BOY DID I LOVE THIS BOOK.
That’s right, I five starred this book and it feels totally right (especially after writing my Ready Player One review and realizing that I had already written about 600 words and had even more things to complain about). Many many thanks go to Evin, whom I should have listened to at the outset. She recommended this book to me back in February, during a confusing week when I needed some distraction. I…disregarded her suggestion, as this was an unfinished series (at the time, I thought it was a trilogy) and I have been burned before by unfinished series, or unfinished works in general (such is the risk of being a fanfic enthusiast).
I was so, so wrong.
When this finally came off of hold at the library, I still dragged my feet a bit but once I did start it, only the immediate pressing demands of real life (and…a strong desire to not see this book end…?) that made it last as long as it did.
Whoever is in charge of marketing this book needs to be fired, or at least made to see the light (ha). This book is not Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel unless by that you mean it is Gay and about Olde English Magic. To be clear, this is what this book is about, and I am 100% certain that the blurb writer had in their first draft “[Gay Book] meets [Magic Book] in the debut book of [Author–check name spelling].”
Here is what this book could actually be blurbed as: a queer version of Magic & Malice by Patricia C. Wrede of sassy Cimorene and the dragons fame (Enchanted Forest Chronicles! my heart). Or, just like “read this book you will not regret it.”
This is also another entry in my new favorite genre of gay romances, himbo + librarian (where the second does not need to actually be a librarian). Robin is everything good in a himbo–confident, willing to give anything the ol’ Eton try, unflappable. Edwin is everything good in a librarian–harried, suspicious, and just waiting for someone like Robin to come his way.
Edwin is the magician of the story (of course) but not a very good one. I knew I loved this book from a scene very early on, when Edwin is showing Robin some magic to explain to him that magic is real and he needs to get with the program. Edwin has to use string, sort of like a cat’s cradle string, to keep him fingers in shape and give his magic enough time to ‘grow,’ because he lacks enough power to do magic without it. Robin doesn’t know any of this, and so finds the trick outstanding. Edwin remarks to himself that he’s greedy for Robin’s wonder (I’m paraphrasing here), that it’s been so long since anyone has found his magic impressive and he just wants it for a little while longer…
The book is full of these sorts of soft, lovely sentiments, wrapped up in an magic schema with just enough detail to set the stage and a mystery that keeps you engaged. The second book is coming out in November (like it has a title and cover and I have it on hold) and to my horror it is the second and final book in this series, this is a duology, and the second book might even mostly be about Maud, Robin’s delightful sister who is, however, not Robin and Edwin. I will be bereft.
Edited to add though: is this actually a trilogy? my friend swore it was a duology, but now I am CONFUSED.