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Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater: A Review

Off all the Official Disney Princesses, Merida is the one I flip flop the most about in terms of how much I enjoy the character. Usually, I can say that I’ll either be neutral about some (ex. Snow White, and Cinderella), I have some I dislike (ex. Aurora), and a number that I enjoy (ex. Mulan, Jasmine, Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, and Tiana). However, with Merida, she’ll hit one of those three depending on the day.

I like Brave as a movie and it was nice to see a princess in a similar vein to Mulan in terms of skills and marriage not being an essential part of their story. (Side note: Yes, Mulan 2 exists, but the first Mulan movie didn’t have a romantic subplot for her and I didn’t think a second movie was needed. However, we did get a sequel that was flawed, but confirmed the ambiguity of Shang and Mulan’s relationship at the end of the first). Brave also had some really good music. I also found her appearance in the series Once Upon a Time neat, if underused/underdeveloped. What I disliked was elements of the character and the conflict between her and her mother. On the one hand, I get why she would be frustrated, but on the other, it feels off and/or whiney at times in execution. And while I do like the idea of a mother and daughter learning to understand and respect their differences, it was kind of Merida’s fault that her mom turned into a bear. Not intentionally, and I can see how this can be a critique for some. That said, I can excuse it to a degree since it isn’t a bad concept on paper. It’s just the execution that I guess that I have issue with.

That said, most days I am just neutral about the character, though if you asked, I’m not sure where I would put her when ranking the Official Disney Princesses. If you like her, that’s cool, if not, that is also fine.

Anyways, much like a handful of other books I’ve been drawn to, Braverly by Maggie Stiefvater was one I found through my local library. The cover was eye catching and the blurb was what made me want to give it a try. I’ll admit, while I have seen Maggie Stiefvater’s book in passing, I wouldn’t say that they caught my attention. I think with this being an expansion on Brave, which I thought was neat, and the fact I enjoying the Twisted Tales series was a factor in what drew me to this.

As always: Mild Spoilers Ahead. I do try to avoid spoiling as much as possible, but this is a warning for any plot point that may come up in the review.

Synopsis

When an unexpected being of chaos enters the DunBroch home, Merida is given a year to make a change or else her kingdom and family will fall. With the help from the Cailleach, her family, and her friend Lessie, Merida must voyage to the other Kingdoms to make a change, as well as working with her family for this change. It’s a race against time and it’s up to Merida to find a way to protect her loved ones and stop the oncoming destruction.

Positives

The concept itself was a really neat one and I liked how it continued on after Brave. It gave Merida and her family some development that the movie didn’t get to touch on. It was also interesting to see how the triplets have grown since Brave and have developed differing personalities. Each one, though still having some similar appearances on account of being triplets, has their own individuality.

I also enjoyed how this story explored and expanded on the Celtic folklore aspect of Brave through the Cailleach and Feradach. The will-o-wisps from Brave are a part of Scottish folklore (variations of them may appear in Irish folklore as well). Cailleach is a figure who appears in Gaelic/Celtic (ie. Irish, Scottish, etc.) lore who appears as an old lady or hag and is considered and ancestral figure who is associated with weather and winter. While Feradach plays a role of a deity of chaos. I think these add to the world as well as expand on some of Scotland’s lore.

The story itself, if a little basic, is good. It feels like a natural follow up to Brave.

Critiques

Though the characters have kept their evolution from Brave, I do feel like some of the characters could have used a little more development. Some characters felt a little bit more developed than others. And sometimes, it felt like scenes and interactions treaded on a similar issue form the movie.

Out of all the characters, Lessie is the one I feel could have used a bit more development. I would have liked to get a little more background and development on her. She, much like Cailleach and Feradach, was a character introduced in this book and wasn’t in Brave. But unlike the other two characters, I do feel like she could have gotten a little more development. For instance, her marriage. We are given very little about her marriage and husband to be. Readers know she planned to get married, but ultimately called it off. From there, she’s helping out as much as possible with Merida and her quest.

I wasn’t really that thrilled with some of the banter between Merida and her mother. Specifically in one scene that kind of references the movie.

Conclusion

Over all I would give this book an eight out of ten. I loved the atmosphere and incorporation of Scottish lore and it was a nice way to continue Merida’s story after Brave. I do feel that certain scenes were a bit different and some characters got more development, however. If you are looking for a continuation of Brave or want a neat YA fantasy read, I would recommend it.