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The Last Binding #1

A Marvellous Light

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Set in an alternative Edwardian England, this is a comedy of manners, manor houses, and hedge mazes: including a magic-infused murder mystery and a delightful queer romance.

For fans of Georgette Heyer or Julia Quinn's Bridgerton, who'd like to welcome magic into their lives . . .

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.

377 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 26, 2021

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About the author

Freya Marske

14 books1,859 followers
Freya Marske lives in Australia, where she is yet to be killed by any form of wildlife. She writes stories full of magic, blood, and as much kissing as she can get away with, and she co-hosts the Hugo Award nominated podcast Be the Serpent. Her hobbies include figure skating and discovering new art galleries, and she is on a quest to try all the gin in the world. Her debut novel, the queer historical fantasy A MARVELLOUS LIGHT, is forthcoming from Tor.Com Publishing in 2021.

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5 stars
9,581 (32%)
4 stars
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3 stars
5,980 (19%)
2 stars
1,467 (4%)
1 star
352 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,611 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 256 books408k followers
November 24, 2021
It's never fair to describe a book in elevator pitch terms, comparing it to other well-known stories: "It's like X meets Y, with a touch of Z!" That said, a helpful shorthand aesthetic for "A Marvelous Light" might be Downtown Abbey with magic and gay romance. In Edwardian England, circa 1908, part of the English upper classes are secretly magicians, their powers tied to the land and to their family lineage. There is even a liaison office in the government to handle and contain flare ups of magic and keep news of magical doings from the eyes of the general public. In the midst of this, our two protagonists -- Robin and Edwin, one un-magical, the other barely magical -- find themselves thrust into a life-or-death hunt for an ancient magical document that could change the world. And while running for their lives, the two young men also go from antagonists to unwillingly allies to . . . could it possibly be romance? I enjoyed the pacing and the world-building. The frenemies-to-lovers theme is always one I enjoy. Be advised, once things heat up about halfway through, they get quite steamy, like R-rated steamy at least, but I'm sure that will not be a disincentive to many adult readers!
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews156k followers
Want to read
May 25, 2021
Raise your hand if you too are intensely interested in a himbo/librarian pairing (but make it gay) and are practically vibrating in barely-leashed excitement to read this book
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,201 followers
July 24, 2021
I cannot find a more apt way to describe A Marvellous Light than by saying it's like top-tier fanfiction - and anyone who's read top-tier fanfiction knows that equates to being a story that's incredibly fun, gorgeously written and includes a significant dose of steamy romance 👀

I really loved the world and characters of A Marvellous Light (shout out to one of my favourite tropes - the magical house - and Sutton Cottage) and this first instalment sets up the rest of the series well. Secret society of magicians in London is a concept already done quite a few times over, but Marske sets AML apart by setting the story in Edwardian London (one of my favourite eras aka early Downton Abbey setting) rather than the popular Victorian London, and by including a style of magic based off of the game cat's cradle, which is really fun.

Very much looking forward to book two. Hope to see more of Sutton Cottage. Also very much appreciated all the William Morris wallpaper and the mentions to Tiffany lamps.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a review copy!


applicable A03 tags, as according to the publisher:

- overthinking under-powered spiteful librarian/genial jock with surprising layers
- UST (unresolved sexual tension)
- VRST (very resolved sexual tension)
- fantasy of very bad manners
- hurt/comfort
- Houses That Love You
- bound by blood
- bound by sexy magical restraints (lol)
- gratuitous library porn
- homicidal hedge maze
- sleeves rolled up forearms
- Messing About In Boats (classically english homoerotic trope there)


all in all, what a wonderful book this looks set to be
Profile Image for Joel Rochester.
61 reviews17.8k followers
January 28, 2022
gays trying to solve a magical conspiracy? yes pls
i really enjoyed this wild adventure and i'm so excited for the sequel!

maybe I'll post a more extensive review but i am a typical bookworm so it could come in a few days, six months or never
Profile Image for Brittany Smith.
248 reviews267 followers
September 16, 2021
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I had a coworker looking forward to this book, and seeing the Alix Harrow blurb, I had to download it! Edwardian gay magicians, pretty cover, what’s not to love?

A Marvellous Light follows two men, Robin and Edwin, in an Edwardian London with magicians. After a clerical error, non-magical Robin gets put in a government position that investigates magical circumstances and is supposed to keep them quiet so people don’t find out about magic, with Edwin as his… supervisor. But the position Robin fills is one that was recently vacated due to his predecessor being murdered. Robin is thrust into the world of magicians and it’s up to Robin and Edwin to solve his predecessor’s murder and uncover the plot he was involved with.

As much as I thought I’d like this, it was a STRUGGLE to read and finish. I contemplated DNF-ing multiple times but forced myself to finish. The writing style seemed to WANT my eyes to skim over it. It did not work for me at all. The only thing I highlighted in the book was a throwaway line “several chapters’ worth of meaningless symbols…” because it felt like a summary of the book as a whole. Nothing grabbed me, and I frequently found myself stopping and getting distracted. The only reason I continued was sheer force of will alone, and nothing to do with the book itself.

This book was slow. Even as an adult high fantasy reader who usually doesn’t mind slow beginnings, it was GLACIALLY slow. I would read and think I made progress, just for a few percent to go by. I had to look up how long this book is supposed to be because it seemed to stretch on with nothing remotely interesting happening forever, making me think this HAD to be a tome of a book, only to find out it’s less than 400 pages! Eventually things pick up, at about 50% through, but the novel as a whole was about as exciting and riveting as an afternoon nap, since it consisted of mostly filler and very few plot points to be found.

For a dual perspective, I didn’t care much about either of the characters, and while they had different personalities, neither were compelling or endearing. And even worse than them both being wet blankets but in different ways, little was done to the writing to differentiate their perspectives, so every switch (which went unlabeled) felt as though it was fumbling as I tried to decipher what perspective I was reading from before being able to continue reading.

ANY of the other characters were completely two dimensional and like cardboard cutouts, just props to place within the narrative, so even the side characters were impossible to care about. The one exception might be the woman assistant Adelaide, but even she felt two-dimensional.

The magic system was fairly interesting and the romance was okay. There were a couple sex scenes, so definitely not a book for minors. Maybe the fact that it’s m/m gay will be enough of a draw to get people to read and like it, since m/m has always been more popular and “palatable” but I’ve been spoiled with amazing sapphic fantasy reads this year that have everything this book sorely lacked and this in no way compared.

I think the idea of this book had a solid base, and I did (eventually) want to find out what happened but it was lacking a lot of things that are incredibly vital to any good book: excitement, investment, high stakes, good pacing, interesting characters, decent resolution. It wasn’t completely terrible, but I would consider it a stretch to even call it “good” so it’ll definitely be filed under disappointing reads.

My resounding feelings and thoughts towards this book can be summed up as: meh/bad. 2 stars. I highly doubt I will continue reading this series unless there are MAJOR changes/improvements.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 70 books999 followers
December 14, 2020
A note before finishing, because this line caught me so strongly:

"I'd like to introduce my fists to whoever taught you to stop talking about the things that interest you."

- I have been loving this delicious book from the very first page onwards, but I think this particular line (thought - but not spoken - by one of the heroes about the other) was the exact moment when I fell head over heels FOREVER. <3 <3 <3

I am DEVOURING this novel!


Finished now, and oh, I LOVED it and think so many other people will too! It's an utterly delicious historical romantic fantasy, with fascinating world building, layers upon layers of wonderful magic underneath our known history, characters and dialogue that I loved, and truly swoon-worthy enchanted libraries and hedge mazes. This is the first in a series (which I think will star different couples along the way - romance readers can be assured that this story has an HEA already, when it comes to the romantic relationship), and it's going to really delight readers of KJ Charles and/or CL Polk. SO much fun!
Profile Image for Meags.
2,178 reviews413 followers
July 19, 2023
2.5 Stars

This story has and will be a delight to many readers, with its queer leads and its magic-tinged Edwardian England setting. It had a lot of things going for it—it simply didn’t grab me the way I was hoping/expecting.

In truth, I was bored. Start to finish, bored. Took me three times the normal period to read a book of this length, bored.

To be clear, I love books with magic. I spend 95% of my reading time devouring books with LGBT characters. I love a good historical romance and I crave a good mystery arc. This should have worked a treat for me, but it didn’t.

I can’t even pinpoint a specific problem, beyond simply being apathetic to the uneventful plot and the bland characters.

The unique magic system should have been the real draw, but it fell completely flat in its enactments. I wanted more Harry Potter wow; more Sam of Wilds power; more Whyborne and Griffin passion; more Magpie Lord oomph! Just, more.

I think, maybe, if magic-fused historical romances, featuring queer leads, was a new genre for you, this might actually be exciting.?! But for those well-versed in the genre, who LOVE the genre, this probably won’t do much for you.

Will I return for the planned sequels? Probably not… but never say never.
Profile Image for mwana .
381 reviews286 followers
September 6, 2023
We are man's marvellous light /
We hold the gifts of dawn /
From those now passed and gone /
And carry them into the night.
I love a good story. I especially love a well-written good story. And this had brilliant prose in spades. When she dropped this banger on page 10,
The last time he felt this way was when he found out that his parents were dead. Instead of surprise, this. An exhausted wrung-out space.

The story starts with Reggie Gatling, a poster body for the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong intentions. He is involved with the Unsavoury Five* and with a binding spell on his tongue, he isn't of much use to our villains.

After Gatling goes missing, hapless layabout and happy-go-lucky enthusiast Robin is hired to replace him. This doesn't sit well with Edwin. But he has no time to brood or moan about it when Robin is attacked by the Unsavoury and they have to work together to uncover whatever Gatling was involved in.

An uneasy allyship is formed between our two leads. Reminiscent of Vaudrey and Day from The Magpie Lord. However, these two don't have history. They just differ as much as ice and fireworks. Robin's denial of his budding attraction to Edwin was hilarious to watch really. He became quite the poet where the other man was concerned

Robin managed to hold his tongue on something truly unwise like 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.
Oh and it doesn't even start there.
Robin's first impression was still correct. Edwin was not handsome. But from this angle, with that smile like a secret caged in glass, he had... something. A delicate, turbulent, Turner-sketch attractiveness that hit Robin like a clean hook to the jaw.
What I wouldn't give to infatuate a book nerd with the power of a right hook.

There are moments where the author over-indulges in metaphor. But it's not clumsy, it's endearing. But perhaps what made this book a solid 5-star read for me is it's interrogation of talent. Is talent innate? Must it be wielded? When the talent is something as powerful as magic, are you allowed to strip others to feed your own power? Think of someone born with a great musical gift and never put in front of a piano,” said Charlie. “But one can hardly go around testing the general population just in case you unearth the occasional natural case of magic... But isn't this where gut-feelings come in? My heart burst the first time I saw my name in a by-line. Surely other writers are born this way.

This book doesn't shy away from harsh realities. A side character, Billy, has recently had his heart broken because his betrothed turned him down for someone with better marital pedigree. Someone higher up in the magical rungs. When he confronts Kitty, it's rather an amazing display at assertion.
“Happy? Marrying a man you were barely friends with at the time?”
This argument had the weakly bitter note of leaves twice-steeped.
“If you loved me enough, you’d have told them to go hang.”
“Yes,” she said.
Deadass cheered. No one is owed reciprocation of affection.

There is a clear worship of books, history, record-keeping and story telling. Stories are why anyone does anything. Perhaps this is why Edwin emerged my favourite character. Relatable to me, to an alarming degree,
The vivid expectation of abandonment; the bone-deep resignation to the fact that he would lose the things he wanted, or else never deserved them in the first place.
He was a Murderbot-esque character who wants everyone (except Robin, eventually) to leave him alone so he can solve mysteries in libraries.

I loved every page of this book. Even the cliche-riddled third act where the main protagonists have the requisite fight and they resolve their issues when one has to go on a rescue mission of the other. However, the trope is turned on its head and the stakes raised even more. With the promise of a sequel, one can't help but wonder what lays in store for our characters. If you are looking for a fantasy adventure story set in Victorian England with a magical protagonist who is rather under-powered with a strong sense of suspense, high stakes (well, for a romance) and an enemies-to-lovers story, look no further. This marvellous delight is for you.

* not their actual name.
Profile Image for Madison.
652 reviews363 followers
September 16, 2021
Can we all agree to put a moratorium on describing every gay book as "the next Red, White & Royal Blue?" It's ridiculous that every m/m romance novel has to exist in relation to an underwhelming (but lucrative) book from two and a half years ago. I recognize that by using RWRB as a comp, publishers are attempting to manifest the kind of financial success McQuiston (and therefore St. Martin's) had, The Secret-style, but it's an utterly meaningless comparison. Literally the only thing these two books have in common is that they're gay.

A better (and completely obvious) comp is Witchmark by CL Polk. They're both gay magician historical romances set in England, for one. Another would be the The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles, yet another gay magician historical romance set in England. This is a real subgenre, people. Three seconds of research would turn up dozens more. You don't need to make lazy comparisons to the one other gay book straight people read.

Like Witchmark, there's significant worldbuilding and an interesting magic system, though A Marvellous Light is more sexually explicit than what Polk writes. I thought the way magic works in this book--with hand shapes guided by string--was truly very cool. But like KJC's books, the story is overburdened with plot when people (me) would vastly prefer pining and kissing. There's a place for plot in romance books, of course. There's no satisfaction without conflict of some kind. But it's a matter of weaving it all together in a way that's interesting and seamless, and that doesn't happen here. It mostly felt like a slog through backstory and technical details.

Aside from the pacing, another gripe I have is that every female character in AML is conniving, shallow, cruel, empty-headed, or some combination of all four. Adelaide is slightly more dimensional by the end, but not by much.

Throughout the book, I found myself wishing for more of the tertiary villain, a character that gets one scene and then lots of later mentions. He's described pretty much exclusively as hot and mean, which already makes him leagues more interesting than the actual protagonists, both of whom are of only mild attractiveness and have the personalities of wet paper. I'm hoping book 2 is 200% more Jack Hawthorn, but even if it is I don't know that I'd be interested enough to dive back into this series. Overall, it's a straightforward and mostly forgettable romance novel.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,449 reviews1,091 followers
December 15, 2022
This is historical fiction (set in 1908, England), but it's also a romance (MM), and it's also got a strong fantasy element (magic is real, but most people don't have it and don't know it exists). For being so many things all at once, this was actually really really good. There's an actual plot outside of the romance, yet the romance is believable and the characters are well developed. I definitely recommend this. But if you really want just a fantasy or just a romance - then I would choose something else that conforms to just those genres.
Profile Image for luce (that loser crying on the n° 2 bus).
1,438 reviews4,049 followers
October 15, 2022
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3 ½ stars

“I am nothing like you, and yet I feel more myself with you.”

Part cute/steamy romance, part historical fantasy romp, A Marvellous Light is a (mostly) delightful debut novel.

A Marvellous Light is likely one of the best romances to come out in 2021. I really had a blast with this novel! While Freya Marske’s historical setting and the magical system is not quite as detailed & complex as Susanna Clarke's in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or Zen Cho's Sorcerer Royal series, its setting is vibrantly rendered and the fantasy aspect was a lot of fun and gave me some serious Diana Wynne Jones/Ghibli vibes. The main characters make the novel, and I found them incredibly endearing. The plot itself is fairly conventional, and it is Marske’s engaging style and her compelling protagonists that steal the show.

“You woke me up. You're incredibly brave. You're not kind, but you care deeply. And I think you know how much I want you, in whatever way I can have you.”

Set in Edwardian England, A Marvellous Light follows Robin Blyth and Edwin Courcey. Recently orphaned Robin is in his late twenties and despite his newly inherited title, he’s in urgent need of an income. A clerical mishap lands him in the position of ‘Assistant in the office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints’, his predecessor, a certain Reginald Gatling having gone suddenly MIA. On his first day on the job, Robin meets Edwin Courcey, who is the special liaison to the Chief Minister of the Magical Assembly. Robin, baffled by the discovery that magic is indeed real, is sure that someone more suitable should be taking his place. While Robin and Edwin are not keen on working together, after a certain altercation with some dubious individuals, the two decide to join forces in their effort to find out what happened to Reginald. Much of the narrative takes place in Edwin’s family home, where we learn more about how magic works and we see the bond between the two men solidify in something resembling a friendship.

The narrative’s scope remains rather narrow, and the story is very much focused on the blossoming romance between Edwin and Robin. The growing sexual tension between them complicates their ‘mission’, as the two men will be forced to confront the magnitude of their feelings for each other.
The dynamic between Edwin and Robin is truly charming. By switching between their perspectives we learn more about their personal histories, their relationship with their family members, and their previous romantic ‘exploits’. Edwin is a brilliant scholar, and he possesses vast magical knowledge. However, he does not possess much magic, and this has made his family treat him with open contempt. His older brother, who has a lot of magic, is a horrid bully, and his sister and parents have always turned a blind eye to his relentless tormenting of Edwin. Because of this Edwin is slow to trust, guarded to the point of rudeness. While Robin was never particularly close to his parents, who were not nearly as charitable and selfless as they liked to pretend, he is far more open and carefree. Of course, after a certain ‘event’, Robin too begins to have a lot on his mind. At Edwin’s family home the two grow closer, and as they attempt to find the truth behind Reginald’s disappearance they find themselves growing attached to one another.

While we don’t learn much about the Magical Assembly or of the history of magic in England (other than a snippet here and there), the author does a fairly decent job when it comes to world-building, avoiding info-dumps and overly complicated explanations. The mystery storyline is perhaps the novel’s weakest element. There is an attempt at a twist villain but I’m afraid that it was fairly obvious that that person was indeed a ‘baddie’. The last 30% is slightly repetitive, and maybe I would have found it more gripping if the villains had been more fleshed out (we also get the uber cliched line: “Come on board, you'll have the power you've always wanted”). Speaking of secondary characters, they are somewhat one-dimensional. I kept confusing the people at Edwin’s house, as they all have ridiculously posh sounding nicknames and behaved in varying degrees of obnoxiousness.
I did however like Miss Morrisey and her sister, I mean: “And we are but feeble women,” said Miss Morrisey. “Woe.” They were a fun addition and I wish they had played a bigger role in the story (hopefully we will see more of them in the sequel!).

The romance between Edwin and Robin is the cherry on the cake. Their chemistry, banter, and flirting make for some thoroughly enjoyable and surprisingly sweet passages. I wasn’t really expecting the story to be quite this smutty and I have to say that the sex scenes did feel a bit overlong. I don’t mind sex scenes but smut...eeh, it does nothing for me. I either find it unintentionally funny or boring. But this is clearly a ‘me thing’ so I’m sure other readers out there will be *ahem* more appreciative of these scenes.

While the plotline is somewhat predictable (we have those fairly obvious twists, the usual misunderstanding that occurs around the 70% mark in romances) Marske does have a few tricks up her sleeves and she leaves quite a few questions unanswered (hopefully the sequel will resolve some of these).

Overall this was a very entertaining read. It has humour, mystery, plenty of magical hijinks, and a lively Edwardian backdrop. Robin and Edwin are guaranteed to give you ‘the feels’, and I really liked their character arcs. And, last but not least, their romance. While I could have done with fewer sex scenes and more plot, Robin and Edwin’s relationship was great. The author doesn’t rush it, so we have quite a decent amount of longing/yearning….which I have always been a sucker for (especially in historical fiction). I am super excited to read the sequel and I thoroughly recommend this, especially to those who are looking for a sweet-turned-sexy queer romance + the perfect blend of fantasy and historical fiction.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for drew.
213 reviews92 followers
February 8, 2022
after a string of disappointing and mediocre books, i have my first five-star read of the year!! and oh, man, it was so nice to finally really, really enjoy a book this year! buddy-reading with Parris definitely enhanced the experience for me, as well. dissecting and theorizing about plot developments and just gushing about how cute/sweet/hot Edwin and Robin were being? such a good time and definitely made my reading experience more rewarding.

this is Freya Marske's debut novel and, man, did she deliver! she did such a beautiful job of balancing the book's overarching plot with its romantic aspects. Edwin and Robin were wonderfully developed, and the way their relationship slowly unfolds over the course of the book was such a joy to witness. this is what i would consider a slow-burn romance, which is really enjoyed. the foundation of their relationship is laid slowly and built upon in a realistic and rewarding way, so when they finally get together it feels earned. their romance isn't -quite- the driving force of the plot, but it does inform a lot of their reactions to the various plot points, especially towards the end of the book.

my only small niggle is i felt the ending was just a tad underwhelming; i really wanted !!!!! now, that's not to say it was a bad ending! i actually really did like how Edwin maneuvered the final showdown and outsmarted the villain; that was definitely enjoyable to me! and the book's actual ending being ? a good time nn. i know this is the first book in a trilogy, so i have faith the true, final ending to the story will be a satisfying one.

overall, this was such a fun and satisfying read, and i'm really looking forward to the next two books in the series! 4.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,402 followers
December 2, 2021
A little slow to start, but I eventually got really into A Marvellous Light! It’s not my typical read, despite there being ✨magic✨ present, but it grew on me as the story went on. Did Dennis trick me into reading a period romance disguised as a fantasy? Yes, but at least he didn’t lie about how engaging it was.

I alternated between the audio and the physical copy, and will fully admit the first 15% or so I had no idea what was going on. I definitely could have focused a little harder and kept from occasionally zoning out during the audio, but in my defense the beginning was kind of dull. The two main characters, Edwin and Robin, were meant to be foils to one another in many ways, but I could not keep them straight (lol) for the longest time. I eventually just started ignoring the names and figured out who was who based on whichever one was acting the grumpiest (Edwin).

Without getting too much into it, Robin accidentally takes a job at magical office, despite knowing nothing of magic and having none of the ability himself. He crosses paths with Edwin who is looking for his predecessor, and the two of them end up also being pursued by an unknown party looking for the man Robin replaced. They bop around to different aristocratic, posh magical estates looking for clues, and eventually a begrudging partnership grows into something more substantial.

I was warned or informed, depending on your preference, that as prim and proper as A Marvellous Light may appear, there’s a heavy ‘steam’ factor (am I saying that right) in the novel as well. But please do not expect this to happen in the first half of the book, they can barely look at each other until you’ve gotten through at least 150 pages. But once the gloves are off, everything comes off so to speak. Oh god, I’m speaking in entendres—send help.

But yes, there is some light use of magic, though its existence is central to the plot. There are a number of magical orgasms too, and the romance is decidedly not closed door. It’s got a Downton Abbey feel, but more fantastical and gay! I liked it a lot overall, and I’d be interested to see where this supposed trilogy ends up going.

*Thanks to @scaredstraightreads & Tordotcom for my giveaway win!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Colleen Scidmore.
386 reviews155 followers
December 19, 2022
I entered A Marvellous Light giveaway honestly because of the cover. It’s just so gorgeous I couldn’t resist! I found out I won (yay for me 🥳) and then I read the synopsis. 🙈 This is a Historical Fantasy…heavy on the historical.
Honestly historical fiction is hit or miss for me. I’m enjoying it more these days but my brain tends to still put up resistance. 🤷‍♀️ So I wasn’t really looking forward to picking this up and I was expecting a pretty dull read.

But wow..this book was so much better than I expected! And honestly the beginning was a tad bit boring, and it was kind of difficult to follow. But as the story progressed, a bit before the quarter mark, I became sucked in and completely engrossed.

“We are man’s marvellous light / We hold the gifts of the dawn / From those now passed and gone / And carry them into the night.”

It’s the early 1900’s in the great country of Britain. There is a secret society of magicians that the average citizen knows nothing about. Robin Blythe, a “regular” guy has been sent to liaison for The Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints, after Reggie the previous liaison seems to have disappeared. Edwin the head of SDAAC, knows their has been a paperwork mistake the minute Robin sees a magical spell for the very first time. Edwin plans for Robin to be transferred immediately and send him on his way, putting this little mishap behind the both of them.

But plans change when Robin is strong armed by a group of “foggy faced” men that place a painful curse on him to help encourage Robin in finding the whereabouts of a magical object that could jeopardize every magician in Great Britain.

He has no choice but to work with the cold and prickly Edwin Coursey, whose made it exceedingly obvious that he is not wanted. Robin wants to find the object and get on with his life, he his has own affairs to attend to. Which includes taking care of his younger sister who needs him more than ever since their parents death, and nothing to do with magic.

As these two follow the clues Robin and Edwin learn to appreciate one another and begin a sort of “friendship”. Edwin shows Robin there is more than power and cruelty in magic, it also has it’s beautiful side. But as the curse progresses and people start dying their search becomes more desperate. Can they find the unnamed object before the unknown assailants or are they doomed to fail?

I was pretty sure there was a romance of sorts in the story because the blurb compared it to Red White and Royal Blue. But tbh I didn’t think it would get quite so steamy between these two very English Men especially one being cold as ice. Also I just didn’t get that vibe from the blurb. Here is my warning people: Be prepared for lots of steam and lots of blushing!

True Story, I listen to my audiobooks on my speaker quite frequently (minus my romance reads 😁) and I live in a household full of people. I don’t blast them but I’m sure they can be heard because my room is in a central area of the house with lots of traffic. I usually have my phone with me so I can turn off and on and control the volume when I want. But for some reason my phone was not next to me..I didn’t know where I put it, and as I was listening one of those very steamy scenes was being broadcasted through my speaker in what felt like super sonic stereo. 📢 Picture me running in slow motion..that’s how it felt..lol I couldn’t get to my speaker fast enough. I don’t know if my roomies actually heard anything but I felt curious eyes on me the next couple of days. 😂

The romance wasn’t just about steam though. It was about vulnerability and whether Edwin could truly let Robin in, he had been burned before and actually was teased a lot growing up. It was actually quite touching to see the dynamics between them.

There is more mystery than magic in AML so for Fantasy Lovers who are looking for a book with a heavy dose of Fantasy, this is not that book. The mystery part of the story was interesting, it kept me guessing, and was sometimes confusing, but when everything came together it was absolutely absorbing.

Freya Marsake has a way with words bringing her characters to life with depth, weaving a wonderful and intricately detailed story. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Edwin and Robin’s next adventure.

Thank You Tor/Forge & Goodreads for this gifted book!
Profile Image for Samantha.
440 reviews16.8k followers
February 1, 2023
3.75 stars

TW: very steamy sexual content; bullying; homophobia

This is an achillean fantasy of manners that manages to balance the setting and social maneuvering well with the plot and romance. I found our couple to be charming. Don’t let the setting fool you though - the sec scenes are explicit. I’m not sure if I care enough about the meta plot to continue with companion books but this is good if you like fantasy of manners romance.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,637 reviews3,887 followers
December 22, 2021
Aw, this was lovely! I found the tone and authorial voice on this to have a really delightful light touch. We've got an intriguing fantasy world inspired by Edwardian England and grump/sunshine romance (which I am a sucker for). I'd say the thing that held this back a bit for me was pacing - it felt a little clunky in places, but other than that, this was a lot of fun
Profile Image for el.
252 reviews1,521 followers
July 26, 2023
i first found freya's writing on ao3 and happily followed her through fandoms because i was so enthralled with her prose; for a long time, she was my favorite ao3 author (an incredibly formative force in my early creative life) and i eagerly awaited my little subscription email updates like a fanatic.

i wasn't sure if i'd mesh well with her debut, since historical fiction is one of my least favorite genres, and i will say, the beginning of a marvellous light does it no justice, which is surprising because the first pages of a book are often its strongest + most polished. i felt the opposite here; freya gains momentum as we move further and further through the labyrinth of her narrative.

i don't think reggie was ever interesting or fleshed out enough (we didn't know him well at all! and i did not care to know him!) to justify his first chapter. i think this book could have done with either a robin or edwin opening. robin, if freya wanted to set a tone of discovery and newness (of a sudden and incisive life shift), and edwin if she wanted to immediately familiarize readers with her magic system. i maintain that the reggie opening was unnecessary on multiple levels and gave readers too many clues about walt's part in the plot.

once robin and edwin felt like more grounded narrative fixtures, i really grew to like the story unfolding. i think early on, their presence is confused or diluted by plot events we don't really understand yet, which is maybe why the beginning of the book felt so dull and boring to me. what i loved most about a marvellous light is the slice-of-life fantasy feeling it captured so well while our main couple grew close at penhallick. that i could have read over 400 pages of.

i'm still starved of edwin/robin mundanity and would have loved to spend much longer watching them ride trains together, explore libraries, and feel out the magic of the british isles. i thought that the choice to place them both in edwin's family home due to external plot forces was genius, as it immediately humanized edwin (an otherwise cold and unknowable character) in robin's eyes and allowed him to see a version of edwin that he'd built fortresses to hide. i loved the contrast of magicians dumb with class and power, who couldn't muster up an ounce of care for edwin, and edwin subverting fantastical genre conventions by working so tirelessly to cultivate what little power he had. it was so refreshing to live with a main character limited by his own abilities, who was so clearly nursing an inferiority complex, and to see that inferiority complex come up against an unmagical person's total and complete awe of him and his abilities.

little details like this made the book what it was! but i wanted more penhallick, more family drama, more early walt x robin interaction, more leisurely magic, more relationship building. there wasn't enough of that for me, which is surprising given that freya has always excelled at character studies set against distantly elaborate plot backdrops, but i suppose writing commercially is a little (or a lot) different than self-indulgence published on a free fanfiction site. that stood out to me the most; the third act conflict between robin and edwin felt very contrived, like freya knew she had to force these two apart somehow to conform to genre standards, and did so with her eyes closed.

overall, this was a fun little fantasy romp with a lot of heart, but it did feel like i was chasing the high of early penhallick robin/edwin for most of the book. as always, freya's prose is whimsical and enchanting (if prone to near-constant use of simile......i have never known a single writer to employ obscure "as though..." stylistic scenarios with such enthusiasm) and her central characters are full and believable. i will definitely be picking up book 2 in the series to see how things play out. 3.85/5.

Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,203 reviews3,678 followers
October 30, 2021
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars rounded up

If you're looking for a charming fantasy romance that's heavy on plot and world-building A Marvellous Light is a fantastic choice! Set in an alternate Edwardian England, Robin is unexpectedly drawn into a magical underworld where a mysterious murder and dastardly machinations must be unraveled. The prickly Edwin becomes his guide into this new world and they work together to uncover the truth, save Robin from a curse, and perhaps lower their walls enough to find love.

It's a slow-burn, but things do get quite steamy later in the book. (There is even some erotic use of magic. Which TBH people would totally do if magic were real) Robin and Edwin live in a time when being gay is extremely dangerous, so they take their time feeling each other out. But they have this very tender relationship, creating safety and understanding for who each of them are. And for readers who prefer their romance to come with a strong side of plot and thoughtful world-building- this book will give you what you're looking for. The audio narration is fabulous and a great option if you like audiobooks! I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,865 reviews2,240 followers
May 15, 2023
This was such an odd book for me, because when I was reading it, I did enjoy it for the most part. I listened to about 30% of the audiobook, but found my mind kept wandering and I was missing crucial information without realizing it. So I quit that and physically read the book and had the same issue. I saw another review here saying the writing style made it easy to skim, and I would agree. I found my eyes wandering and had trouble focusing. And it's not a bad book in any way, I just found that whatever format I read it in, the writing style made it hard for me to focus.

So in theory, gay magicians historical romance would a winner for me, and in a way it was. This is one of the few romance novels lately where I didn't skim the sex scenes (which I usually do) and I loved the opposites attract trope between the two main characters. I was just not able to be completely pulled into the book and the plot and it felt like a lot of hard work. Reading for pleasure shouldn't be hard work.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,226 reviews872 followers
December 4, 2021
On my blog.

Rerated 4/12/21

Rep: gay mcs, Punjabi side characters

Galley provided by publisher

Ever since I heard about A Marvellous Light, it’s been high up on my anticipated reads list. So, obviously, as soon as I had access to the ARC, I put everything else down to read it. And I did enjoy it, I promise, even as this sounds like a set up to say it was disappointing. But it’s one of those books that, the more I think on it, the less I think I loved it.

The story sets itself up as a fantasy mystery but in actual fact, I think it’s better described as a fantasy romance where the vehicle for these characters meeting (and falling in love) is a mystery subplot. I guess that’s just too much of a mouthful in terms of marketing, however, but I would stress that you don’t go into this expecting it to be heavy on the mystery because it’s not. At times, the mystery completely drops by the wayside (along with very much worldbuilding, which is fine. I guess).

Now, this is no bad thing! But if we’re looking for where I perhaps lost my enjoyment of the book. Not saying I don’t like fantasy romance, because I do, but I also like more accurately marketed books, and this… was just enough inaccuracy that I went into it expecting something different. This is entirely a me thing, I realise, and shouldn’t have had bearing on my enjoyment… and yet.

The primary reason for that being the knock-on effects it had on pacing. As I said, at times the mystery was set aside completely. Case in point, they end up at a family house party and the whole murder mystery thing is forgotten about for a good few chapters in favour of developing character relationships (not a bad thing!). I think what I’m trying to get at is that the integration of the romance parts of the book with the mystery parts wasn’t great. At times, it felt like they were flipped between, like the book couldn’t be, at once, mystery and romance.

I say this though, on the whole, as having liked the book. But I think this was a major reason as to why I didn’t love it.

But moving onto some positives, this was a book where I immediately loved both of the characters. It always helps with dual POV books (and romance in general) that you like both of the characters, and that was definitely the case here. It was the characters that really carried the book for me and they’re the reason I’ll probably end up reading the sequel.

I realise this review has mostly been somewhat meh, if not actually negative, but I did enjoy reading this book. I finished it in a single sitting, having been fully consumed by the world and characters. It’s only afterwards, when I sat to think about it, that I found I was picking holes.
Profile Image for JustJJ.
119 reviews164 followers
February 6, 2023
This review and others @Bookerification

Rating: 3.5 stars

Cover: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Although the design conveys little about the story, the bold orange and purple colours are stunning.

Writing: 🌟🌟🌟.5
The rich writing style is filled with clever metaphors and descriptions that seem borderline excessive but help establish an entertaining magical world. In contrast, I found the narrative underwhelming and monotonous even though it seemed fitting for the historical setting. I struggled most with the third-person narrative, which relentlessly repeats the names of the two main characters - even in the graphic sex scenes.

"Stories are why anyone does anything "

Storyline: 🌟🌟🌟
The initial chapters introduce the protagonists, Robin and Edwin, plus a gripping mystery for them to solve. Sadly, progress in solving this mystery was painfully slow as the story focused on the budding romance between Robin and Edwin. While the romance that emerged was endearing, the story dragged as its pace dropped to a crawl. The mystery finally picked up towards the end of the book, but the stakes seemed low, and the ending was unsatisfying.

Main character(s): 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Robin and Edwin are complex characters with distinct personalities and lovely arcs. Edwin was the first to capture my interest with his adorable nerdiness and how badly he is treated by his family. As the story progressed, it was heart-warming to see his character gain self-confidence with help from Robin. Despite Robin experiencing less character development than Edwin, his character was still fascinating as, like readers, he is new to the hidden, magical society. On top of this, he is a sweet character who eventually gains the strength to face his parent's death and the responsibilities it brings.

"We are man’s marvellous light"

Secondary characters: 🌟🌟.5
With the story focused on Robin and Edwin, every other character is given little depth and ends up being one-dimensional. In fact, none of these characters made a strong impression, and I was soon mixing them up.

Romance: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
What begins as an awkward attraction soon blooms into a sweet connection as Robin and Edwin work together and are vulnerable with each other. Despite the differences in their personalities, both characters make a great match as they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Narration & Audio: 🌟🌟🌟.5
The narration by David Thorpe is perfect for the writing style and historical setting. However, I struggled to find the somewhat flat narration engaging.

To sum up, 'A Marvellous Light' is centred on the growth and cute romance between the two main characters. This left the mystery aspect of the story with very little weight, which was disappointing. Still, the blend of historical fiction, romance, mystery and fantasy is appealing, reminding me of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.
Profile Image for talia ♡.
1,031 reviews200 followers
September 16, 2022
this was such a draaaaaaaaaaaaaag to get through. it was not fun, it was not interesting, it was not even very romantic. i would say that it pains me to say that this book (which was highly anticipated by me) was such a letdown but, honestly, i feel so much relief that it is over.

in addition, i am happy that i can still return it to Barnes and Noble and get a book i will actually like since it's been less than 30 days.



reading romance books leads me one step closer to finding my own romance, right? that's how it works, right?
Profile Image for cel ✼ readwithcel.
267 reviews527 followers
November 18, 2022
do you hear that? its the sound of my impending marvellous light brainrot i will not be shutting up about this book for a long time

“it was the way he felt watching edwin read; it was the feeling he had every time his eyes sought edwin in a room and landed on an angle of the man’s face, any movement of those delicate fingers: there you are. i’ve been waiting for you.”

the last thing robin blyth needs is to be named as a civil service liaison to a hidden magical society. so of course, due to a clerical error, that is exactly what happens. and then he gets cursed. he’s quickly thrust into a world of magic and premonitions, and together with his magical counterpart and unwilling ally - edwin courcey - they begin to unearth unsettling truths as they try to break the curse.

i don’t even know where to start. it's baffling how i’ve been yelling incessantly about this book for days and yet i lack the words to fully express just how quickly i fell head over heels in love with it.

robin and edwin are electrifying (hehe get it? i am gleefully rubbing my hands together like a gremlin). they compliment each other so well. edwin with his relatively meagre magic who was made to feel like he was never enough, so thumbed down by his own family, only to have robin - sweet golden retriever himbo !! - constantly gaze at him like he’s the actual sun, like he hung the moon, like every bit of magic he produced was the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. and yet, still firmly believing that the most magical thing in any room was edwin /himself/, with or without magic.

they spend so much time thinking about how ridiculous it is that they could marvel at each other for days or getting lost in thoughts about what their touch would feel like and i’m just. losing my entire mind !!

(robin blyth and ronan lynch will be battling it out for the title of: biggest hand kink)

and the magic system is spectacular. there’s cradles, leylines, and limited magic that can run out so you have to Think about it - honestly so creative and smart !! the cat’s cradle strings also infuses this book with so much nostalgia that it felt like reuniting with a childhood friend. also the limited magic really emphasizes how brains is just as important that braun, perhaps even more so, and i just- there’s so much to love about it.

i only started dabbling in queer historical fantasy last year but it quickly rocketed into one of my favorite subgenres, and a marvellous light really drives home why there’s a special space for it in my heart. i’ll always love seeing how queer folk have existed before us, how times were different but their love still existed, still blossomed, was still magical. how powerful that love is and how it visibly manifests as the most gorgeous kind of magic. a marvellous light, if you will.

anyway if you need me i’ll be here frothing at the mouth thinking of rolled up sleeves.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books467 followers
April 17, 2022
“I am nothing like you, and yet I feel more myself with you.”

So What’s It About?

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.

What I Thought

I knew going into this book that silver fork romances aren’t necessarily my favorite subgenre, but after reading it I can definitely say that this is an incredibly strong debut that I enjoyed despite the subgenre not being my favorite. It’s essentially just such a well constructed romance featuring characters who complement each other really well, with Robin’s warmth and ease and Edwin’s reserve and anxiety. Their pasts also inform their relationship conflicts in ways that make perfect sense - Edwin’s experiences being a bullied outsider make him incredibly afraid of wanting love, admitting to that wanting and being vulnerable. Robin’s parents make him hate pretenses and people who use others like tools, which explains his reaction to the revelation that Edwin’s family was planning to wipe his memory with lethe-mint once the conflict of the book was solved. Given their respective personalities and backgrounds, they tell themselves stories about their relationship that make a great deal of sense - Edwin convinces himself that Robin is just nice to him because he’s nice to everyone and that it isn’t safe to let him in; Robin tells himself that Edwin was just using him. The pairing is essentially that of the anxious nerd and the happy-go-lucky himbo-y jock. It’s a well-worn romance dynamic, but Marske executes it really well by clearly understanding exactly what it is about that dynamic that makes it so beloved and romantic.

Continuing on that theme, I definitely agree with everyone who things the sex scenes are a particular strength - there’s a big emphasis on naturally incorporating consent, and once again each man’s personality comes through really well in these scenes. You learn more about how they work as individuals and a couple and get some really good bits of characterization like Edwin’s inventiveness with magic and how reserved he is at first before truly letting himself be vulnerable.

The main draw is definitely the romance, and I was somewhat neutral about everything else. The mystery is definitely not the book’s main attraction and the magic is never really explained. I think most people will be totally fine with these things because the romance is so strong, but it was a little vexing that new things got introduced as soon as they become immediately convenient, which led to me never really getting a sense of the magic’s limits or how it works.

It’s all extremely charming and pleasant and very, very, twee. I don’t think many people picking up this book will expect anything else, but I will say that I sometimes got a little weary of reading about Robin’s woes as a poor little rich boy dealing with the family affairs; his awareness of his fortune didn’t really make this any better for me. When I reviewed A Dowry of Blood, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure how I felt about the author deliberately making the protagonist a progressive character who isn’t made unlikeable because she adheres to problematic old morals; A Marvellous Light does the opposite in the way that Robin disapproves of suffragettes and only grudgingly lets his sister go to university. Having seen both methods, I can’t say that either one really works better for me, but I think the conundrum remains a very interesting one for authors writing historically-inspired works.

To compare it to recent works, it features a silver fork setting and magical classism like Witchmark as well as a successful take on the anxious nerd/sunshine-y himbo couple dynamic like Winter's Orbit; all three feature M/M relationships too. If you like one, you might like the rest!

Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
972 reviews849 followers
November 2, 2022
Queer, quiet, and carrying elements of fanfiction featuring some of my favorite tropes... This was just so good. I lovedddd it!

Concept: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Romance: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2

A Marvellous Light is the definition of the quaint historical fantasy novel. If I didn't know the author's name, I might have thought it was written by T.J. Klune—it's that pure, that much a perfect blend of soft and substance.

We're following two main characters with two distinct points of view: Robin and Edwin.

Robin feels like our classic easygoing, good ol' boy with some depth and a dose of queer under the surface. He's sure of himself and filled with positivity and humor despite his circumstance. Our plucky yet adaptable protagonist, if you will.

Edwin feels like a sweet cinnamon roll hiding behind an unbreakable suit of armor—okay, the armor is more like distanced manners and respectability—and is the academic scholar with a fierce yet battered heart. He's cautious to a fault, he's slow to react and yet precise. He's struggling with some magical handicaps and social issues. He is my precious.

When Robin, the nonmagical boy wonder, stumbles into the underworld of Britain's magical elite, he finds himself wrapped up in a rune curse, a plot, and a mystery with far-reaching consequences for the entire magical community. Nothing our Robin can't roll with—like we said, he's adaptable.

And when tight-laced Edwin encounters Robin, Edwin also gets drawn into the plot and tangled up in Robin. In all means of that phrase, wink wink.

This story has queer slow burn, romantic angst, intriguing social situations, a truly unique magic system based off of cat's cradling, and lots of unbearably cute and hilarious moments. I thought it was perfect.

Was it actually, objectively perfect? Of course not. I think lots of readers will find the pacing slow, and the plot much quieter and quainter than the usual fantasy fare these days. But sometimes, we need the fantasy equivalent of a cozy mystery. A Marvellous Light was that story for me, and I hope it that for others.

Eagerly looking forward to more from this series and this author.

A P.S. and a Fanfic Discussion:

Blog | Instagram
Profile Image for Kat.
239 reviews301 followers
April 10, 2023
It’s disappointing when a book you wanted to be good turns out to be a let-down. It’s even more disappointing to have that book be your first read of 2022. It turns out that A Marvellous Light wasn’t very marvellous at all.

It’s a paperwork error that lands Robin Blyth the job of civil service liaison to the prime minister of England. What does the job entail? Acting as a bridge between the magical world of Great Britain and the non-magical world, keeping track of supernatural events and working together with a chosen magician to keep the fact that magic exists a secret to the general public. The problem is: Robin doesn’t come from a magical family, didn’t even KNOW magic existed until Edwin Courcey, his counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, strolls into Robin’s new office and turns his world upside down. Yes, magic is real; Robin learns though Edwin is anything but keen on working with a man who knows next to nothing about Edwin’s magical world. And there would also be the problem of Robin’s predecessor’s mysterious disappearance, 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. Robin and Edwin will have to work together to stop the dark and mysterious forces at bay that are hell-bent on getting what they want, even if it entails using dangerous curses and murder.

I noticed that the author seemed almost too intent to make her readers believe the story is set in Edwardian England. She uses “chap” and “fellow” what felt like every second page, ensuring that we all get how incredibly posh and BRITISH the characters are. I wish she had invested more time and effort into getting across the Edwardian London/England vibes that surely would have made this book more interesting. Give me the horse-drawn carriages, the letter writing, the stiff society, women’s fashion, the balls, the etiquette!

Concerning repetition, I also thought that the word ‘cock’ appeared way too often and was used too liberally for my taste. Sure, this is a romance between two men who also make love more than once through the course of the book but still… I would have liked her to use other descriptions once in a while. That’s just a personal preference, though, and I acknowledge I’m not the right person to talk about this given my aversion to sex (scenes)*.

The messiness of the supporting characters was another significant factor in my 2-star rating. Edwin’s extended family’s only characteristic is being mean. It’s like when people say that everything wrong with Kafka is his father’s fault; everything wrong with Edwin (afraid of opening up to others, afraid to allow himself to love) is blamed on his family. Oh, it’s because his brother bullied him; oh, it’s because his mother was never really on his side because she didn’t want to get between him and his siblings; oh, it’s because his father was never present. I realise that an abusive family can cause someone to turn into a mess of a person, and it’s important to address the topic of abusive families, but it led to his family being an incredible flat set of characters that had nothing to them except for well, being bullies. They were simply “there”, like paper cut-outs with the words “mean bully” written on them. Shame, because Robin and Edwin spend a lot of time at the Courcey’s estate, which means there would have been ample opportunities to flesh out Edwin’s family.

Unfortunately, the same goes for Maud, Robin’s younger sister. Her character isn’t explored at all. There are so few interactions between her and her brother. She seems to serve only as a point of conflict between Robin’s desire to protect her (again, they share very few scenes, and their relationship didn’t strike me as a sibling-like relationship at all) and her wish to go to university, which Robin spends the entirety of the book vehemently opposing. To me, that behaviour made him very unlikeable. How am I supposed to root for him when he’s misogynistic towards his sister? He also doesn’t feel comfortable about her friends dragging Maud to women’s marches? And Robin never says why he doesn’t want her to go to uni except for something like “it’s not right”.

Sometimes, even when a book's plot and characters suck, a well-written antagonist can turn a bad book into a mediocre or even good book. This doesn’t apply to this read. The villain’s motivation was boring at best. To put it into Edwin’s own words: “Thirst for power. That’s old enough to be dull.” Yes, it is. Maybe the fantasy genre is facing the same problem the MCU is. The generic formula of the (male) villain thirsting for power is becoming more tedious by the film (or novel, in this case).

A Marvellous Light felt like I was reading bad fanfic. Not because fanfiction is bad – it isn’t – but because in most fanfics, the plot is of secondary importance & and the two main characters pining after each other and finally getting together is the main focus of the story so that everything else ends up becoming unnecessary, barely-fleshed-out filler material that is just unimportant background noise. Not that I don't enjoy those kinds of stories from time to time, but that’s why I read fanfic in the first place. When I’m holding a fantasy book in my hands, I’m expecting a little bit more. Sad to have to give this one two stars, but I don’t see why it should deserve more.

*The sex scenes occur in Chapters 15 (two extensive and long ones), Chapter 18 (first half), and the better part of Chapter 27. I don't think I've ever read a sex scene in a fantasy novel that was as long as the ones in this book. They're not "light" or "casual" sex either, so if you're a reader who prefers reading vanilla sex scenes rather than heavy smut, consider yourself warned. I'd say that these scenes clearly make this an adult fantasy read, NOT YA, please be conscious about what you consume.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,476 reviews1,893 followers
December 9, 2021
Just need to get this out of the way : I don't think this ever should've been compared to RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE. It shouldn't have been in the pitch. Prior to reading the book it made me hesitant to pick this up and post-reading the book I'm just perplexed.

That caveat aside, I did struggle with this book which made the times when I was really enjoying it a bit of a bummer because it would inevitably take a dip into a less enjoyable section or get a bit bogged down. But considering it's a series and it sounds like there's a lot of moving parts and things to reveal and overcome, a battle even maybe, I understand there's a lot to set up. Having said that, I might've liked less emphasis on the romance knowing we had more books to come and therefore more time to let the romance breathe. I did enjoy it but also.. I wouldn't have been bothered by some added yearning as opposed to resolving most (I assume..) relationship issues within the opening instalment.

What I didn't have a problem with, however, was how the plot conflict was handled near the end. I disliked a huge portion of the characters in the story, as we're meant to, and dragged my feet through a lot of the middle because of those scenes, but there was a fist pump moment with how deftly and cleverly one of the villains of the piece got their ass handed to them. It showed a lot of foresight for what these protagonists know they are to face and it was a "lose the battle to win the war" bit of craftiness that I adored and is so rarely seen in fantasy.

Another thing I adored? A certain house/cottage. While the magic system and a lot of the worldbuilding was somewhat interesting, though also at times kind of vague (maybe that's just me?), I am hoping this house and the magic around it is a clue that things aren't quite how they appear at first glance. Because I am so here for that.

I am looking forward to reading on in this series but, between the hype and the interesting choice in comp, just be wary going into this one that it doesn't oversell itself before you cash out.


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,217 reviews454 followers
March 21, 2022
3.5 Stars

My reading this year has not gone as planned. I’m not sure if my tastes have changed or I’m too distracted by other things to really focus on what used to be my top comfort entertainment, but where this book should’ve grabbed me from the start, alas, it took me about three times as long to finish.

What I will say is that this is a very very complex historical magical England, and despite such complexity and hierarchy and legend, things are still nebulous, things still need to come to fruition, and it’s apparent that there’s a lot of unanswered questions left for this planned trilogy.

Beware a snail’s pace not only in the plotting and progression but also the romance. There are some seriously ginormous assholes in this story that don’t quite get any satisfactory and deserved ass kickings. Pretty much every side character is a jerk, and the sexism is infuriatingly rampant though I suppose that goes along with the time frame this is set in.

Overall, the slow burn love story between Robin and Edwin is quite good. Surprisingly, for such a mainstream MM, it is remarkably explicit. The main characters have their personal problems and long standing issues that obviously shape their interactions and reactions, all of which I felt stymied a lot of what they go through as they race against time to solve Robin’s horrible curse as well as the central mystery why a fellow employee of the mysterious magical Assembly has gone missing. The blurb isn’t wrong. What they uncover is quite a serious and sinister thing. This ends well enough for Robin and Edwin, and it remains to be seen how they and their fellow cohorts thwart the nefarious plot set in motion over the next two books that have yet to be released/written.
Profile Image for aileen | ✾.
356 reviews223 followers
October 9, 2022
It always makes me so happy when the inside of a book matches its beautiful exterior, which was definitely the case with this one.

Edwin and Robin are both enjoyable characters once you get to know them, and even though the story could use some more action, there wasn't a single dull moment.

If you're looking for a good mlm historical romance novel with a healthy dose of magic, A Marvellous Light is the right book for you!


Taking this beauty with me on my trip to Venice tomorrow ☀️

It's only a three-hour train ride, and I probably won't have much time to read anyway because of all the sightseeing I want to do, but I could never leave the house without a book, so here we are.

Fingers crossed that this is as good as it looks!
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