Maggie Stiefvater whisks readers away to long ago Scotland in Bravely, a novel continuation of the Pixar movie Brave. As a longtime fan of Brave, I was both ecstatic and apprehensive about a novel continuation. The same conundrums that put fear in the hearts of readers as their favorite books are adapted into films persists when beloved films are continued in book form. But I had nothing to fear– Bravely perfectly encapsulates the characters, setting, and heart of Brave while providing a gorgeous and thought provoking new storyline.
There are two kinds of people: those that seek out magic, and those that magic seeks out. Merida has always believed herself to be the latter. But when a late night knock draws her into the night, she stumbles into a life changing bargain, and a bit of magic.
One princess. Two gods. Three voyages. Four seasons.
Merida finds herself face to face, or rather face to ankle, with the god of ruin. Witty banter, classic Merida arguing, and one goddess of renewal later, Merida strikes a bargain to save DunBroch: she’ll change the castle, and everyone in it, during the next year to avoid ruin. Within twenty-four hours, she finds herself striking another bargain with a potentially dangerous clan that could, maybe, possibly help her with the changes she has in store. Or, it could invite ruin in faster.
Stiefvater’s gorgeous writing and expert storytelling set the stage for this epic YA novel that is incredibly engrossing. The philosophical concepts of death and renewal, change, and the bittersweet quality of growing up are all thought provoking individually, but packaged together create a beautiful tapestry of a story that stays with the reader long after the final page is turned.
Though every aspect of this book is wonderful, the character development is a large part of what makes it so un-put-down-able. As Merida tries to encourage change within each of her family members, readers have the opportunity to know those characters more deeply than the original film inspiration material provided. The humor and heart that lace the dialogue between Merida and Fergus, her father, is especially endearing. Merida’s interactions with her family are delightful, perfectly capturing sibling relationships and how they change over time. The difficult transition from childhood to adulthood, and teaching your parents to see you as an adult, was so well done. Merida’s love for her family shines through each interaction she has with them, even when she’s frustrated beyond measure. This makes every moment spent with Merida engaging.
Stiefvater weaves magical realism into the plot so beautifully that every moment feels organic, whether Merida is riding her horse and practicing archery or conversing with a god. Considering every word in a novel is a deliberate choice with the author guiding the reader specifically, any moment in a novel that feels organic shows the mastery of the writer. Bravely would be an ideal text to examine in a class for how to incorporate just the right amount of magical realism.
Every moment of this novel was a treat to read. I can’t recommend it enough. It will be staying with me, and I need everyone to go read it immediately so I have someone to discuss it with.
Bravely would be a next great read for fans of V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
Bravely will be available May 3, 2022. Thank you to author Maggie Stiefvater, NetGalley, and Disney Publishing Worldwide for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.