I feel like A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske* has been on my radar for months and months. A few bloggers that I have similar reading tastes to got early copies and the rave reviews had me impatiently waiting for this to drop through my letterbox. And it was worth the wait. Reader, I’m in love.
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.
This book does it all. It has magic, intrigue, murder, romance, libraries, and a personal favourite; a house party in a country manor. So I’ll start with the magic. The idea of building magic with delicate hand movements, like those old cat’s cradles games that I remember being truly awful at as a child, is delightful to me. It’s a fresh magic system while also being just relatable enough that I could fall into this fantasy world without trouble. One of the points-of-view being from a non-magic user discovering this world for the first time, definitely helped.
From the start, I was hooked by the story. When someone is being interrogated for information on the first page, I want to know what is going on! The pacing of the whole book made me want to pick it back up the minute I put it down. 370 pages felt both long and short as I wanted to know where the story would end up but wasn’t willing to miss a minute of how Robin and Edwin got there.
As someone who doesn’t have the strongest visual when reading, I did find that some of the descriptions were a little slow for me. It’s not overly-descriptive, but this is the kind of book that will fill people’s minds with beautiful rooms and beautiful characters if that’s the kind of reader they are. Despite not being that kind of reader, I was so tied up in the plot and the romance that I didn’t mind.
And the romance? A slow-burn with a sweet jock and a stern intellectual is such a great combination. I’ve only started really reading Romance this year but this definitely had some of the steamiest scenes I’ve ever read, as well as some of the sweetest.
That being said, Robin and Edwin are great but my favourite character? Miss Adelaide Harita Morrissey, the secretary extraordinaire. I hope there’s a lot more of her in the following books. I’d like to see all of the side characters again, even the ones I despise as people. Marske didn’t waste a single word creating filler characters while managing to never leave rooms of her world empty.
As for the sequel, A Marvellous Light ended with me itching for the next book, without a cliffhanger in sight for fellow cliffhanger-haters, and I’m already wishing away my life thinking about how it’ll be at least two years before this trilogy is complete.
I’d recommend this for people who liked P. G. Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle but thought both would be better if it was gay and had magic. A Marvellous Light is out now at Hive, Amazon, Waterstones, and anywhere good books are sold!
*I was sent this book to review as part of the blog tour, this has not changed my opinion. Hive and Amazon links are affiliate links.
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