The Kingston Cycle Series by C.L. Polk reviewed by Jack
The Kingston Cycle is a series of three books, each with its own voice.
First is Witchmark, told from the point of view of Dr Miles Singer.
When a man dies of poison in his care, Dr Singer investigates with the help of Tristan Hunter.
Together they become fast friends, and eventually partners, they discover the most terrible of state secrets and they must put a stop to the necromancy that is plaguing the city.
The first of the series centres on a mystery which is incredibly well written and serves as a powerful device for the character, and the reader, to explore the incredibly diverse and wonderful world it’s set in. This book wrestles with themes like feelings of loyalty to chosen and blood families as well as the exploitation of marginalised people and how that is impacted by money, power and tradition.
Second is Stormsong, told as Grace Hensley, a member of the elite and daughter of a disgraced politician.
The elite are The Hundred Families. They serve the queen as her parliament, her cabinet, and in secret, as her very own source of magic.
Grace is a stormsinger, a weather mage. She and others like her control the weather, making sure there is enough food for the millions of people in the capital of Kingston.
According to the lies spread by the mages, magic sends the user mad. Magic users unprotected by the unimaginable wealth and power of The Hundred Families are called witches, they are rounded up and locked away in asylums. This book struggles with the desire to change a system while still operating within that system. It highlights the futility of forcing a system that oppresses many for the benefit of the controlling few to change its very nature.
Finally there is Soulstar, as told by Robin Thorpe.
With the release of the witches from their asylums, Robin is reunited with Zelind, her partner. After 20 years locked away, Zelind's condition is poor. Khe and kher partner Robin must rebuild their relationship.
Meanwhile political unrest is stirring and Robin finds herself thrust into the spotlight as the representative for the downtrodden of Kingston.
Standing up to the new king and a system of misinformation, classism and intrigue will be the first steps toward a truly democratic society. Until now the characters telling this story were white and rich. Robin by contrast, is a woman of colour belonging to a culture called Samindan. In her story we get to see that not everything is accepted in the white culture of kingston. While other genders and neo-pronouns are accepted, as we see with Zelind who uses khe/kher, other aspects of Robins culture are still rejected such as the validity of polyamorous marriages
It’s amazing to see queerness become part of the fabric of a fantasy world the way it has been in the Kingston cycle. This series is excellent and seeing some of my experiences reflected in it has made it one of my all time favourites.