Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review | THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN by C.L. Polk

Publication: October 13, 2020
Publisher: Erewhon
Genre: Historical Fantasy / YA
Rating: ★★★★

From the beloved World Fantasy Award-winning author of Witchmark comes The Midnight Bargain, a sweeping, romantic new fantasy set in a world reminiscent of Regency England, where women’s magic is taken from them when they marry. A sorceress must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family.

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 comes 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? -Publisher

In THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN, C. L. Polk takes us into a patriarchal society that doesn’t encourage women to practice magic, let alone seek learning, and be a magus. Beatrice Clayborn is bent on pursuing higher education by secretly gathering and learning all the grimoire she could find. Even with everything at stake, including her family’s estate and livelihood, Beatrice cannot abide by giving up her magic for marriage.

A society of women fighting for gender equality has number and influence behind them, but it’s quite different when you are alone, and the world seems to be closing up on you. Beatrice’s confidences were few, and her choices even fewer. Her merger with Nadi completes her character. It made her more curious and incipient. In truth, all the characters are varyingly curious. Every woman in this book has a role to play. Each felt the brunt of societal repression and chose to react in different manners.

This new idea of women subjugated because magic risks the unborn child inside their mother’s womb is ingenious. And adding the complications of first love / true love into the mix made this an even sharper read. These hefty subjects handled impressively-well with a blend of magic, sacrifices, and pivotal choices. Even more impressive are authors, like C.L. Polk, ushering the fight for gender equality into fiction.

Keen and imaginative, THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN is a very engaging read.


About the Author:
C.L. Polk is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed debut novel Witchmark, which was also nominated for the Nebula, Locus, Aurora, and Lambda Literary Awards. It was named one of the best books of 2018 according to NPR, Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, the Chicago Review, BookPage, and the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. She lives in Alberta, Canada.

*Thanks to Erewhon Books for the uncorrected proof in exchange for this unbiased review.
*This post is a part of the monthly linkups organized by Lovely Audiobooks! You can click here to check it out and be a part of it.


  1. Great review! This sounds like such a great book, it has everything I love and I really need to get my hands on a copy soon!

  2. Novels about women defying society's expectations are my jam! Great review!