A Marvellous Light is one of those books which seems like an absolute box ticker for me. Historical setting, tick. A hint of the magical, tick. Murder and mystery, double tick.
And it comes with a seal of approval from the queen of literary fantasy Alix E. Harrow.
This is the story of Robin Blyth – a man who thinks he has bagged himself a humdrum government job, but finds himself hunted by a form of magic he didn’t know existed. Robin must work with Edwin Courcey – cold, prickly, and battling with his own relationship with his magic. Together the pair look to cure Robin of his magical affliction, but end up stumbling upon a plot which threatens the foundations of this secret magical world.
A comedy of manners, a fantasy, a queer love story and a magic infused murder mystery. Somehow Freya Marske manages to weave together genres with ease, resulting in a book which is impossible to put down and which lingers long after you’ve finished reading.
All this being said it did lack some depth; this could be a result of it being book one in a trilogy, it could equally be my own personal, greedy need for more of the magical world it conjures.
Part of the joy of this novel is to be found in the very specific way in which magic is conjured. Those who are less powerful use a cat’s cradle (remember those from school?) to build their spells, while those with more power are just able to use their fingers without the aid of string. This got me thinking about the other magical systems which authors have created within their fantastical worlds.
The Night Circus and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, like A Marvellous Light, have historical settings. Magic is hidden within society until two warring magicians bring it to public consciousness. You can read more about the reasons I adore The Night Circus here.
I couldn’t talk magic without discussing Caraval, another circus based magical tome. This time magic is very much contained with a travelling circus (of sorts). Technicoloured and fabulous, it is pure escapism.
The Once and Future Witches sees suffragists and witches come together to create a world in which the fight for women’s rights is aided by illusion and magical trickery. Wildly creative (what else would you expect from Alix Harrow) and utterly mesmerizing.
Books about magic will never fail to fascinate me.
Just yesterday I finished reading The Nature of Witches which featured a totally unique (or at least it seemed to me) system of magic. The witches of this YA novel all belong to a particular season, and all of their magic stems from that equinox. In turn the season influences the personality and power of their magic. In this novel witches maintain the climate and keep shaders (those without magic) safe, a job which has become increasingly challenging in recent years.
Not only did I enjoy this fresh take on magic, which felt tied to more traditional understandings of the term, but I liked the environmental message which was woven throughout.
What are your favourite magical reads? And have you read any of these?