Cover Image: A Marvellous Light

A Marvellous Light

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Member Reviews

What is it about watching two characters who are into each other but won’t reveal their feelings that draws us in? When I discover that this trope is surrounded by unique characters, an intricate conspiracy, and an original magic system—as in A Marvellous Light, by Freya Marske—well, that’s just catnip to me. I inhaled this book on a cool weekend day with a pair of cats and a pot of tea (and probably a dumb, happy grin on my face). This book was a joy to read.

After a very intriguing prologue, A Marvellous Light opens with Sir Robert Blyth (he prefers Robin) visiting his new office for the first time. He has no idea what his new job is or who he reports to. All he knows is that his predecessor has disappeared and that he only got the post because someone higher up on the food chain hates him. Then a very curt upper-class man, Edwin Courcey, walks into that very office and reveals that magic exists. The post, Robin is informed, is liaison between the Prime Minister and a magical ministry that regulates the sorcerous part of the country. No moss has a chance to grow on Robin before he finds himself in the middle of the sinister mystery that (we later learn) took the life of the missing man who used to have Robin’s job. At the end of his very first day in the position, Robin is slapped with a painful curse that no one in Edwin’s magical world has ever seen.

The plot whisks us off to the country (where we meet dangerous holiday entertainment and a murderous hedge maze) as Edwin tries to figure out how to remove the curse, Robin tries to find his feet in the magical world, and both of them try to figure out what the hell is going on. Best of all, we get to watch while Edwin and Robin strike sparks. Edwardian England (magical or not) is not friendly to gay men, so both of them are used to interpreting glances and touches. My heart warmed as I saw Robin work his way past Edwin’s prickles to find a sensitive, loyal lover. For Edwin’s part, he finds a partner who stops him from constantly running himself down and pushes him to innovate even more in magic.

I am so looking forward to the next books in the series.
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Anything that is compared to Red, White and Royal Blue is always going to be a hit with me and this wonderful story, despite taking a few chapters for me to be fully invested, was just wonderful!
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Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an advanced copy of this to review! I don’t dabble in adult fantasy too much, but LGBTQ fantasy is right up my alley. Pitched as Red, White, & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which sounds like something we all need in our lives!

For me, the beginning had a bit of a rough start, as it took a couple of chapters to really get into the world and the characters. I would say with Robin's curse, the story really picks up and is difficult to put down! Marske has paced the book just right to pull you in, filling in any lulls in the plot with excellent moments between Robin and Edwin.

This isn’t quite an enemies to lovers romance; I would more classify it as acquaintances/co-workers to lovers. Edwin and Robin have a lot of chemistry, which is clear from the beginning. Being set in the early 1900s means they have to be a bit more discreet, but I think that makes the romance even more exciting. Be warned, there are definitely some steamy scenes in here, firmly planting this into adult fantasy.

Of course, we get a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, but I don’t care because I want to read more about Edwin and Robin. They are just such great characters. Plus, I’m happy to say some of the side characters are fleshed out as well. All of the elements work well together here to create an engaging fantasy that you won’t want to put down.
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“He had no idea what he ached for, no real sense of the shape of his ideal future. He only knew that if every day he made himself a little bit better—if he worked harder, if he learned more, more than anyone else—he might find it.”
A Marvelous Light is a book about a man, who has constantly been told that he is lacking, who meets another man, who has always been treated as a tool. These two men come together against their will, united by a curse, and end up finding the answers they’ve been unknowingly searching for.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with its magic system, its characters, and its remarkably amusing turns of phrase. “Swan-induced drowning” is not something I ever thought I would laugh at, and now I can say that I have. The mystery at the heart of this book was not unsolvable, a trait in many mysteries that I dislike, but it was just mysterious enough to make me guess. The overall theme of courage and strength that this book conveys was well-done and well-felt.
I also (as a librarian) very much appreciated the nod to library cataloging, as well as to the Dewey Decimal System. Nothing would be more fun than coming up with one’s own catalog, and I loved the way one of the main characters conveyed his love of books.
Also, perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention, but I really wasn’t expecting the smut in this book? Fully in support of it, I love a good historical fiction/fantasy/smutty gay romance, and if anything it made me more eager to read this book. 
All of it was very well done, and, as I assume it is the first book of a series, I cannot wait for the next book.
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Civil servant and Baronette Robin Blyth has been suddenly slotted into a position he didn’t know existed, vacated by a person who's been missing for a fortnight. Everyone thinks he knows more than he does--including his compelling liaison Edwin Courcey and the thugs who probably did away with his predecessor--but until meeting Edwin he didn’t know that magic existed. Now he’s been dropped in the deep end involved in a dangerous magical mystery and Edwin may be his only way out of it alive. Edwardian England, Suspense, and Romance!  For fans of CL Polk, Natasha Pulley, or KJ Charles.
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Minor bureaucrat Robin Blyth just learned magic exists - and then he's threatened and cursed in Marske's romantic historical fantasy. He and Edwin Courcey, his magical liaison, prickly scholar and slow to trust, seek to remove the curse and discover Robin's mysterious assailants are part of a much larger plot ruthlessly searching for mythical artifacts that could re-set the magic of this Edwardian England. While gradually falling in love, as one does. An excellent introduction to this world. Sweet and steamy romance, understandable trust issues, fantastic supporting characters, intriguing magic, thoughtful writing, Sutton Cottage. Very much anticipating the next part of the story!
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Wow wow wow. This was a REALLY good debut. I love the magical world Marske has created, and I am interested enough in the overarching mystery to keep going with the trilogy (it's gonna be a long wait lol). I personally DELIGHT in the romance in this book, and it's explicitly romance enough that I think this could actually be shelved in romance. (If Amanda Bouchon is romance, so is this, is my feeling.) I think there are some people for whom the um, explicit sexual content will be too much, so be aware if you're giving it to patrons.

(Oh, I knocked it down a star because it was a weeee bit slow in the middle of the book. Rather a lot of faffing about with Belinda's friends.)

Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the digital arc.
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I enjoyed this book as much as I thought I would - on top of the gorgeous cover, the premise of the novel is fascinating - a historical fiction-fantasy intertwined with mystery and queer romance. I was absolutely intrigued by the magic (I mean, I am a huge fan of fantasy) - and the author does a great job at describing the setting (without over-doing it), to the point that I could vividly imagine anything, which was delightful. I think this book is a shoo-in for fans of folks like KJ Charles, Jordan L. Hawk, and others of the like. 

Although I hadn't realized when picking it up that it would be the start of a series, it becomes apparent partway through the novel, when it suddenly hits you that the slightly slower pace is intentional; as a way to introduce you to the world, the characters, the story that will underline the series as a whole. 

I think that was the part I had the most difficult time with (the pacing) - although I also want to preface that by saying that I started and read this book in my first few weeks of grad school, so I didn't give it nearly as much time as I wanted to, and it may have felt slower because of that. Regardless, even though I found the pacing to be slow, the story was interesting enough to keep me curious and into it. There were a lot of technical aspects, as well, which were necessary to have the reader understand the book's world and specifically, its magical mechanisms.

Overall, a great novel. I'm really excited to recommend it to others when it hits the shelves!
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Enchanting and utterly immersive! 

I can’t believe this is a debut novel — I’m simultaneously impressed and bereft that there’s no backlist to immediately dive into. I am eagerly anticipating the rest of the series and whatever else Freya Marske throws our way — I’m cheerfully and impatiently awaiting the next adventure. I can only hope we get the sequel soon and that we get to see more of Edwin and Robin, both of whom charmed me completely. 

A Marvellous Light is sure to be a hit with fans of KJ Charles, Emily Tesh, or C. L. Polk.
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This is a book to be savored. There's so much here--an inventive system of magic, a murder mystery, a slow-burn reluctant allies to lovers romance--that it was far more satisfying to read it in small increments than to barrel through it. I was initially wary of another magical series, but in fact this was such a well-constructed, self-contained story that I feel entirely satisfied while still looking forward to the sequel. I can hardly believe this is a first novel! It's a tremendous debut and I can't wait to read more.
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A MARVELLOUS LIGHT by Freya Marske has been getting so much buzz that I was desperate to read it. When TorDotCom gave me an ARC, I squealed and immediately dove in, thrilled with the opportunity to read it early.

This is a glorious gaslamp fantasy, queer historical romance. On the first day of what Robin Blyth thinks will be a boring, civil service job, he’s kidnapped, cursed, and thrust into a dangerous plot involving a secret world of magic and the families who practice it. He needs to find The Contract, something his predecessor died to protect but has no idea what or where to start looking.

Edwin’s a member of a magic-wielding family but always on the outskirts because his talent is small. Books and libraries are his safe spaces. And yet he finds himself drawn into helping Robin.

This is an Edwardian romance crossed with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Opposites attract, very sunshine and grump romance with a couple of incredibly spicy scenes. Plus you get all of the magic theory you could want, curse tattoos, ancient contracts, magical libraries, secret rooms hidden with spells, a killer hedge maze, and some intense intrigue.

The world-building is detailed and satisfying. The characters are complex and engaging. We get to see women like Robin’s sister Maud struggling against the boundaries that society’s placed on them. We see how even more difficult that struggle is when you’re a woman of color like Robin’s assistant, Adelaide. 

For fans of Mary Robinette Kowal, Marie Brennan, and Jo Walton.
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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 a book from two and a half years ago. 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. Three seconds of research would turn up dozens more. 

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. 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 minimal personality. 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 but not spectacular romance novel.
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Cool story, good characters, quirky magical universe - this all sounds great, but. Only parts of it read well for me. I'm willing to believe it just wasn't completely my cup of tea.
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A magical Edwardian adventure that I cannot *wait* to recommend to everyone in my bookshop! 

I've been a huge fan of the author for years and I'm delighted to say her first professionally published novel is just as enjoyable as I'd hoped, with an engaging mystery, a fascinating magic system, and relatable leads you can't help but want to find love and happiness with each other. Marske writes queer romance with an aching tenderness that leaves you captivated and longing for more (just like the characters!), and never feels anachronistic or out of place in the beautifully realised historical setting. I loved it!
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Sir Robin Blyth is not thrilled about his new job as liaison between the British government and a secret magic society. Firstly, because he was named to the job as punishment for his late parents’ actions. Secondly, because the representative from the magical side, Edwin Courcy, seems to despise him. And thirdly, because he didn’t even know magic existed until his first day on the job. Before he knows it, he’s embroiled in a magical power struggle against a shadowy enemy who has placed a dangerous curse on him, with no one but Edwin to turn to for help. 

The last couple of books I read were pretty heavy, so I was looking for something a little lighter to read, and the promise of historical romance + magic + mystery seemed to fit the bill. I’ll just take a moment to note that while it has an entertaining plot and magic system, this book is heavy on the romance, with quite a bit of smut involved. (If the porn-y type of romance novels are not your thing, you might not enjoy this book, although it’s easy enough to skip these scenes if you want.) Edwin and Robin are an adorable couple, and I loved the way the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers dynamic played out between them. But beyond their cuteness, they are well suited to one another, with their talents, abilities and personalities complementing each other well. 

The magic system is very interesting and well thought out. Also, it’s interesting to see a magic-practitioner protagonist who’s at the lowest end of the power spectrum. Edwin was born with very little power, and his expertise in the technical side of magic is hard-earned through study. It’s far more common in fantasy for a magical protagonist to be some kind of prodigy, and I like that this book subverts that trope.  

Representation: Two gay men are the protagonists and the focus of the romance, and one of the main side characters is a highly capable woman of color. (I liked Adelaide Morrissey quite a bit and I hope she has a bigger part in the next book!) 

CW: Graphic sex, and a background environment of homophobia accurate to the time period. Also, one scene involving torture in the first chapter.
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I remember when I read Red, White and Royal Blue for the first time and I felt so incandescently joyful while reading it. I felt that same level of joy read A Marvellous Light. 

It's set in an Edwardian England where some people have magic and some people do not and those that do keep their magic a secret. Through a clerical error Robin is thrown head first into the world of the magic users. There's murder, subterfuge, magically murderous hedge mazes, and a truly delicious romance between non-magical Robin and magical Edwin. 

This is a favorite of the year for me and I'm so blown away by this debut and cannot wait for more from this author and this series!
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This was a lot of fun! It seems to be marketed as an historical fantasy with romance elements, but it read like an Edwardian romance novel with touches of fantasy. Marske relies on classic romance tropes (and rather explicit sex scenes) as much as any fantasy elements. Knowing this will help guide readers to know how much they will enjoy the book. But the romance was great, the characters were fully formed, the central mystery was compelling, and the fantasy world-building was a lot of fun. It ends in a satisfying place but points toward a more fleshed-out world and story for future volumes. Overall, I highly recommend it for adventurous fantasy and/or romance readers, and I can’t wait to see where she takes the story!
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First book in a fascinating new romantic historical fantasy series set in Edwardian England (Downton Abbey times)! Perfect for fans of KJ Charles, CJ Polk, and adult readers of Mackenzi Lee. There's room for discussion about whether this is a fantasy with a strong romance subplot or a romance in a beautifully realized historical fantasy setting, but in truth it's a perfect blend — satisfying amounts of fascinating magic, gorgeous historical detail, and steamy romance. And when all of those elements come together in one scene — oof. *fans oneself with William Morris wallpaper sampler*

As his name suggests, Robin Blyth is a relatively carefree charmer who has suddenly had a world of care dropped in his lap: his glitterati parents have died and left him with the responsibilities of a title, estate, and younger sister; and through mild malice and administrative error, his new civil service position has thrown him into working with an element of society he didn't know existed — one with actual magic.

Bookish Edwin Courcey was born into magic, but not born with enough of it to matter. He has learned not to react to the pain of this position, but he can certainly indulge in annoyance. To add inconvenience to this life of insult and injury, his new liaison in nonmagical society is apparently a know-nothing mistake. But what happened to the previous liaison and if Sir Blyth is a know-nothing then why did someone bother to threaten his life with an excruciating and lethal curse?

Something is afoot and our ill-matched pair of civil servants from opposite sides of the magical divide will have to work together to figure it out.  

With beautiful writing and character development and clever worldbuilding, this tropetastic adventure (see below) still feels fresh and intriguing. The system of magic is based on the familiar (cat's cradle string game) and the fae (magic entered world as a contract with the departing Fae), and the peril is high stakes on both a personal and society level. I've heard that subsequent books in the series will follow different main characters while we sort out this magical mystery mess, which is fine (there are some great characters set up for further development) but I'd also be along for the ride if it continued to keep Robin and Edwin at the center. They are opposites-attract GOLD. 

Here's some of the superb historical/fantasy/romance catnip!  
Historical-fiction tropes: House party shenanigans! Upper-class bullies! City life/country life! Era of suffragettes! Impoverished title inheritance! Overlooked, marginalized members of society have strength/perspectives/pivotal roles! 
World-of-magic tropes: A deadly hedge maze! A sentient magic-imbued house! A curse tattoo! Magic world bureaucracy! A magic-enhanced two-story library! Faceless adversaries! Blood oaths! Magic house party games! Hidden objects of power!
World-of-romance tropes: Forbidden love! Opposites attract! Athlete/scholar grumpy/sunshine pairing! Waist coats and forearms! Hurt/comfort! Secret yearning! Men loving men! Workplace meet cute! Sensory enhanced foreplay!

Topics and themes explored: power, love, consent, magic, haves and have nots, social responsibility, inheritance, contracts, curses, conspiracies, civil servants, mystery, quest, introversion/extraversion  

Content notes and warnings: death, fantasy violence/torture for information, knife threat, mind control/nonconsensual behavior-changing magic, blood magic/blood oaths (briefly described), near-drowning, explicit sex scenes, family bullying and abuse, Edwardian era sexism and bigotry
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This is an amazing M/M romance set against the backdrop of an Edwardian London imbued with magic. Fun, light, and intriguing, "A Marvellous Light" is sure to be a favorite of fantasy and romance fans alike.
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I read this novel like an inhale. It was so beautifully written and the romance was so captivating. Himbo librarian soft boyfriends is the most unexpected yet sweetest dynamic even and I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time I was reading. I really enjoyed the slow pacing which allowed the romance to bloom in extremely enjoyable detail. Loved it!
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