Her not being dense was a breath of fresh air. There was finally some proper world-building and magic use.

End - 2 Stars. Everything was going well… Until that one scene that made me bang my head against the wall and stop reading for a bit. At the climax, a lot of stuff went down and yet it felt like not much was happening at all. I never skim, but here I just had to. The drama felt forced, the characters were being annoying. The internal monologues started getting repetitive again.

Epilogue - 4 stars. I did enjoy how things ended for everyone.

So yeah. A rollercoaster. A cheap, but still relatively fun rollercoaster. This definitely would’ve been better as a slow burn. I would’ve loved to see Beatrice and Ianthe’s feelings for each other build up rather than just appear out of nowhere. But with the way things were, I honestly felt more chemistry between her and Ianthe’s Sister, Ysbeta. (…Ship?) As for the magic, it was cool but lacked something. Except for Nadi. Nadi, the spirit, was my favorite part of the book. Get me a friend like Nadi. I LOVE NADI

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the arc!*
Profile Image for J  (Midnight Book Blog).
184 reviews607 followers
February 15, 2023
I wasn't sure about this book in the beginning, but I'm glad I stuck it out!

Plot: The strongest point of this book for me was the setting. I loved the historical/romance aspect of it mixed with magic, and the setting contributed very positively to the storyline.
Characters: I didn’t really feel strongly one way or another about Beatrice, although I admired her desire to rebel against the patriarchy.Ianthe was nice enough, but I wasn’t swooning over him. The star of the show for me was really Ysbeta. She was SO strong and I loved how much she challenged the views of the society, even more so in my opinion than Beatrice.
Overall: My biggest complaint was that I was confused in a lot of places, either by the lack of explanation for the magical system, or the abrupt changes in scenery. But overall, this was a pretty entertaining read!
Content warnings: forced marriages, mention of miscarriage

Click here for the full review on my blog!

*ARC received in exchange for honest review
Profile Image for Lucie V..
1,014 reviews2,059 followers
June 12, 2022
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley (thank you Erewhon Books). All thoughts and opinions are my own.

✅ Reminded me of Pride and Prejudice
✅ World-building / atmosphere
✅🆗 Plot / Pace
🆗 Romance
🆗 Characters

3.5 stars

Beatrice is a young girl with an affinity for sorcery who longs to be free and to be able to become a sorceress. Alas, in Chasland (a land that reminded me a lot of England as seen in Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility), the only purpose of a girl is to make an advantageous marriage and to bear children. Even worse, to prevent any malevolent spirit from inhabiting a baby before it is born, married women need to wear a collar that cancels their powers until they stop being able to produce heirs.

This story is about Beatrice’s quest to find a different path, to get a hold of a special grimoire that will tell her how to bind herself to a greater spirit. Once it’s done, she thinks her father will let her help him with the family business instead of getting married.

But of course, things are never that easy. Beatrice meets Ianthe and his sister Ysbeta while searching for the grimoire. She connects instantly with the kind and gorgeous Ianthe and as the story moves on, she is faced with a tough choice: keep her magic or choose love.

The world-building is simple and elegant. As I said, it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice. The setting, the social events, the dialogues even. There is not a lot of action in this book, but it is still very entertaining. It is more about developing relationships and searching for the path that will lead to happiness. One thing that I liked less was the insta-love. There is (almost) no build-up, the attraction is fast and almost seemed suspicious at first.

The characters are fine. Nothing extra-ordinary, but I liked them enough to care about Beatrice’s choice and to root for Ianthe. He seems really sophisticated and understanding of Beatrice’s internal struggle, still he was not a character that I fell in love with. Ysbeta is a strong character and I liked her; it was nice to see the relationship between her and Beatrice go from a mutual need to mutual friendship.

Overall, it is an enjoyable read, and the epilogue is very satisfying, but the story is predictable and sometimes a little too slow-paced. I would also have enjoyed knowing more about their magic system. It seems interesting, but we know next to nothing about it. It is a good choice though if you enjoy romance and historical fiction.

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Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,248 reviews642 followers
October 2, 2020
Beatrice Clayborn lives in a patriarchal fantasy world where most people have some magical talent. However, only boys are trained in magic and inducted into a magical society. Girls are allowed to learn charms and minor childish magic but are never taught higher skills. When they marry they must put on a collar that blocks their magical abilities in order to protect their unborn children's souls being taken by a spirit. Beatrice, however, has taught herself magic from grimoires that she found and decoded. Instead of marrying she wants to become a sorceress and help her family rebuilt their wealth, but her father is determined that she will find a husband in this year's season of parties and balls.

This is an enjoyable fantasy and romance, but I thought the world building, system of magic and even the romance could have all done with a bit more development. I felt we really just got the bare bones of all of these. There was so much more we could have learnt about this fascinating world and it's magic. I enjoyed the spirits, especially the exuberant and joyful Nadi who Beatrice conjures up, but I really didn't learn much more of what other magic could be done in this world. The romance was also very sudden with very little build up to make it interesting. Beatrice's love interest Ianthe was also a bit flat, especially early on during their courting and a little more rounding of his character would have made him even more delightful. 3.5★

With thanks to Erewhon Books and Netgalley for a digital arc to read
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,204 reviews3,684 followers
March 23, 2023
Yeah, this was EXACTLY my cup of tea. A feminist fantasy romance of manners that reads like regency era, all about bodily autonomy and self-determination. I absolutely loved it.

The vibes swept me away, I felt deeply for our heroine torn between the possibility of love and the life that she wants for herself. I loved how this wrapped up and the nuance with which it unpacks gendered expectations, marriage, child-bearing, and bodily autonomy. All with a whole lot of magic and some sweet friendships. I'm sure some readers will find the pointed social commentary bothersome but that only elevated an already strong story for me. Loved it.
Profile Image for ✩ Yaz ✩.
522 reviews1,656 followers
August 23, 2020
3 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you NetGalley and Erewhon Books for sending me a free e-Arc of The Midnight Bargain in exchange for a review.

I liked this book it had some interesting elements and it’s set in a fictionalized regency-era England and many of you probably know how much I love anything that has to do with the regency era.

The story as the synopsis hints at follows Beatrice, a young Sorceress dreams of becoming a full-fledged Mage, however.. women in Chasland “Fictional England” as it was perceived at that time, are expected to make advantageous marriages for their families and become breeding machines. Predictable right? but the women have powers and it’s stripped away from them for a reason and here is where the story takes a darker turn. By the time a woman is married, she wears a Marital Collar and it’s function is to cut off the Sorceress’s power so when she is pregnant it’s to prevent her from birthing spiritborns “a child possessed by a spirit”. And so, Beatrice is dreading the Bargaining/Marriage season as her family expects her to find a husband torn between her duty to her family and her dream. She seeks out a Grimoire which would help her become a mage but even that Grimoire easily slips from her which leads her to do something outrageous: strike a bargain with a spirit of another realm to help her get her grimoire back in exchange for a first kiss of the spirit’s choosing.

As a concept, the story is very interesting, it established that women are looked down upon in that society, women are stripped of their powers while men resume to practice theirs freely, and they came up with an invention that is supposedly a protective measure yet it’s literally an enslavement tool.

Let me summarize a few points as to why I ended up giving this book a 3⭐️ rating:

• The plot was promising yet I was underwhelmed because it did not offer me a new experience.

• The pacing was unstable, it wasn’t a problem when it was fast-paced during important scenes because it kept me engaged but when it slowed down it just made me want to pause and call it a day because nothing interesting was going on.

• The characters are likable but I did not care much for them. Beatrice is what I’d call an empowering character and I liked her a little better in the 2nd half of the book but for me she wasn’t exceptional. Out of the Lavan Siblings, I found Ysbeta more interesting than her brother Ianthe whom was very bland and had no personality whatsoever. Beatrice and Ysbeta were a fun duo and I like their scenes together better than Beatrice and Ianthe’s scenes. Also, Nadi was a fun addition to the cast.

• I am such a romance enthusiast and don’t be shocked when I’ll say that I wouldn’t have minded if this book did not have romance and shifted its focus on expanding the other elements existing in the story. The romance was so underdeveloped and it followed one of the tropes I truly dislike: insta-love. There was no build up to it nor did I get the chance to know Ianthe better so I can root for them both. I’m just so disappointed with the romance.

• The Magic system was fascinating and I wanted to discover more of it. I think it was explained well but I wanted to see more magic and more action. But I have to say the whole spirits summoning process is amusing, even the spirits have personalities.

• I like how this book sends messages on women empowerment, independence, and freedom. We see all of it in Beatrice through her actions and beliefs.
Profile Image for Kirsty Hendry.
57 reviews72 followers
August 30, 2020
Thank you Netgalley for an eArc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Beatrice is a young sorceress,who dreams of becoming a mage. Only one thing stands in her way, she is a woman. Women are only permitted to practice magic after they have produced heirs for their husband. Until then, from their wedding day, they are required to wear a collar which suppresses their magic. Beatrice practices magic in secret and is determined to remain unwed. She has been hunting for a grimoire which holds the key to achieving her dream. When she finally locates the grimoire it is taken from her.

Bargaining season has arrived and Beatrice will be expected to find a husband in order to save her family from ruin. Will she be able to give up her dream of being a mage, even for the right person?

What I liked about this book

The magic system - everyone can do small magics and charms but in order to do higher magic they must obtain a spirit. It reminds me of the magic system in Sorcery of Thorns.
The female characters - One of the prominent themes of the story is inequality. Most of the female characters in The Midnight Bargain are strong, forward thinking and are fighting for equal opportunities.

What I didn't like
The instalove- The romance felt a bit rushed and under developed to me.
For the most part the story held my attention and kept me interested. The writing is coherent and easy to read. I think that you will enjoy this book if you enjoy historical romance books or fantasy romance.

3.5 Stars

Find this review and others on my blog
Profile Image for Lisa.
490 reviews54 followers
September 5, 2020
Came for the romance, stayed for the feminism. Full review to come shortly.
Profile Image for a foray in fantasy.
280 reviews288 followers
February 3, 2022
Ooooooh this book….

The first half is a bit bland and reads like a poorly developed fantasy version of Pride and Prejudice. The main character (Beatrice) is ~not like other girls~ 🙄 and the instalove was just not great.

Then, the second half. I was shocked by the twists and turns, the fantastic feminism, and especially Nadi. There was more character development and I found myself fairly satisfied with the redemption arcs.

The parallels to women today felt apt and especially timely (the collars are horrifying).

If only the first half had been trimmed down a little; I would have given it five stars. The author created an interesting world and I look forward to reading more books by them!

You’ll enjoy this book if you liked Pride and Prejudice or Sorcery of Thorns.
Profile Image for Kenz The Dragon Queen.
243 reviews481 followers
December 22, 2020
I was given an ARC (advanced readers copy) of The Midnight Bargain by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2.5 stars

The Midnight Bargain was an interesting historical romance fantasy novel, with themes of feminism and choice at its core.

I found the magic system intriguing and unique. The world building from that perspective was well constructed and written in my opinion. I thought the way magic was used in this book was original and creative, but still easy to understand, which is a strong accomplishment.

I found the plot difficult at times. Not because it was bad by any means, I just found it a bit cliché and too straightforward. I was hoping for a bit more action or a plot twist of some kind to keep me on my toes, but it never came along, which was disappointing.

The pacing of the novel was a bit odd. I'd find myself getting quite invested in the book, and then not really caring about much about 50 pages later, and then back again, and then uninterested, and so on. In the end, it made it more difficult for me to want to pick up the book and read it, and resulted in me feeling as though my reading experience was dull at times.

I wasn't a big fan of the romance either. I just didn't think it offered as much to the story as it should have. I believe that if the romance had been more layered and intricate, and didn't feel like an "insta-love" and was more complex with better sexual tension and chemistry, it would have elevated the story to new heights.

I enjoyed the characters, and found them entertaining, but not groundbreaking. I liked them well enough, and I was interested by many of them, but I didn't love them. I thought they were written well, but they didn't fascinate me enough to be truly memorable.

In the end, I still enjoyed reading this. I just think the pacing needs a little kick, the plot could use a bit more excitement, and the romance would do better if it had a bigger brighter spark.
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
636 reviews104 followers
August 28, 2020
A gorgeous book cover so appropriate for the beautiful fantasy romance novel it contains. In The Midnight Bargain, Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress that yearns to become a full-fledged magus; but she needs a special grimoire to accomplish this.

Because women practicing magic is frowned upon in her country, Beatrice must secretly search for the coveted grimoire in the various booksellers of Bendelton. Once she finds the grimoire, she is swindled out of it by another sorceress.

Desperate to get the grimoire back, Beatrice makes a bargain with a spirit to help retrieve the grimoire. What follows are a series of both bitter and pleasant surprises. A very magical read and well suited for fans of fantasy and light romance. Five stars -- I loved it!

I received a digital ARC of this book from Erewhon Books through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Profile Image for jenny✨.
578 reviews839 followers
October 13, 2020
10/13/2020: PUBLICATION DAY!

“The talent for sorcery in women is a curse when it ought to be a blessing.”

This is a beautiful Regency-era fantasy that tackles female empowerment with more gusto (and explicit passion) than any speculative OR historical fiction I’ve read in a long while. Also, C.L. Polk is a Canadian author of colour—my favourite kind of writer!

“But no one is looking for another way,” Beatrice said. “The current system lays all of the restriction, all the responsibility, and all of the burden on sorceresses. Men aren’t inconvenienced in any way. They may do whatever they like. For them, the system isn’t broken, so why look for a solution?”

But I had zero investment in the romance and didn’t feel particularly connected to any character, despite objectively recognizing that Beatrice Clayborn (protagonist) and Ysbeta Lavan (love interest’s sister; eventual friend/partner in crime) are strong women with radical dreams of empowering sorceresses throughout their lands. I’m not sure if this is a function of the book or me—I haven’t been in a headspace for fiction lately, and really didn’t have the attention span for a fantasy.

In light of this, 3 stars feels like the right rating for me at this moment: Goodreads lingo for “liked it,” which I certainly did.

Perhaps he thought her too honourable to summon a luck spirit and cheat at cards. Perhaps he thought her too ignorant. Beatrice trembled. Why couldn’t she be cunning? Why couldn’t she be underhanded?
She was cunning. She was underhanded. And she was going to save her own skin, and let Ianthe believe what he would.

That being said, I’m going to keep The Midnight Bargain in the back of my mind to revisit sometime in future (I really liked Deception by Gaslight, which wasn’t a fantasy but was historical fiction and also featured a badass heroine, and I think that was because I was in the right headspace when I read it).

Bottom line: I implore you to pick this book up—support (spec-fic) authors of colour, savour its beautiful prose, and immerse yourself in a good dose of Regency magic and romance.

Thank you NetGalley and Erewhon Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,924 reviews386 followers
June 15, 2021
Love needs to be free or else it's just ownership.

This book was one of the entries in the 2020 competition “Canada Reads.” As a result, I waited a long, long time for my turn for a library copy. The author lives here in my city and I wish I could invite them for coffee.

This is a world of magic, with the intricate society of Jane Austen. Women with sorcery abilities are fitted with a collar upon marriage to protect their unborn children from spirit possession, but this also suppresses the woman's magical abilities. Men control the keys to the collars and, of course, see no reason to change the way of things. Sound familiar? Feels familiar to any woman who doesn't want to get married or have children. Or wants to fully develop her talents and be a mother.

Beatrice desires magic more than anything. Meeting Ianthe makes her decision difficult, because she wants him too. But she can't face years in a collar, even for the man she adores. This is her struggle—to use her abilities without getting caught and to wrest control of her life out of her father's hands. If she can save her family's future & fortunes, so much the better. How many women have been pulled in multiple directions trying to please everyone else, even those people who just want to use her and don't care about her aspirations?

This is Margaret Atwood lite. Mx. Polk must have read The Handmaid's Tale. This is not quite so harrowing, but I found it very emotionally engaging. Possibly because I've been renegotiating this aspect of my own life. I find myself surprised that this novel isn't identified as young adult, but that label bamboozles me a bit.

Well worth the wait. I will definitely read more by this author.

Cross posted at my blog:

Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
September 1, 2020
Polk takes the popular Regency-romance-with-magic trope to another world, in order to give a reason why women are kept from becoming mages, while preserving all the fun trappings of a Regency romance social life. That gives our heroine, who wants to flout the system and become a mage in spite of the laws and limitations on women--until she falls in love, and is torn between two desires.

Meanwhile she forms a friendship with her heartthrob's sister, who also is desperate to become a mage, while behind the scenes both sets of parents are anxious for their daughters to make excellent marriages by their own standards. And there is Beatrice's younger sister, who watches Beatrice like a hawk, knowing that whatever choices Beatrice makes are inevitably going to redound on her.

It's a lively setup, and the problem about women and magic grounds the story. I loved the magic system, and the spirits (especially Nadi). The pacing moves along between some action scenes and society setpieces, with fun explorations into magic by the heroines.

I really liked the hero, who is the opposite of Draco Malfoy alpha who is more beast than beauty. The attraction might have been instantaneous but it was a pleasure to watch the steady growth of friendship and trust between the two. This, in turn, added heft to the difficulty of Beatrice's choice: give up a great guy forever for a magic life forbidden to her, or give up her dreams for domestic comfort and love?

A quick, fun read that I zipped through in a day. A welcome escape from the stress of 2020, the Year of Awful.

Copy provided by NetGalley
Profile Image for David.
671 reviews337 followers
February 22, 2021
As far as genres go, romance and fantasy bottom out my list of likely reads so it's not without a bit of surprise that I find how much I enjoyed this read, shortlisted for CBC Canada Reads.

For a Regency romance it deftly ratcheted up the mounting tension of a fantasy world where women's lives are still curtailed, their vast magical potential cut short for the sake of bearing children and raising a family. A constraint made real in the form of a warded collar locked into place that renders the world dull and flat.

Beatrice Clayborn will do anything to avoid that fate and pursue a life of higher magic. Instead she finds herself tasked with finding a suitable husband during the "bargaining season." This is a chance to more firmly secure her foundering families fortune. Dress-fittings, lavish balls, parlour games and picnics fill her social calendar along with ardent potential suitors. Even with magic on her mind she can't help but be taken by the elegant Ianthe Lavan.

Will it be love or independence? Will she chose to damn her family to financial ruin, destroy her younger sister's future bargaining prospects, and sully the family reputation? Will she attempt the Great Bargaining spell that could lead to her death, the loss of her soul only for the promise of being a hidden family advisor?

Beatrice is being buffeted on all sides with no clear path to victory, only grim concessions. and the ticking clock of inevitability. Like any thriller or mystery, the genre itself imposes its own set of rules to the story and I enjoyed how C.L. Polk worked within those confines to create a lavish, indulgent read.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,502 reviews449 followers
May 12, 2021
Beatrice Clayborn has a problem. In a world where sorceresses are valued for their womb instead of their magic, she's in the middle of Bargaining Season. She wants out. She has a Plan, but it involves finding a Greater Spirit and convincing her father she's worth more as a spinster mage instead of a bride. But when she finds the right grimoire she needs, it's ripped from her hands by two of the most wealthy people in the country: the Lavan siblings. As Beatrice becomes more involved with the siblings, her purpose becomes less clear. Which path will she choose?


This was amazing and relevant and I loved it!

She coated her grin with sugar and arsenic.

Look, I love CL Polk and I love their fantasy of manners. I love how they tie relevant topics into their fantastical works—in this case, the deferment of women's power and opportunity in favor of their reproductivity, all wrapped up in respectability politics.

The entire story reads like a horror novel instead of a fantasy one, because the debutantes are being brought to market for wealthy husbands and essentially sold for their magical bloodlines. Once wed, the women are literally shackled and cut off from their power, as the potential for a demon to enter their fetus is too strong to counter. While collared, the women are unable to practice magic, and are left to live a colorless life of child-rearing. Magic is only available once they are past child-rearing age or their husbands have died—and the keys to the collar are wielded by their powerful, magical husbands.

While the story focuses solely on the upper class, there are some women who were mentioned, and how they managed to break free of the confines of society.

He had taken a generous dowry and learned that the way to have a small fortune from speculation and investment was to start with a large one.

The story, however, focuses on upper class Beatrice, whose upper class and disowned mother married down for love. Beatrice's father gets them into hot water after cash grab after cash grab goes (predictably) horribly awry, leaving her pending marriage to whoever the one thing that'll sink or swim the family, especially as Dear Old Dad put the family even more in debt trying to ensure Beatrice has what she needs to get up to par.

Anywho, I did like the economics of the situation and how it paralleled to 19th century England, and how much of the politics of biology and power were played out within society. And the turning of men's clubs into chapter houses of magic! Brilliant! I also really enjoyed reading about the Llanderlis (sp??), a country that seemed loosely based on India. And I loved the Lavan siblings, although naive love-struck Ianthe was a little much for me. I much preferred his sister, Ysbeta, who was ace and ambitious and fantastic!

And I loved Beatrice, who was naive and young but knew what she wanted until she was faced with other possibilities. She was put between a rock and a hard place and had to navigate her way through, although luckily she made some friends and strategic alliances along the way. And, of course, I loved Nadi, the lesser spirit. She was annoying at first, but damn she grew on me. #TeamNadi.

So, strong points, which overshadowed all other flaws in this book:

-The world-building.
-The sacrificing of potential/power in favor of reproduction
-The skewering of the patriarchy
-Beatrice, who did a lot of growing and adulting
-Fierce Ysbeta
-Beatrice's mom
-The economic layout of the world (orchid bust! shipping! industry! infrastructure!)

The flaw:
-The instalove (it grew on me, but I kept wondering what Ianthe saw?)

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Profile Image for Kristenelle.
237 reviews29 followers
May 24, 2021
This one surprised me. I loved it. It somehow managed to be sweet, delightful fluff reading while also being a primer for resistance. Do you love pretty dresses, fancy balls, and gossipy social status climbers? How about staring your oppression square in the face and resisting? Both? With magic thrown in?

I was impressed that a story could be both so light and serious. I mean it when I say that this is a primer for resistance. We are shown in this story to identify injustice/oppression, take a stand against it, and to not give up ever...not for love, not for convenience...and to not accept "help" from "well-meaning" people. We are shown what it means to actually be an ally. But the whole time the tone is light and we are waltzing about in expensive gowns and cavorting with lesser spirits. It is truly a feat.

Sexual violence? No. Other content warnings? Abuse, misogyny, violence against women, dysfunctional family.

My video review:
Profile Image for Rincey.
813 reviews4,587 followers
January 10, 2021
3.5 stars

C.L. Polk writes books that completely enrapture my attention while I'm reading them but I wouldn't say they will stay with me. But they are breezy and light and fun to read

Watch me discuss this book here:
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews408 followers
October 13, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

Title: the midnight bargain

Author: C.L. Polk

Publisher: Erewhon Books

Publication Date: TODAY!! (hardback & e-book)

ISBN: 978-1645660071

Source: Edelweiss

The Midnight Bargain

This book is a lite Regency romance type book with magic. In it, Beatrice is about to have her “coming out” season but she really wants to be a mage. Magic – no women allowed. Women are supposed to be broodmares. And Beatrice’s marriage is supposed to save the family from financial ruin. Of course then ye have some insta-lust and Beatrice is tormented by having to choose. Marriage or mage?

This book was fluffy fun. I can’t say that the characters are particularly fleshed out. Or the world-building for that matter. Beatrice makes lots of silly choices and doesn’t use her brain. She is rather selfish. But there is an excellent female friendship in this one. I loved Harriet, Beatrice’s sister, and thought she shined when she appeared. Of course this deals with women’s rights and I am all for women power.

It was a fast read and I loved the spirit Nadi. The pacing was rough and the ending was a bit rushed and odd but I liked the epilogue. Not a bad read but not one I would likely read again. An enjoyable Saturday afternoon.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Erewhon!
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,681 reviews568 followers
February 20, 2021
I read this for Canada Reads 2021.
In The Midnight Bargain author C.L. Polk gives us a regency romance full of feminist witchy fantasy.
The characters must face life-altering decisions in this captivating story mixed with romance and suspense.
I highly recommend the audiobook!
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,773 reviews1,774 followers
June 4, 2023
30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 3
Book 2/30

Whoops, I slept on this one. Should have read it sooner! Because it was a delight. You know, if you're defining "delight" as something that purposefully stokes your anger and your sense of righteousness by making you feel protective of the civil rights and bodily autonomy of fictional characters. With magic! So I guess that is how I define "delight."

I'm not going to go too deep into the world here because part of the fun was experiencing it without know what was going on, but bare bones here, our main character is Beatrice, and she is about to go on the marriage market, here called Bargaining Season. Think a season like in Regency romances, where girls are introduced into the ton to catch a husband, but with magic in play. And the patriarchy taking the extra horrid controlling step of putting a literal collar on a woman once she is married. But Beatrice doesn't want to get married. She wants to be a sorceress.

I enjoyed the heck out of this audiobook. Moira Quirk does an impeccable job with all the voices, and the pacing, and the narrative timing. She made my favorite character even better. I think I still would have enjoyed myself if I'd read the hard copy, but the audiobook definitely enhanced the experience.

There are two reasons I couldn't give this five stars. The first is because of Beatrice's father. The second reason is because there is a romance in here, but I don't think one of half of it was fleshed out enough. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't very compelling either. There were any number of things I found more interesting than the romance. Though, again, it was fine! Could have been better, though.

Definitely recommend this one and maybe now I'll finally get around to this author's other books, too!
Profile Image for Jane.
957 reviews62 followers
October 17, 2020
3.5 stars

You can read all of my reviews at Nerd Girl Loves Books.

This is another good fantasy novel from the author. The great thing is that this is a stand alone, which is rare to find in fantasy books.

Beatrice Clayborn is a young sorceress that practices magic in secret. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus like men and practicing magic full-time. Women are not allowed to practice magic other than simple charms once they are married. They are collared and their magic is suppressed to protect their unborn children from being possessed by a rogue spirit. Beatrice's family is broke and her father has placed the families' future on her making a good match during the Bargaining Season, when well-to-do families gather to negotiate marriage contracts.

One day Beatrice finds a grimoire that has the knowledge she needs to become a full Magus, but before she can buy it another sorceress steals it out from under her. Beatrice conjures a minor spirit to help her get it back, but the playful spirit demands something of her - a kiss from the brother of the rival sorceress. As Beatrice's relationship deepens with the siblings, her choice becomes more difficult to make. She can't have it all, and no matter what she decides, someone will be devastated. Does she sacrifice her freedom, dreams and happiness to save her family, or does she choose herself but doom her family and lose the man she may grow to love?

This is a good, fast-paced book with plenty of action. I really liked Beatrice and her rival, Ysbeta Lavan. They are unapologetically focused on what they want out of life and don't cower in the presence of men or dim their personality simply to fit in or please them. In contrast, Beatrice's love interest, Ianthe Lavan, is pretty one-note. He's earnest, wears his heart on his sleeve and his instantaneous infatuation with Beatrice is not believable. In fact, the whole romance part of the story felt forced and was the weakest part of the book.

The whole focus of the book is about magic, but there is actually very little magic practiced in the book which is a bit disappointing. The spirit that Beatrice conjures to help her, Nadi, is one of the best parts of the book. She's childlike in her joy of little things as well as her fierce devotion and desire to protect Beatrice.

Overall, this is a good, stand alone fantasy book that is a quick and easy read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
January 8, 2021
This was such a great melding of Regency romance and magic, and more importantly, a lovely interrogation of power and autonomy.
Chaslander main character Beatrice Clayborn and her family are in town from their home in the country so she can make a good marriage (“bargain”) and save her family’s fortunes, which are underwater. Beatrice doesn’t want to marry; she’d rather grow her already strong magic further, and function as her father’s financial advisor (their father is near bankrupting them after a series of poor decisions).
Beatrice has no desire to marry as the marriage ceremony would have her strap on a collar to cut off her magic. (Women wearing collars from marriage to menopause invoked such a visceral feeling of disgust and panic in me because it so well illustrates misogyny of this world.) The reason women’s magic is throttled is to prevent spirits from taking control of any developing fetus.
Also, as with real historical laws, any money her father settled on her would automatically be under her future husband’s control, so, coupled with the collar, both would effectively render her a prisoner and at the complete mercy of the man.
Incidentally, no man’s magic is constrained, and they are free to learn spells and become mages by harnessing a greater spirit to them, because, well, misogyny. Beatrice has been working in secret for years, teaching herself ever more complicated spells so she can eventually harness a greater spirit to herself and become a mage.
The bargaining season is further complicated by Beatrice encountering and forming a connection with the sister and brother, Ysbeta and Ianthe, of a fabulously wealthy family in another country, Llanandras.
Together, the three play together, dance, and debate the merits of their societies and family obligations—all the analysis not normally found in Regency-based stories about the gentry.
Beatrice also forms a connection to a spirit called Nadi, and some of the most delightful moments in the story come when the two individuals are joined, bargaining and experiencing things together.
The romance between Beatrice and Ianthe is hard won, as they dissect a lot of his beliefs, forcing him to really examine the constraints and harmful rules his sister, Beatrice, and many women of Chasland, and even in his land of Llanandras, live with. It’s all handled well by author CL. Polk, and while there are some darker parts in the story, I found this book gave me the smart alt-historical Regency romance read I needed to finish the year.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
917 reviews283 followers
July 18, 2021
Absolutely divine. Everything I had hoped for and more; which is really saying something as I had high expectations for Polk’s latest novel.
This feels like Pride and Prejudice with magic and a (healthy!) female friendship thrown in for good measure.
Full RTC.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
444 reviews200 followers
August 13, 2021
I was expecting something fluffy and was therefore surprised to find myself reading a polemic against the patriarchy in Regency dress. The Midnight Bargain sits at the unlikely crossroads of romantic fantasy and feminist essay; I found parts of it interesting and likable but didn't think it worked as a whole, hence the waffly three star rating.

Ingenue Beatrice Clayborn is attending her first season. Her family is desperate for her to marry well and save their sinking fortunes. Finding a husband isn't the problem: magic runs in her blood and will be passed on to her children, which is the golden ticket in this world - at least for men. For Beatrice, marriage means that her magic will be locked up so she can bear children who are not possessed by spirits (it's complicated). Given a choice between secretly pursuing magic and being sold off to the highest bidder as a broodmare, Beatrice chooses...(drumroll) magic. But then she meets Ianthe Lavan, handsome, wealthy, kind, and inexplicably into her, and maybe her choice isn't so straightforward.

Doesn't it sound like it should be fluffy? There are balls and carriages and dresses, possession by spirits and illicit magic, a fantasy world in which the dark-skinned, curly-haired people are the upper crust and the pasty-skinned are seen as vaguely barbaric. Plenty of it is fun, but the core of the story is about the inequality between men and women in this society. Property, marriage, and reproductive rights are just the start: the magical system provides a solid reason and a way for men to police women's bodies and lives.

"All right. It's unfair," Ianthe said. "But how can we change it? There is no way to protect a sorceress from bearing a spiritborn without the warding collar. That's something you can't deny."

"But no one is looking for another way," Beatrice said. "The current system lays all of the restriction, all the responsibility, and all of the burden on sorceresses. Men aren't inconvenienced in any way. They may do whatever they like. For them, the system isn't broken, so why look for a solution?"

"But think how many more inventions there could be, if we freed women from the marriage collar," Beatrice said. "Imagine how many great minds, how many creative spirits are lost to us because we found a cruel solution to the problem of possession and settled for it."

A bit of Virginia Woolf in the last, I think? C.L. Polk is not wrong, but she's very insistent about Getting Her Message Across. These earnestly presented criticisms of patriarchy are still relevant, and as someone who declined to take her spouse's name or bear him children, I'm fully on board with them. Sexism is maybe a little more subtle than it used to be, but plenty of women still feel compelled to choose between having a career and having kids, and that's different in degree, not in kind, from what Beatrice faces. But there's so much of this messaging that the dialogue can feel like diatribe and make the book feel longer than it is.

The most tragic figure in the book is Beatrice's unnamed mother - magically gifted but blocked from her magic, regretful and impotent as her husband pressures their daughter into the same fate.
Father might love Mother. He might smile every time he laid eyes on her. But Mother should be on her feet. She should be casting by sigil and sign to search for her child. She was a sorceress, and she was begging on her knees before a powerless man.

With the exception of the spirit Nadi whom Beatrice conjures, I didn't find the other characters particularly compelling, and the instalove romance was uninteresting. Also: minus half a star for the sugary happy ending in which .

Eh. Could have been better, could have been worse. I might be willing to try the author's earlier book Witchmark.
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