Pride Reads: “A Marvellous Light” by Freya Marske
My third book for Pride Reads sounds an awful lot like my first one – at least on the surface. A Marvellous Light has the same basic premise as Witchmark; there’s a murder, and the two men trying to solve said murder fall in love during the process. Also, there’s magic.
Robin Blythe is a minor lord who has recently inherited his title and his government post – a liaison between the magical and non-magical communities. It’s a post that he shouldn’t have gotten, considering he had no idea magic was even a thing until Edwin Courcey, his magical counterpart, shows up for a meeting. Edwin, the younger son of an “old magic” family, is determined to get rid of Robin at the first opportunity. His plan is waylaid when Robin is accosted on his way home and gets cursed.
Hey, look, I did the thing again, where I picked up a book not realizing it was the first in a series. A Marvellous Light is the first book in ‘The Last Binding’ trilogy, the second of which will be released later this year and centers on Robin’s sister Maud. The secret of the Last Binding is what Robin and Edwin discover while they both try to break Robin’s curse and learn what happened to Robin’s predecessor.
As a first book, this is exceedingly well-paced. The first chapter is the perfect hook to pull you into the mystery and reveals some tidbits of information that the characters themselves won’t learn until about halfway through the book. There are layers to the plot that they uncover as they go, but there are still some questions that linger when it’s over. Not to mention this book does not suffer from the problem of wrapping things up too quickly; nothing about the climax feels unearned or abrupt. And it perfectly sets up further installments.
Enough time is devoted to establishing Robin and Edwin’s characters so that when they do inevitably find themselves together, it doesn’t seem rushed or forced – even though in canon the two have only known each other a short while. It’s set in Edwardian England (there’s even mention of Oscar Wilde’s trial) so prepare for lots of yearning and pining even after they first sleep together. Robin isn’t used to having a partner, and Edwin doesn’t know what to do with Robin’s easy affection, so there are some misunderstandings and hurt feelings as they try to navigate their change in relationship. (And yes, there are sexy times! No fade to black in this book.)
I love their relationship so much. Yes, the plot is fascinating, the world-building is great, but this book is about these two and oh, man, Marske just nails it. I wouldn’t call it enemies-to-lovers because Robin seems genuinely interested in getting to know Edwin, but Edwin is absolutely determined not to like Robin basically right up until they sleep together. It’s a fun push-and-pull dynamic, and as the book is written in alternating points of view, you’re able to get into both of their heads.
The world-building, as I said, is pretty great. Robin is a stand-in for the reader as he is tossed headfirst into a world he didn’t know existed. Thanks to him not being in the know, Marske is able to explain how magic in this world works as well as outline some of the magical government structure without it seeming too much like an information dump. I’m hoping that we learn more in the next book, because I am just extremely intrigued by how everything is set up.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say A Marvellous Light is fun because there is some real danger (and the murder that starts everything off is kind of brutal), but then, it is fun. It’s witty and engaging, and I was really interested in the characters and the story. I kept trying to figure out the mystery before they did (and failing miserably). I’m very excited to see what happens next!
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske is published by Tor.com and is currently available wherever books are sold.
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Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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