Title: A Marvellous Light
Series: The Last Binding: Book One
Author: Freya Marske
Publisher: Macmillan/Tor Books
Length: 377 Pages
Category: Historical Romance, Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: Freya Marske’s prose is nothing but lush, and I found myself chewing through the beauty of her scenery and the world she built around a magic system that was so unique. I hope she had at least half as much fun writing this book as I had reading it.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: 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.
Review: What a stunning debut is Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light. Set in 1908 London, this lovely novel is reality-adjacent, but make no mistake, there is magic galore in these pages. A magic that Robin Blythe had no clue existed until a paperwork snafu placed him in the seat only recently vacated by a man who has disappeared. A man who appears to have run afoul of a sinister plot. And now those who would see that plot through to its fruition have set their sights on Robin, in the belief that he knows the location of the item they’re looking for.
Yes, there is mystery, magic, danger, a painful curse, and suspense in A Marvellous Light, but it also features a warm and heartfelt romance between the charming Robin and the prickly Edwin Courcey, a man from a magical family who, in terms of his own powers, is the weakest link in the Courcey chain. And his siblings never let him forget it. They and their retinue of friends are despicable people, and meeting them allows readers to not only empathize with Edwin but to understand why he trends toward being aloof and doesn’t trust easily. Watching his barriers fall to Robin’s kindness over the course of their investigation is managed with care by the author, and I loved watching these two characters fall in love even when the going wasn’t easy, which, if we’re being honest, was much of the time.
Marske’s prose is nothing but lush, and I found myself chewing through the beauty of her scenery and the world she built around a magic system that was so unique. The ways in which Edwin’s own magic morphs, and presumably will continue to change as the series goes on, was a great twist for him and his sense of empowerment, most especially in a face-off with his brutish brother Walt during which the hook is baited for more adventure and danger yet to come. Something is unintentionally unburied within Robin himself as well, and it will be interesting to see where the author leads him as he and Edwin continue their work together.
I hope Freya Marske had at least half as much fun writing this book as I did reading it. Her characters charmed or repelled as was their role, and the dialogue was crisp and enriched the storytelling. This is a patriarchal magical system, women are not taught to practice to the fullest of their abilities, and I like how this is playing out against the suffrage movement. The roles have already begun to change, I feel, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.
You can buy A Marvellous Light here:
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