A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding, #1)

By Freya Marske

Rating: 4 stars

This is a queer fantasy romance set in the early 20th century. Sir Robin Blyth is dumped sideways into what an enemy thinks is a dead end civil service job, but which actually turns out to be the liaison between the PM and the magicians of Great Britain. His counterpart on the magical side is Edwin Courcey, a weak magician, but academically gifted.

It turns out that Robin got his job because his predecessor has been murdered, and the people who do it aren’t above cursing him with a pain curse to try and get (non-existent) information out of him. This brings Robin and Edwin together to solve the mystery and break Robin’s curse, at the same time as they’re drawn to each other.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The magic system is interesting, and the way that Edwin has to rely on a piece of string to perform the required hand gestures (a crutch that only children are expected to use), and the casual cruelty of the magical set at this weakness is very well drawn. Contracts are mentioned as part of the magic but not really leaned on, although I can see that this may be important in later books in the series.

In any historically set fiction involving queer characters, I always worry about them being caught and what might happen to them. Thankfully, Marske mostly steers clear of this, and there’s never a worry that someone might barge in on them when they’re kissing or during a sex scene. Being a Romance-with-a-capital-R book, there was the inevitable angry break-up about 2/3 the way through, which I don’t entirely feel was emotionally resolved. It was more a case of the love interest being in danger and needing rescued and then them deciding that Love Conquers All, but without really talking through the issues that had caused Robin to, understandably, storm out.

But I’m definitely invested in the world and will be reading the next in the series, although I understand that’s got a different (albeit related) set of characters.

Book details

Publisher: Tor

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