Review | A Marvellous Light – Freya Marske

About the Book

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)
Published on October 26, 2021
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Note: Any US spellings of “Marvelous” in here is due to my computer autocorrecting the word and me being too lazy to fix it. (At least I’m honest.)

I really loved Witchmark by CL Polk, and when I saw A Marvellous Light, which very much gave me the same vibe, I was on it. 

Set in Edwardian England, this book follows the story of Robin Blyth and Edwin Courcey. Despite having recently inherited a title, Robin is in desperate need for immediate income. Due to a clerical mishap, he ends up landing a job in the office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints, after the person (Reginald Gatling) who had previously held that position suddenly went missing. Soon, Robin meets Edwin Courcey, who was the special liaison to the Chief Minister of the Magical Assembly.

The two men start out the at odds, and there are plenty of reasons for this, which the book explores. However, Robin wants to find out what happened to his missing predecessor, Reginald Gatling, and to do this he must join forces with his magical counterpart, Edwin. Slowly, peace develops between them, and then friendship, and then something more. Fans of enemies-to-lovers tropes will probably love this. 

While the drama the book circles around is large and has potential to alter the course of history, the narrative scope is actually quite narrow and focused, switching between both Robin and Edwin. This choice has some benefits and drawbacks, and I really think it’s just going to depend on what kind of reader you are as to whether this actually works for you or not. On the one hand, this book knows exactly what it is. It’s a romance set in the midst of a life-altering mystery. The narrow scope allows the author to keep the story intimate while giving readers a doorway to walk through so they can get to know more about the world through the perspectives of the characters. On the other hand, readers who might want a book with a larger scope and a broader plot may find that there might not be enough here for them to chew on. 

The dynamic between Edwin and Robin is truly charming. Edwin is a fantastic scholar, but he has very little magic in a family where magic is extremely important. His family treats him, often, with contempt, and as a result, he has a hard time opening himself up and trusting. His emotions are buried deep, and at the start of the book I had an extremely hard time warming up to him as a result. However, once I got settled enough in his perspective, I realized that still waters do indeed run deep, and there is far more to Edwin than first meets the eye. On the other hand, Robin is far more open and carefree, easy to feel than Edwin, balancing the other’s brooding nature quite well. 

The romance is well done, though there are some graphic sex scenes in the second part of the book that readers should be aware of. The author knew when to lean into the sweet notes of their budding relationship, and when to lean into the sex. Whether or not you enjoy sex scenes is up to you, just know you’re getting them if you read this book. 

The worldbuilding is another aspect of the book that I think will be hit or miss with readers, depending on what proclivities you enter the book with. A lot is left implied, and there are things aren’t explored fully. If you’re looking for a well-developed world that you get to fully experience through the characters, you won’t really get that here. You’ll learn about the world, yes, and you’ll experience the magic, but a lot of things, like the Magical Assembly or the history of magic in England aren’t explored as deeply or as hands-on as I might have preferred. That being said, this is a story about two men thrust together due to circumstances beyond their control, more than anything else, so it is logical that the author would keep the scope narrow and leave so much of the world implied rather than explored. 

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of infodumps and the author’s ability to avoid unnecessarily complicated explanations for things. I left the book feeling like I understood exactly what I needed to understand about the world in order to truly enjoy the story, and not much more. There are doorways open, however, for the author to return to this world and add layers and texture to it as the series proceeds. As a foundational book for whatever comes next, this one is solid. 

If I was going to quibble about aspects of the book here, I would say that unfortunately, I found most of this one predictable. The plot wasn’t terribly surprising. The villains were easy to spot, and the secondary characters were two-dimensional to the point I got them confused quite often as I read. 

Despite those points, however, I truly did enjoy this book. I loved the exploration of power dynamics, and the slow revelations of both self and secrets. The world, while our own, is also strange enough to really captivate me, and I am eager to explore more. This is sure to be a raging hit for readers who enjoyed Witchmark by CL Polk, or who like their fantasy mixed with a bit of history. 

Is this a perfect book? No, but perfect is boring. 

4/5 stars