Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
Title : A Marvellous Light
Author : Freya Marske
Series : The Last Binding #1
Format : Physical ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : Historical Fantasy/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : December 9, 2021
Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review
A Marvellous Light really was a great debut novel, bringing that genre I love of historical fantasy and spotlighting a gay relationship in that era. This was the kind of read that I liked as soon as I dipped my toe into but it still took me a little while to truly get into it. When I did, I appreciated the unfolding magical world in historical England and most of all, I adored the connection that began to evolve between Edwin and Robin.
Looking back over the story as a whole, the plot really was rather clever. If I had moments of fogginess over what was happening, clarity did come without me feeling overly confused. The rules of the magical world and what was happening with Robin had a pressing sense of urgency, I was willing things to resolve. There was intelligence and wit throughout.
“I can’t believe we were almost killed by a hedge.”
These two really were chalk and cheese, both in magical power and lack of but also in personality, physicality and communication. I particularly loved Robin, his openness, generosity of feeling and willingness to go with the flow. The chemistry between these two rose off the page…
“You are the most fascinating thing in this beautiful house. I’d like to introduce my fists to whoever taught you to stop talking about the things that interest you.”
There were a few periods in the book that felt a bit pacey, but if you feel that too, it’s worth pushing through. I didn’t like Edwin’s family at all and some of that focus was longer reading for me.
I would definitely recommend this read to you. It read authentically in terms of context and culture to my knowledge (and limitations) and I’m really pleased this is a series. I’ll be turning up for the next book!
Thank you to Tor Books and Black Crow PR for the review copy.
Hollis’ 3 star review
Just need to get this out of the way : I don’t think this ever should’ve been compared to Red, White & Royal Blue. It shouldn’t have been in the pitch. Prior to reading the book it made me hesitant to pick this up and post-reading the book I’m just perplexed.
That caveat aside, I did struggle with this book which made the times when I was really enjoying it a bit of a bummer because it would inevitably take a dip into a less enjoyable section or get a bit bogged down. But considering it’s a series and it sounds like there’s a lot of moving parts and things to reveal and overcome, a battle even maybe, I understand there’s a lot to set up. Having said that, I might’ve liked less emphasis on the romance knowing we had more books to come and therefore more time to let the romance breathe. I did enjoy it but also.. I wouldn’t have been bothered by some added yearning as opposed to resolving most (I assume..) relationship issues within the opening instalment.
What I didn’t have a problem with, however, was how the plot conflict was handled near the end. I disliked a huge portion of the characters in the story, as we’re meant to, and dragged my feet through a lot of the middle because of those scenes, but there was a fist pump moment with how deftly and cleverly one of the villains of the piece got their ass handed to them. It showed a lot of foresight for what these protagonists know they are to face and it was a “lose the battle to win the war” bit of craftiness that I adored and is so rarely seen in fantasy.
Another thing I adored? A certain house/cottage. While the magic system and a lot of the worldbuilding was somewhat interesting, though also at times kind of vague (maybe that’s just me?), I am hoping this house and the magic around it is a clue that things aren’t quite how they appear at first glance. Because I am so here for that.
I am looking forward to reading on in this series but, between the hype and the interesting choice in comp, just be wary going into this one that it doesn’t oversell itself before you cash out.