A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding, 1)

Written by Freya Marske
Review by Tracey Warr

Set in Edwardian England, A Marvellous Light is a magical murder mystery. Young baronet Robin Blyth finds himself with a mystifying new job in the civil service. His predecessor, Reggie, has gone missing and, for an unknown reason, Robin has been inflicted with a hideous curse tattoo. Edwin Courcey arrives as Robin’s ‘liaison’ and promptly sets about Robin’s ‘unbusheling’, which means initiating him into the concealed presence of magic all around him. Robin discovers that it is his job to report on any ruptures in the secrecy around magic to Prime Minister Asquith.

The settings in Edwardian London and on a couple of country estates are vividly drawn. Robin is hale and hearty, but there is more ‘dark’ to Edwin. Edwin is ashamed of how feeble his own magic is compared to that of his siblings. As the two men set about solving Reggie’s disappearance and trying to remove the tattoo on Robin’s arm, they grow attracted to one another. Robin discovers that he has the gift of foresight. The brittle magical set of Edwin’s sister is finely drawn, as is the truly, scary, bad magic of Edwin’s older brother. Edwin and Robin must run the gauntlet of a murderous maze and find themselves with a second murder to solve.

The characterisation in the novel is strong, with particular psychological depth in the character of erudite Edwin. The suspense keeps the reader pressing on. The romance between Robin and Edwin is well written, and in places the novel shifts gear into tender erotica. The blending of the elements—an almost comical, upper-class tale; a romance; a sinister murderous plot—rub up against each other a little uneasily at times. Written in highly readable prose, this is a thoroughly enjoyable story. A Marvellous Light is the first in a trilogy and leaves us wanting more soon. I am certainly keen to read the next two!