Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he’s actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world. Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles. The Binding meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light.

Robin Blyth finds himself unwittingly thrown into the concealed world of magic in Edwardian England when he’s anointed a governmental role, when the predecessor of said role, Reggie, mysteriously vanishes. Stunned to learn magic is real, Robin quickly finds himself in over his head as liaison for non-magical people – he ends up with a curse of all things! – by people who need him to find an all powerful magical contract. He has no one else to turn to but his magical professional counterpart, Edwin Courcey, who Robin is totally not extremely hot and bothered over.
Trying to find out what happened to Reggie, cure Robin’s curse and find the highly sought ‘Last Contract’, Robin and Edwin are thrust together to find the answers and solve the problems, before their enemies find the prize and Robin’s curse finishes him off.

What an exceptional debut! A Marvellous Light weaves a magical mystery packed with heart racing romance and enchanting world building. It was cosy yet spicy, with a dash of menace and many comedic moments throughout. 

Where to start? I loved the premise of a hidden branch of government connecting the magical world to the everyday mortal world. For me, this concept and the way Marske developed it, achieved the perfect amount of magical realism and historical fiction. The setting was richly descriptive, so much so, it was easy to imagine the old fashions and architecture, and along with the characters dialogue, it all felt true to the time period. And the magical elements were a dream. There’s a ferociously alive hedge maze that protects a magical estate and there’s also an enchanted library (with thousands of books)… As I said, a dream.

I can’t pick between these boys and you can’t make me. They are officially in my comfort character hall of fame. Edwin is reserved but gentle introvert (not to mention a MASSIVE bookworm – we are literally introduced to him browsing bookshops, I was a goner within seconds!). Moreover, Edwin struggles to live up to his family’s expectations on how well he performs magic. With every snigger and slur, I desperately wanted to hug Edwin and curse his bloody family. I will throw down with any character who tries to hurt this precious boy!

And then there’s Robin, who was sincere, compassionate and has a heart of gold. After being cursed, Robin starts to see what will happen before it happens (known as foresight), which frightens him by what it reveals, when all he wants to do is focus on securing his sister’s status and security after their parents deaths (which, despite the time period, his sister is desperately trying to challenge for both their sakes). Nonetheless, for someone thrown into the magical world without any prior knowledge, Robin coped remarkably well and it was fun having a character, alongside the reader, learn about the world. 

Together? Edwin and Robin are couple goals. The connection between them was beautifully developed; reluctant acquaintances who become more and more familiar, leading to something much deeper. Their chemistry sizzled off the page, and let me tell you, their eventual steam was a real show stealer. This has some of the most glorious queer smut you’ll come across. And my endless thanks to Marske for it. 

And lastly, the overall mystery. It all revolves around the extremely powerful Last Contract, that spells disaster for the entire magical world if it falls into the wrong hands. I really enjoyed the turned-detective-vibe Edwin and Robin embarked on; seeking out and following leads (even when it led them into choppy waters). I had my suspicions of what was coming, some of which was correct, but the remainder waits to be resolved in the sequel…

The sequel, A Reckless Truth, is one of my most anticipated 2022 releases. Like others, I was surprised and a tad disappointed to see the narrative of the sequel shifts from Robin and Edwin, to Robin’s sister, Maud. However, what we saw of Maud in this instalment, I’m absolutely certain we’ll be in for one heck of an adventure – especially when the plot is likened to Knives Out on a boat… but with lesbians!!! 

A Marvellous Light is one of my favourite reads of the year; it’s an impressive debut, excellently blending historical fiction and fantasy with exquisite writing, good humour, charming characters and thrilling spice. Don’t sleep on this one, book friends!

Buy It Now

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