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Review of Even Though I Knew the End by

Even Though I Knew the End

by C.L. Polk

C.L. Polk is fast becoming one of my favourite fantasy authors (love that they are Canadian to boot, eh). Even Though I Knew the End is everything I want in a novella: fast pace, great worldbuilding, and a protagonist I can get behind without too much exposition.

Helena, aka Elena, was once in training to be a “mystic,” one of few women accepted to the very sexist Brotherhood. Then she made a demonic deal, sold her soul. Ten years on, Helena has scraped by as a private investigator, but her deal is coming due. Only one last job can possibly save her soul—giving her more time with the woman she loves—but it will be a dangerous one. Chicago in the 1930s is not a great place to be queer, to be a woman, or indeed, to be hunting a “vampire” serial killer.

Probably the best aspect of this book is the effortless genre blending. Polk mixes urban fantasy with crime noir—something many writers attempt yet few truly pull off. This book scratched the itch I’ve had since I left behind The Dresden Files. Helena has a hardboiled exterior with the same down-on-her-luck attitude wielded by a lot of private investigators. The additional layers of magic and mayhem, demons and deals, makes the book more appealing to readers like myself.

I also really enjoyed Helena’s doomed love story with Edith. I described this as a “love tragedy” to a friend. It isn’t a romance per se, for it lacks the classic happily-ever-after—I would describe the ending as “happy for now.” Indeed, the ending rather surprised me! Maybe it shouldn’t have, considering the title. I won’t spoil it. But it speaks both to the theme of the power of love as well as the obstinacy of people. Polk also exploits one of the virtues of the novella form, which is that it functions well for standalone stories. With no need to worry about continuation, they can draw Helena’s story to a close. Would I read more set in this universe or with these characters? Yes, though to be honest it wasn’t quite as engrossing as Polk’s secondary fantasy novels like Witchmark.

This is a cute (in a dark way), clever (in every way) novella. It’s easy to read in a single afternoon yet packed full of emotions, drama, and mystery. Highly recommend to fans of Polk and urban-fantasy fans in general.


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