A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding #1) by Freya Marske
Published 26th October by Tor UK
RRP AUD $32.99
Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.
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.
I was so excited for this! I’d found the Goodreads page right after finishing another historical fiction book (A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, in case you were curious hehe), and I was so excited for another one! I usually don’t read historical fiction as much as I’d like to, but I was keen for this! It sounded so interesting – LGBTQ+ relationship, curses and magic, Edwardian London – sign me UP!
Unfortunately though, I didn’t quite love it as much as I thought I would ☹. A lot of my issues were because I honestly couldn’t get into the book for the longest time – I’d pick it up, read a bit of it and then just put it back down because I had no clue what was going on and my brain wasn’t processing it, so it might’ve just been a case of me picking it up at the wrong time? Even writing this review took…. A while eek. I kept getting confused between Robert/Robin and Reginald and in my tired state I couldn’t understand that ‘Robin’ was actually Robert, but that was definitely a ‘me’ problem HAHA.
The plot and pacing seemed quite a bit off – it took me SO long to get into this book, and I was so close to DNF’ing it, because it just didn’t click with me. I knew that it normally takes a bit longer for me to get used to historical fictions, and adult fantasy worlds, but when combining the two, things got confusing very quickly. There were many people being introduced, and different hierarchies and a whole magic system to learn about, as well as learning about the workplace etc. I pushed through though, and things did pick up so that was good!
One thing I do have to note, is there weren’t many women in this book, and the ones that did have most of the ‘screentime’ were treated horribly, and were shown to be vapid or horrible in nature. The ones that were neither vapid nor horrible, were barely seen and seemed to only be there to pick up the pieces and clean up the messes – so eh. BUT!! The main characters were SO cute! I really liked the contrast between Edwin and Robin’s personalities, and I thought they complimented each other really nicely. The romance was so sweet, and I really enjoyed getting to peek through each of their PoVs to see what each thought of each other. There was a lot of tension and chemistry between the two, and I thought that aspect was done really well. There’s a few bits and pieces of smut throughout the book, but honestly? I didn’t enjoy them as much as I know others would.
I think, overall, this was a good debut, and I definitely commend Freya for it! I’m not too sure if I’ll continue the series yet – the story was there, but I’m not a huge fan of the execution in this one. I was too confused for the first half, and I was about to DNF it, but decided to push through, and it did get better. I can definitely see a lot of people enjoying it, but it just wasn’t for me unfortunately!
I received a review copy from the publisher, this does not change nor affect my opinion in anyway.
About the Author
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.