book reviews, reading

Book Review: “Bravely” by Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If I had known this book was coming out when it was announced in 2021 it would have been my most anticipated book! Even not knowing about it until it was released this month, I have still been long awaiting a Merida book from Disney. I’ve always felt Merida was my kindred princess. We both have a love of horses and archery (me more horses, her more archery, but still we both love both). We’re both curly girlies with a love of independence and freedom. Since they started publishing the Twisted Tales series, I’ve had to watch them come up with great stories about every dang princess and then some but never Merida. It was frustrating. And then Facebook suggested this to me for an audiobook! I was elated! I immediately ordered the hardcover and set to reading it.

Quick Summary without Spoilers: It takes place about five years after the movie Brave, so Merida is about twenty and the twins are about eight. Dun Broch has settled into its routine and comfortability. Merida has just returned from a year of traveling the kingdom. One night there’s a mysterious knock at the back door and she discovers a handsome boy in the snow. He runs from her and she chases him, wanting to know what he wanted, only to find out he’s the God of Ruin or Destruction, Feradach. A bargain is struck by another God, the God of Renewal, the Cailleach. She is seen as an old hag while Feradach wears the faces of those he has brought to ruin. These two work together to keep balance. Feradach had come to Dun Broch to ruin it because of its stagnation. No one is changing and it is the same as always. The Cailleach suggests Merida have one year to bring change about in all Dun Broch’s occupants. But there’s another ultimatum on the table. A band of what I would deem as medieval outlaws come knocking at their doors demanding they send Merida to another neighboring area to promote togetherness. They are a rough crowd so it’s surprising they suggest this. Merida decides she’s going to visit three different villages and each time she brings a new triplet and/or parent with her. That way she can work on encouraging their change while trying to decide where she would like to be fostered if it came to that. Continually, she meets Feradach along her travels and he shows her a little what he does, sometimes intentionally through magic and sometimes it’s an unfortunate event Merida witnesses. She doesn’t understand his need to destroy civilizations and hates him for it at first but as he shows her the good that comes from it and she realizes just how human he seems she starts to see him as a friend. Can Merida bring change to everyone in her family in time to save them all, or will Feradach have to destroy Dun Broch for its stagnation?

“One Princess. Two Gods. Three Voyages. Four Seasons to save Dun Broch- or see it destroyed, forever.”

Characters: The author did a great job of portraying a Merida that is now entering adulthood. She’s still the same old Merida we love with her individuality, her independence, and her ideals, but there’s something a little different about her. She has a little more responsibility and wisdom. Her parents have seemed to age a little since we left them in Brave. The lessons learned in the movie by Elinor are not forgotten. She’s not overbearing and critical anymore really, but she’s not fun and free, riding horses through the glen either. She’s just Queen Elinor that lets Merida be Merida. Fergus is not as boisterous and loud as he once was but he does still retain his sense of humor. The triplets are older now and it’s so cool how the author has brought out individual personalities in them and developed them as their own persons instead of being lumped together as “the triplets” like in the movie. They are a big part of the story too. Maudie is no longer with the castle so there’s the introduction of new castle staff. Aileen, the cook, plays a very small part. Leezie is a girl about Merida’s age who is supposed to be a housekeeping assistant but she’s terrible at her job. She’s more like a part of the family, a sister to Merida, than a part of the staff. She’s almost elven in her “up in the clouds” mindset. I really liked her. The two gods, the Cailleach and Feradach were written beautifully. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Even though Feradach is seen as a boy about Merida’s age it was refreshing to read a YA “Historic” Fantasy novel that was not overly teenagery. I was never once annoyed with the characters being bratty or whiny or petulant. If they were it fit the situation perfectly and was usually the triplets because they’re only about eight.

The Writing Style: This was my first Maggie Stiefvater book but it will not be my last, that’s for sure. She has such a beautiful way with words and her descriptions are incredibly poet without being overly flowery. It felt genuine and authentic to the time period. I was hooked by the very first line.

“This is a story about two gods and a girl. It takes place a very long time ago, when Scotland was only beginning to be called Scotland, at a castle called DunBroch.”

Immediately, I got out my Google and looked up when Scotland started to be called Scotland. 10th century, by the way. It made sense and perfectly fit and was a great way of saying it without just coming out and saying it. True to Merida, love was never the focus of the story, which is right up my alley. I hate lovey stories usually and get annoyed with characters mooning over each other. There was a touch of love at the end, but it was so small it was just right, especially for a Merida story.

Overall, I highly HIGHLY recommend this book, especially if you’re already familiar with Merida’s story and love her as much as I do. Get it, enjoy it, display it because the cover is amazingly beautiful! It’s inspired me to maybe try my own hand at illustrating my next series’ covers. I literally cannot find one bad thing to say about this book. Not one.

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