‘A Marvellous Light’ is a gay regency era romance novel that happens to be set in a fantasy world. It’s creative, well written – especially the relationships, both romantic and otherwise – and a generally fun read.
Robin Blyth has more than enough to contend with, what with his sister to care for, a household to run, and a whole mess caused by his parents excesses to sort out now he’s inherited the baroncy. The last thing he needs is an administrative mistake seeing him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society. Now, he also has to contend with an excruciating deadly curse, and worse than that Edwin Courcey, his prickly counterpart in magical bureaucracy who wishes Robin were literally anyone else. However, Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and tracking him down unveils a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles – and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
Robin is a brilliant character. He’s not always the brightest, but he’s determined, forthright, and jumps into everything with two feet even if he hasn’t sussed where he’s landing. His relationship with Edwin – a pessimist and consummate planner – is regularly hilarious with some brilliant moments. Robin would be frustrating to know in real life in many respects, but you could trust him to the end of the earth and he’s a great person to have at your back.
Edwin, on the other hand, uses a cold demeanour and sharp intellect to hide deep insecurities. He’s lived his whole life feeling inadequate, and clearly doesn’t know what to make of the warm and frank Robin. Magic and Edwin have a difficult relationship, and seeing how Robin reacts to it clearly opens Edwin’s eyes to new ways of thinking. They’re a brilliant pairing, and their slow-burn chemistry is exceptionally well-written.
Whilst there’s a strong fantasy element and an underlying mystery, this is at its heart a gay novel of manners or regency romance. Edwin and Robin’s developing relationship is given more page time and focus than any other element, and there are multiple romance tropes squeezed in. Those who don’t like sex scenes may have to skip a few chapters.
That being said, the fantasy setting is still excellent. The magic system is strongly and believably constructed, the worldbuilding simple but effective, and the subtly different culture well crafted. This is no epic fantasy, but it knows its own limitations and works within them well.
The plot is reasonably fast paced, with a good mix of predictable tropes and less predictable twists. There’s strong character growth for both Edwin and Robin, and a good exploration of both their romantic relationship and complex family relationships. The mystery, fantasy, and romance elements all complement each other without clashing, and whilst the relationships between characters are the main focus the mystery would still stand on its own.
Overall, this is an easy, fun read that will appeal to fans of fantasy romance, regency novel settings, and those looking for a readable, page-turning fantasy novel.
Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for providing an eARC – this in no way affects the content of this review
Published by Tor (Pan Macmillan)
Hardback: 9th December 2021