Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light is a charming enemies-to-lovers novel that definitely includes books. Briefly, Sir Robin Blythe is appointed as a parliamentary liaison tasked to investigate magical events and brief the prime minister. Edwin Courcey, a bookish man, is his magical contact and, perhaps, supervisor. Blythe is unaware that there is magic in England when he assumes the role, but shortly after, he is set upon in a dark alley and a magical tattoo is imprinted on his arm; he seeks out Courcey for help, and, thus, the game is afoot. They slowly determine that a cabal of evil magicians are seeking an artefact of great power…so nothing terrible groundbreaking, but Marske does a reasonable job of moving us from London to country life and back to London.
Despite the predictability, Marske had some interesting ideas and features that kept me engaged, if not taxed. One of my favorite scenes involved a hedge maze, and, while it did get over-the-top, its a hedge maze! It has to get over-the-top! The metaphysics of magic were interesting, involving creating something like a magical matrix by moving your hands in the shapes of cat’s cradles (with or without string, depending on your level of expertise). There are also wonderful descriptions of libraries and research, which I appreciated! They may go on a bit, but, in the vein of show don’t tell, Marske does a good job.
However, despite the fact that we meet Blythe because he works for a governmental agency, there is very little discussion of how the magical and non-magical interact or how the Magical Assembly works; perhaps Marske will address this in the future. The setting does allow us to meet probably my favorite character: Miss Morrissey, who is the secretary in Blythe’s office. She is from a magical family, but has no magic herself, so she is able to straddle the two worlds, and, as is often the case, is the reason the office runs as well as it does. She pops up here and there, and an important plot element involves she and her magical sister saving the day, complete with bon mots. Finally, Marske’s descriptions as Robin and Edwin start to really notice each other are brilliantly captured: I can remember how it felt as I sat in class with my crush and all of the things I noticed – hands, light streaming through hair, etc., and this is what we ‘see’ from each man’s perspective. It is really romantic! In addition to the romance, there is a lot of sex. The build up is slow, but Marske does a good job of detailing the risks of gay sex in Edwardian England, so the payoff, when they trust each other enough and, quite frankly, are too horny to stop, is well done. Magic even plays a role later.
Unfortunately, the bad guy is predictable and unidimensional. I kept thinking that he couldn’t be the bad guy because he was practically wearing a cravat with a bad guy pin. I attribute this to A Marvellous Light being the author’s first book, and I definitely will check out the next book in the series.
I give this 3 stars, but it is a really great 3 stars. I highly recommend it, for those who like delightful, romantic, often silly, books.