Title: The Midnight Bargain
Author: C. L. Polk
Publisher: Erewhon Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Where can I get this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction set in Regency era, themes of politically arranged marriages, and feminism
CW: themes of misogyny (women wearing collars after marriage to subdue their magic and protect potential children)
Check out the synopsis below!
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?
“You will dance. You will eat cake. You will see starlight. You will have a kiss by midnight, and then our bargain is done.”
I liked how this book explores and woven the themes of gender equality, women’s freedom, and independence into the novel. However, I felt like this novel lacked nuance in some areas. I appreciated the rhetoric regarding equality, however, at times it felt too heavy-handed and on the nose, thereby affecting my reading experience towards the 80% mark of the story. In saying that, I do agree that the discussion regarding equality and independence is crucial, and whilst I may find it a bit on the nose at times others may not find it so.
Also, I liked how driven and determined the protagonist (Beatrice) was throughout the story. My two favourite characters were Beatrice, Nadi, and Ysbeta. I particularly liked Beatrice and Nadi’s dynamic. And I liked how Beatrice and Ysbeta grew together, fostering a great friendship.
However, unfortunately, I could not come to love the love interest (Ianthe). I felt like the romantic interest was too perfect in the sense that he was consistently understanding, open-minded despite living in and taking part in a world that constantly benefited him. It felt unrealistic. From the top of my head, I can’t think of any flaws. I mean, the love interest is even good looking and rich.
Despite the constant focus on the romance, the romance felt underdeveloped and rushed. I didn’t feel emotionally invested nor understood the romantic connection between the characters. I feel that there was no romantic build-up for me to really cheer for the two characters.
In terms of the world-building and magic system, I liked how intriguing the magic system was. However, this could be due to my lack of understanding, but I found the magic system vague. Despite that, I did find the magic system fascinating and enjoyed it.
Without getting spoiler-y, I both liked and not-so-liked the ending. I found it unrewarding in the sense of how it opposes certain themes presented throughout the novel regarding marriage, children, and Beatrice pursuing her passion. I felt the ending felt too convenient to be believable. Despite that, I did like how Beatrice chose and paved her own path for both career and family (I’m trying to be as vague as possible here).
- Gripping, I devoured this book in one sitting –
- Interesting world and magic
- Determined protagonist wanting to pursue their passion and a strong sense of women empowerment
- I didn’t feel too invested in the romance
- Not enough information regarding the world-building and magic –
- The ending felt too convenient
𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Erewhon Books) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.