Disney movies, Princess Merida came along right when my own little stubborn child with unruly hair was really getting into movies and for her to see a girl like her go on the adventure Merida did was awesome. My concern with sequels, or tie in books, or retellings is always that they might get it wrong, that, in this case, the book will dull the magic of the story and characters. However, Maggie Steifvater is an always buy for me. Meaning, I dont' care what's she's writing, I'm reading it. I've reread The Scorpio Races every year since it came out and it remains as magical as ever... so if there was ever an author who I trusted to keep the magic of Merida and DunBroch alive, it would be her. Luckily for all of us, she nailed it.
Set a few years after the events of Brave, Bravely finds Merida still in control of her own life, travelling and learning, figuring out who she will be someday. The triplets are older and they too are starting to become their own people, finding their own interests, trying to find their own place. As for Elinor, Fergus and DunBroch, well, they have become a wee bit stagnant, simply living in the moment but not moving forward, just kind of stuck.
Which is where the story begins, with Merida chasing her way into a magical bargin with two gods, Callieach and Feradach, dealing for the future of her family and her community. Given a year to change the fate of DunBroch and everything she loves we get to follow Merida on more adventures as she learns more about the people around her, about her family, and about herself.
What I truly love about this book is how Steifvater allows Merida (and the boys) to grow up. They aren't stuck as the characters we once knew, but they haven't made a giant leap into adulthood either. Merida is still a teen really, older and wiser, but still full of curiosity and possessing the same passion and fire we all loved in Brave. The boys are heading into their teen years, and each is grappling with that in their own way. While the story is firmly Merida's, the glimpses we get into the boys and their personalities and the people they might become add a richness to the entire story. In turn, through the journey we also get peaks at who Elinor and Fergus were before they settled down as the King and Queen of DunBroch. Without giving anything away, I'd love to see a story about the two of them in their younger days and how they brought the clans together, a story lightly touched on here.
Lastly, the other thing that Steifvater does is tie in the history, mythology, religion, traditions and stories of Scotland. While this is a work of fiction, Steifvater makes sure to weave in the real deal- using stories passed down from family member to family member, locations that can be found easily on the map, and even traditional foods. If you are like me, and compelled to always get even more information, you will find yourself googling the gods that Merida encounters and deals with Callieach and Feradach, and end up tumbling into hours of stories about gods and kings and the magic that is hiding right in front of us if we just choose to open our eyes (and our hearts) and look for it.
The combination of characters and setting, and the attention to the detail of Merida's world, makes Bravely feel lived in, like you just popped in to visit an old friend. It makes you want to stick with Merida and the DunBroch clan as they set out on the next chapter of their lives.
I can't wait to put this one on my shelves (I've already ordered a signed copy for a giveway to my students) and I'll make a wish in the well that this isn't the last we've seen of Merida or DunBroch.
Win I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it- a gay take off of Legally Blonde/Election? I was in 100% and Couch delivered.
What I loved most about this book is that it delivers on my all time favorite trope… lovers to enemies. You heard me right- there is nothing I love more then watching people who know each other’s weakest spots, how to hurt each other the most, just go at it. Especially, like in this case, when they turn out to be evenly matched. Sure Blaine is the underdog in the race for senior class president, and he might have gotten into it for all the wrong reasons, but as the story unfolds we see that Blaine is the kind of person that his school needs, and that he surrounds himself with people who will stick with him and help him discover who he can be.
Another thing I liked was that while our main characters are gay, it is not part of the story that we focus too heavily on… these are just kids struggling to figure out their relationships and what they want out of their senior year and who they want to be moving forward… and they just happen to be gay. Teens for decades have seen all sorts of stories around straight couples… happy romances, adventures, traumatic situations, they have been allowed to see stories that reflect all aspects of life, and unfortunately that hasn’t always been the case for everyone else. Here we have a phenomenal story- its funny, a little heartbreaking in parts, full of a lot of hope, and really just about what all high school books are about- teens just living life and at the center is Blaine, fresh off a break up and trying to decide who he wants to be in this world.
I can’t wait to put this one in the library next year.
March was a HUGE reading month for me- and honestly most were ARCs from Edelweiss and it was a feast of riches. Everything I read this month was a solid 4.5-5 stars. I loved everything about books this month- but it does make it really hard to narrow down to just the highlights. 12 books read- lets get to it.
absolutely loved everything about it. No spoilers, but I can't wait for everyone else to get their hands on this in a few weeks.
Books I Yelled at the Most (It's a Tie)
realiztic, and frustrating, and honestly perfect. Winters somehow manages to hit that sweet spot every time, where you want to scream at the characters, but you also want them to have the whole world too.
hold back. There were several points where I was very unsure whether this book was about to break my heart. Luckily, we get an ending that isn't what I would call a HEA, but is exactly what these characters need.
dynamics at play, and also two siblings struggling to find their identity and their place in the world.
sequences were really fun to listen too. I found myself catching stuff that I definitely missed when I read the book last year.
Full Wrap Up!
Don't forget to keep checking back here and on my goodreads for reviews of all the books that are coming out soon- including Blaine for the Win which comes out next week and is SO, SO Good!
Home of the ramblings of an avid reader. In my spare time I also run, ride, teach, go on adventures and get into shenanigans.
Find me here: