Even Though I Knew The End – by C.L. Polk

Even Though I Knew The End has been on my radar since its publication; when one of the online book clubs where I discontinuously hang out chose it as a subject for this month’s discussion, I decided it was time to give it a go.

Title: Even Though I Knew The End

Author: C.L. Polk

Original Publisher: Tordotcom

Publication Date: 8 November 2022

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 136

Standalone or Series: Standalone

Synopsis: In 1941 Chicago, Helen, a magical detective who sold her soul to save her brother’s life, is now working on a case in which divine and demonic forces are involved; it’s a dangerous task, but it might secure her a future with her beloved Edith, and perhaps even grant her a chance of redemption.

Analysis: Written in first person, the story is filtered through the eyes of its understandably angsty protagonist. Her voice is remindful of old timey noir fiction, although with an additional layer of emotion and lyricism.

Even though the plot revolves around fantastic powers and creatures, the setting is largely based on our historical reality, both in its atmosphere and in its prejudices; and while the main threats appear to come from supernatural forces, we’re also regularly reminded how mundane society could be just as treacherous for our main characters – as clearly dispayed by Helen’s visit to an asylum, where queer people are subject to shock therapy to “cure” them of their very nature.

While romance is a key theme of the book, the focus here is not on a budding love story, but on an established relationship between two women who do all they can to stay together in an unwelcoming world. While we have precious little time to get to know them, the two characters do have a good chemistry and one can’t help but feel for their struggles. I really appreciated the sweet, heartfelt depiction of their relationship, especially as it shows a romance that’s past its falling in love phase and that feels deep in terms of affection and committment.

The mystery is suspenseful enough, with a good number of plot twist and an organic exposition of the relevant lore – which is based on Christian mythology, as well as on established literary tropes. Ultimately, however, the story is less about the case and its solution, and more about what choices and sacrifices the characters are willing to make, and for what purposes. The novella keeps on teasing us with glimpses of hopes and pits of despair, until its bittersweet conclusion.

Conclusions & Recommendations: Even Though I Knew The End is a lovely novella, with very good vibes and an interesting story. I’d recommended to anyone willing to shed tears on a fantasy romance.

Content Warning: Death – Homophobia – Sexism – Forced Instituzionalisation – Death of Parent – Car Accident

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