Socialist Worker

War novel set in alternate reality is a bewitching read

by Gabby Thorpe
Issue No. 2609

Part fantasy, part war novel, Witchmark is set in an alternative early 20th century and makes for interesting reading.

It tells the story of Miles, a doctor who escapes the slavery of his magical family and travels to the front lines of a world war.

After a dying witch is brought to his hospital, he must sacrifice his freedom in order to uncover the truth of a grisly imperialist war.

In part, Witchmark reads like Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy.

Both works explore the harsh realities of war and the effect it has on the minds of those forced to fight it.

Miles finds himself hiding his true identity from those who wish to bring him back into the service of his upper class family. But he also has a desire to help his patients with his gifts.

There is no glorification of war in this novel, simply a bleak and uncompromising reality.

Class lines are also clearly drawn.

Those in charge are free to wield their magical power for control of their people, while any lower class witches are condemned and forced to hide themselves.

Witchmark is the first in a series, and does not fall into the trap of giving too much detail, as first books often can.

Instead the reader is thrown straight into the plot and the world-building unfolds as the story goes on. However, some of the pacing seems a little off, with parts of the story dragging and other parts feeling a little rushed.

Overall, the book is worthwhile reading, especially because of it’s portrayal of a LGBT+ relationship, and the books unflinching depiction of war.

It will be interesting to see where author CL Polk takes this story, and whether we will be seeing revolution in later volumes.

The Summer exhibition

This 250th Summer Exhibition is a rare open submission show.

The best 1,300 works are displayed, with the jury promising more new artists than ever before.

The theme is “art made now” and art will spill out onto the streets.

But there are also pieces from better-known artists such as David Hockney and David Shrigley.

Royal Academy of Arts, London, W16 0BD. Until 19 August. £16, £11 concessions


After almost breaking the internet with his This Is America video, Donald Glover is back to what he does just as well—the comedy drama Atlanta.

Glover plays main character Earn who left a top university to manage the rap career of his cousin.

Returning this week after a hugely successful first season, Atlanta’s second outing looks set to solidify Glover as one of the best writers of his generation.

Sundays at 10pm, Fox

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