Stiefvater, Maggie. Bravely. Los Angeles: Disney Press, 2022.
ISBN-13: 978-1368071345 | $19.99 USD | 367 pages | YA Historical Fantasy
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.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on the final copy. All opinions are my own.
While Brave is one of the Disney/Pixar films I’m less familiar with and have watched fewer times than others (I am intrigued to do a rewatch!), Merida nonetheless stands out as a fierce heroine among her Disney Princess peers, without being too “not like other girls.” So, I was intrigued at what Maggie Stiefvater would do with this spin-off/sequel novel, Bravely. And while I had little concept for what it would be about, I ended up really liking the results.
The focus on Merida’s relationships with her family is something that has always stood out in the film, but her relationship with her mother was the dominant one. So it’s only natural for other media to step in to do more work in this world. Merida and Elinor’s bond gets more layers, but I liked seeing more of the other members of her family, as each of them are part of the quest she must undertake. I particularly liked the fleshing-out of her triplet younger brothers and giving them individual issues to navigate, as they felt like such a one-dimensional unit in the film, primarily for the sake of comic relief.
And while I’ve never read Maggie Stiefvater before (she’s one of those authors whose books I fleetingly considered, but never heard much from friends and trusted reviewers to motivate me to pick them up), but her writing is great. She conveys the sense of Scottish culture, folklore, and magic that was so unique about Brave, but on a deeper, textual level. From the world building for the various kingdoms Merida travels to, to the conveying of the magic and the gods, it’s a beautifully rendered story that gives you similar vibes to those I vaguely remember from the film.
Pacing wise, it does feel a bit uneven. The inciting incident happens fairly quickly, and Merida’s varied adventures provide excitement for the most part. It does slow down at certain points, but it ultimately feels worth it.
This book is a treat for anyone who is even a casual fan of Disney/Pixar and Brave. It’s a worthy sequel from a writer who is in tune with the canon narrative and the reasons for fans’ connection with it.
Maggie Stiefvater is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Raven Cycle, the Shiver trilogy, and other novels for young and adult readers. She is also an artist, an auto enthusiast, and a bagpiper. She lives on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband, two children, and an assortment of fainting goats.
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