Book Title: Bravely
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: May 3rd, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Historical Fiction
My rating: 3.75/5 Stars
Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!
What if you had one year to save everything you loved?
ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.
TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.
THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?
FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER.
Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater is a continuation of Merida’s story from the movie Brave, and one that I was so, so excited for. Brave is one of my favorite Pixar movies, and I adored Merida as a protagonist, so I could not wait to see her shine in her own novel. I’ll be honest, though, I wasn’t entirely sure what this was going to be about before reading. As soon as I saw Maggie Stiefvater was writing a story about Merida, I immediately hit that request button, because what could be better than that?
This story is beautifully written in Stiefvater’s familiar verse, which suits a fairytale setting so well. There was a lot of intrigue and mystery surrounding the story, and I couldn’t help but search for answers at every turn. There’s also a lot to unpack in this book. Merida is tasked with changing all of DunBroch within a year, which is not a simple task. But the more everything changes, the more unsettled she becomes. Merida’s character was particularly interesting in this continuation. She was so focused on changing everyone and everything around her that she never really stopped to examine herself and how she could evolve and grow.
Plot wise, the beginning and the ending of Bravely were my favorite parts. They were filled with action and completely engaging, and they had me turning and turning the page to find out what happened next. By the time I got to around 75% left in the book, I could no longer put it down. The only thing I’ll say is that the middle did drag a little. This was due to the pacing, which, while I feel was spectacular in the beginning and end, was a little off in the middle. A lot did happen, but it very much felt like, “we went to this place and did this, then we went to that place and did that.” Had the middle been interspersed with a little more action and transitioned from place to place more smoothly, I think the novel would have been even stronger.
As for the characters, I loved that we got more background information and personality types for Fergus, Hamish, Hubert, and Harris. The movie really focused on Merida and Elinor’s characters and their relationship, so sometimes it felt like Fergus and the triplets were less three-dimensional because of that. I feel like the triplets especially needed more development, and Bravely gave it to them. I’m especially interested in Harris and would actually love for him to have his own continuation novel to answer some of the questions left unsaid about him. After one particular scene towards the end, I had so many questions and I still don’t feel like I have enough answers about it, so fingers crossed for that sequel!
The characters were all the same people from the movies, but they were definitely different, as well. I wish I’d gone in with a bit more separation from the novel and the movie, just because nothing will ever reach your expectations when you do that, but even so, I still really enjoyed it. If I do reread this one day (which I hope to, now that I know how to approach it), I’ll definitely try to separate the two a little more—kind of like I do with book to movie or tv adaptations.
Despite some of my issues with Bravely, I think this was an interesting and engaging story that really did read like a fairytale. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing so perfectly matched this project, and I really hope we get to see what else she can do with DunBroch in the future!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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