If you’ve been lucky enough to read C. L. Polk’s Witchmark, you already know it’s a compulsively readable Edwardian fantasy chock full of intrigue, betrayal, steamy romance, and high-speed bicycle chases. And if, like me, you read it way too fast, you might be left craving more. Whether Witchmark whet your appetite for early 20th century fantasy, arcane aristocracies, or magical medical care, here are five books to devour after you turn the last page.
Gilded Cage by Vic James
If you were itching to start an uprising against the Invisibles: Witchmark’s Invisibles are a secret cabal of nobles who aren’t above using magic for their own ends, but at least they don’t enslave the non-magical populace, right? In Gilded Cage, Vic James imagines a magically gifted aristocracy that doesn’t mind letting the commoners learn of their abilities—all the better to crush them with, my dear.
In Gilded Cage’s alternate contemporary Britain, the Skilled peerage has used their prodigious powers to maintain a feudalistic system in which unSkilled commoners are made to spend ten years in servitude to their magical betters. When the Hadley family surrenders themselves to serve their Slavedays, hoping to spend them together, sixteen-year-old Luke is unexpectedly sent to a punishing manufacturing workcamp, while his sister and parents are sent to the estate of one of the most powerful—and dangerous—Skilled families in Britain. Filled with political maneuvering, upstairs-downstairs drama, and social unrest, this series opener is a twisty, dark, and gleefully merciless dystopian vision.
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
If you like your magic with a side of medicine: Perhaps your favorite bits of Witchmark were the chapters spent in the hospital with Miles’s patients. Medical mysteries have their own kind of allure, even more so when you serve them up with a side of the supernatural. If you enjoyed Miles’s devotion to his patients, allow me to introduce Strange Practice’s Dr. Greta Helsing, physician to vampires, mummies, and ghouls.
Greta tries to give the best care she can to London’s supernatural underground from her struggling practice on Harley Street, but when a brutal serial killer begins striking both human and monster targets, Greta finds herself drawn into an investigation into a fanatical religious cult with a grudge against the undead. At her side is her staunch friend Lord Edmund Ruthven, a powerful vampire with impeccable manners, fellow human August Cranswell, a junior curator for the British Museum, and Fastitocalon, a … well, who knows what. With a touch of mortal peril and a solid grounding in vampyre physiology, Strange Practice is an utterly delightful adventure that intersperses supernatural sleuthing with cozy scenes of ageless horrors sitting around a kitchen table sipping tea (or virgin blood, if you prefer).
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
If you have a powerful need for more gaslamp fantasy with queer romance: Although Polk’s Kingston is deliberately not London, it certainly evokes an Edwardian vision of that foggy city. If Witchmark has given you a taste for London-based gaslamp fantasy with a slow burn romance and a thrillerish plot, look no further than Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.
In Victorian London, unassuming telegraph clerk Thaniel Steepleton finds an inexplicable gold pocket watch in his apartment. Six months later, the watch saves his life. Consumed by curiosity, Thaniel traces the timepiece to the shop of Keita Mori, a quiet Japanese man whose clockwork creations seem almost too lifelike to be the work of mere gears and screws. Intricate as one of Mori’s watches, this atmospheric novel is woven with historical texture and reads more like magical realism than fantasy. If Witchmark is the kind of book you want to gulp down in one sitting, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is the kind of book you want to savor a bit at a time.
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
…Actually forget gaslamp London, just give me more queer romance: If Miles and Tristan set your heart aflutter (and if they didn’t, you may want to get your ticker checked), maybe you’re hankering for another passionate romance between elegant men. And if so, you can’t go wrong with Swordspoint, Ellen Kushner’s seminal fantasy of manners.
Set in a glittering Renaissance world where bejeweled nobles settle petty disputes at the tip of a blade, Swordspoint introduces Richard St Vier, a master duelist for hire. Residing in the city’s inglorious slums, he sells his unparalleled skills to those who prefer scheming over cups of chocolate to wielding a rapier. When not on his way to and from deadly assignations, he is rendezvousing with his lover, the dilettantish Alec. When Richard unwittingly becomes a pawn in political machinations far beyond him, both men must confront the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. With lovely prose and a wit as sharp as the rapiers St Vier wields, Swordspoint is sophisticated, poised, and lush to the point of decadence.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
If unraveling vast magical conspiracies is how you prefer to spend your weekends: So Witchmark has given you an appetite for conspiracy, betrayal, and magic with a price. Your next read is Hiromu Arakawa’s landmark manga Fullmetal Alchemist, an exhilarating Industrial Revolution-era fantasy where alchemy works, but it doesn’t come cheap.
Edward Elric is a State Alchemist enlisted in the Amestrian army, where alchemists are expected to use their skills for everything from civic works to putting down violent rebellions. Becoming a dog of the military comes with its own small humiliations, but the position offers Ed the best chance of achieving his true aim: discovering the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, an object Ed believes can undo damage wrought upon he and his brother’s bodies when they broke a terrible alchemical taboo. But the secrets behind the Stone are much darker and more dangerous than Ed expected, and the brothers soon find themselves squared off against enemies able to reach deep into the military itself to strike at them. Raising questions about sacrifice, moral compromise, and the cost of power, Fullmetal Alchemist is a triumphant fantasy adventure that will fill your heart to overflowing.