Lightning Review

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

B

A Marvellous Light

by Freya Marske

A Marvellous Light is a slow-paced, M/M fantasy romance set in the Edwardian Age, and is the first of a trilogy. I thought the writing was lovely in terms of describing the use of magic and the romance development, but I kept drifting away from the story.

A great deal of the charm and fun of the book is the opposites-attract format of both the world-building (magic meets bureaucracy) and the main characters, Robin and Edwin. Robin is a genial baronet who has inherited unexpected responsibility upon the deaths of his parents. A life-long jock, he has just fallen into a government job. He has spent his entire life unaware that magic exists.

Edwin is the youngest son in a large, aristocratic, and magical family. Unlike Robin, Edwin is a massive nerd. He also has a government job, one which brings him into Robin’s kind but confused orbit. Watching these two interact and learn to fully appreciate one another is delightful. They make each other better simply by exercising mutual respect and empathy. I adored the slow build of the romance and lines like these:

You look like a Turner painting and I want to learn your textures with my fingertips. 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.

I also liked the worldbuilding which uses Robin as an audience surrogate. Because Robin is intelligent but not brainy, we don’t get complicated explanations for magic, but because Robin has a million questions we get a sense of what can and can’t be done with magic. Who uses magic and how tells the reader a great deal about the characters and the society they move in. There are some real surprises and a lot of showing instead of telling.

The problem with this book was that the plot became so very glacial in pace that I lost interest after a while. Even though this book is packed with sexy scenes, heartwarming confessions, humor, and world-building, after the halfway point I felt, dare I say, bored. The book has everything except for a compelling plot and a good sense of momentum.

Readers who love thoughtful, specific worldbuilding and very thoughtful characters who slowly fall for one another will likely enjoy this book, though be warned that the tension and pace felt uneven and may require some reader perseverance.

Carrie S

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.

LGBTQIA, Science Fiction/Fantasy
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  1. chacha1 says:

    There’s a lot of my catnip in the book description and this review, but I’m a cheap bitch and also I really hate waiting for Next Books in Trilogies, so I’ll probably keep it wishlisted until all 3 are out. That way if I love the first one, I can glom right onto the rest. 🙂

  2. harthad says:

    I really enjoyed this book. The romance is charming and the prose is frequently lovely. Having said that, I’ll also note that there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. Several elements feel transparently lifted from the Harry Potter books/films, and the Edwardian m/m romance setting has been pretty thoroughly mined already (e.g. Witchmark, any number of KJ Charles stories). But I didn’t care; maybe I needed something comforting and familiar to read. The pacing didn’t bother me, although I agree the middle portion lags. The principals end up in a good place for the moment, but there are many loose threads that one hopes will be picked up in the the upcoming volumes.

  3. One of the Ms. M's says:

    I know Freya Marske through her co-hosting of the (delightful, recently hiatus-ed) podcast Be The Serpent, which has made it abundantly clear that her tastes are extremely similar to my tastes. As soon as I have the time, I’m getting the book.

  4. Becky says:

    Thanks for the nice review, Carrie. I just finished this book, and I would give it a B as well. The world is interesting, and Edwin and Robin’s relationship is sweet, believable, and enjoyable. Like you, I thought the story dragged at times. And it might just be me, but occasionally I felt the explanations of the magical events or concepts was unclear. The series has potential, and I hope Marske can make the next installment even better.

  5. Kareni says:

    I finished this book last night and quite enjoyed it. I look forward to the next volume in the series.

  6. Leigh Kramer says:

    I just finished and this really nailed my thoughts about it: “The book has everything except for a compelling plot and a good sense of momentum.” I was expecting for it to be a favorite and was shocked to find myself frequently bored.

  7. catscatscats says:

    Just read this and enjoyed it. I did think it dragged a bit in the middle but I think that may have been because I thought the house party section would be an interlude and they’d return to London, but in fact the characters remained there for most of the rest of the book. Also the other guests at the house party were so vile that I was willing the protagonists to leave (anyone with experience of being bullied may find some of the interactions difficult). I liked the sentient house towards the end of the book and hope there is more of that in the next book, and also of the three women characters.

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