Robin Blyth, a struggling English baronet, is shuffled off to run a small, forgettable bureaucratic office. Enter Edwin Courcey, a magician with mystery and murder on his heels — and he is not happy to see that the previous liaison between the mundane and magical worlds has disappeared, and that Robin is his totally uninitiated replacement.
To make matters worse, they both feel an instant attraction to one another. I sure hope that doesn’t cause any complications!
If you’ve been searching for a good alternative to a certain transphobic writer’s wizarding world, A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske ain’t a bad place to start. Set in England in the shadow of World War I, exploring the worlds of high society in both magical and “normal” circles, and teasing out an ancient mystery, this is a lovely historical fantasy with a well-done — and steamy — gay romance at its center. Plus, one of the protagonists invented the Dewey decimal system to organize his personal Beauty and the Beast-style library, so.
I am not the target audience for this book, being not terribly interested in the 1910s-1920s in England or in secret wizard societies, but A Marvellous Light was a ton of fun to read anyway. The relationship between the two main characters is the right balance of fraught and sweet, and there are plenty of thrills and twists to keep the pages turning. Marske does a great job of pulling out the thorny parts of English high society without glamorizing it, and while it isn’t the main focus, she’s aware of the social justice struggles of this era (and ours) and addresses them pretty well when they come up, in my opinion.
Overall, A Marvellous Light is a great read if you enjoy The House in the Cerulean Sea or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or Agatha Christie mysteries and want something relatively cozy that still has magic and stakes and just a dash of hurt-comfort. Although the book has a satisfying ending, readers can also look forward to sequels.
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