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Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C.L. Polk - Dr. Miles Singer is upset. He is to discharge wounded soldiers before full recovery because more wounded must be admitted. While the war is over, Laneer has surrendered to Aeland, not all the casualties have reached home.

Suddenly a desperately ill man is brought to his hospital in Kingston by Mr. Hunter. The sick man, Nick Elliot, says his tea was poisoned. He implores Singer, referring to him as the “Starred One” and Sir Christopher, to find his murderer.

As Elliot grabs Singer’s arm:

A crackling line of static rushed over me. Tendrils of green light shot
from his fingers and twined up my arm. I fought his grip, but the vines
held fast, stretching from his grasping fingers.

They are linked together. Elliot was a witch. Singer is worried it will become known a witch, with his power, touched the doctor who is also a witch.

Mr. Hunter wants to know why the magic is dying and Singer is the only witch Hunter knows in Aeland.

Nearby a beautiful woman stops before a burning home and performs magic summoning rain from the clouds. She does it unobtrusively. Everyone thinks it is luck that has saved the home.

An elite group of witches evocatively called Storm Singers can control the weather. They expend enormous effort to create good weather for Aeland.

At a benefit for the hospital Miles meets his sister, Grace. She has not seen him since he left home 13 years ago to join the army to become a doctor. She thought he was dead. She is one of the Storm Singers.

Grace tells him he has a new witchmark:

A witchmark. You’ve always had the pink one, but the new one’s green. Just there, and there.” Her fingers hovered over my head: one near my temple, the other at the back of my head. “You can’t see auras without touching someone, still.”

His absence had adversely affected the magical powers of their prominent family. Miles remains unwilling to return to aristocratic life and lose his independence.

Miles and Mr. Hunter pursue the investigation. When Elliot’s body is removed from the morgue before an autopsy can be done they know that there is evil afoot in Aeland.

Mr. Hunter reveals himself as one of the Amaranthines, legendary witches of great power thought to have “left the world to guard the dead”. His powers include the ability to render himself and someone standing next to him invisible.

Miles has the magic to achieve healing. He can see inside the bodies of peoples. Once diagnosed his magic can heal. With the aid of Mr. Hunter he knits together his own broken wrist.

A pair of gifted witches solving a mystery is a unique reading experience for me. Witchmark is set in a fantasy world on our earth at an unnamed time but corresponding to the period of the 1910’s. Much of their world is our world though there are additions such as aether which flows through copper wires to provide power.

As inevitable in a fantasy world the author’s details of the residents of this alternative world become as interesting, if not more, than the actual plot. The ending drifts far into fantasy and the resolution of the mystery features magic. It was interesting and I was glad I read the book but I doubt I will read another book of the witches of Aeland and beyond.

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