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'A Marvellous Light' by Freya Marske



A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This book contains magic, Edwardian society, arcane puzzles, soul-deep connections, and the British civil service. What a mix. And you know what? It works. It really works. Some reviewers complain there's not enough emphasis on the magic. For me, it's enough. Magic drives the plot, steers the action, and has sufficient internal logic to hold the story together. I don't want to be sitting through pages of lore or mechanics.

Yes, it's alt world fantasy, but the author seizes her opportunity to portray Edwardian London (and the countryside) as being inhabited by a more diverse set of characters than you usually get. And rightfully so. The two leads, Sir Robin Blyth (definitely non-magical) and Edwin Courcy (insufficiently magical), are not the only queer players on stage. Blyth's assistant at the office is both female (unusual) and of Indian heritage (even more unusual). She plays a greater part in the book than you initially expect. Any novel that chips away at the idea that history is the province of straight, cis, white men should always be welcome.

The main story arc introduced here is projected to drive another two novels. At its core is a magical struggle between good and evil. Predictable? Yes maybe, but Marske provides nuance, unusual slants, and plenty of colour beyond the expected black and white. No-one is a cardboard cut-out. Without this magical mystery, the romance wouldn't stand on its own. As part of the whole thing though, it's one strand of many that slowly bind Robin and Edwin, and their fates, together. Any standard romantic tropes are counterbalanced by the presence of some very relatable frailties. They only make you root for both men the more.

After a confusing first chapter (maybe I wasn't listening hard enough), A Marvellous Light settles into an engaging, different, entertaining read.

The second book, A Restless Truth, is now available.

Edited by northie


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