C.L. Polk’s Stormsong and Soulstar are the last two-thirds of their Kingston Cycle trilogy, which began with Witchmark. And they’re excellent.
When I wrote up Witchmark, I noted that I was “actually really curious to see where the second book goes from here, because it doesn’t seem like it could just be more of the same.” And it is super-not more of the same. Where the first novel is a kind of murder mystery that builds into something larger, the second is a novel of political intrigue and displomacy, and the third is about the impacts of rapid social and technological change. Each has a different protagonist, and feels totally different from the previous book in the series, while also still feeling unmistakably as if they’re telling a single coherent story in three parts.
That alone is a heck of an achievement. But also Polk just does all this really well. The setting is clever and original; the politics seem real; the characters are complicated and flawed, while still being likeable and interesting; and the story just continually goes in unexpected directions. I really don’t want to spoil these books—because each of them builds on the previous, talking about even the shape of the third book gives away a lot of the first two—but I’m a little annoyed that I don’t have more I can say here about them, because they deserve a longer write-up than this.
Between this series and The Midnight Bargain, Polk is writing consistently excellent fantasy across a variety of subgenres. Highly recommended