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Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: Bravely

Princess Merida behind the word Bravely.

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st April 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: 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.

~*~

It’s been several years since Merida set out to change her fate – so she could control her own marriage plans. Now, two gods have come to tell her she has to change DunBroch if she is to preserve what her family has – and ensure peace amongst the surrounding kingdoms. Over the course of a year, Merida sets out on three journeys with various members of her family each time in an attempt to find out who and what needs to change, and what this will mean for the future of DunBroch. But has Merida’s own can become so stagnant over time that change might come too late? And who of the DunBroch clan needs to change the most?

In the spirit of the original movie, fates, magic, and gods – and the idea of change of some kind – physical, internal, emotional and so forth – play a large part in this young adult novel based on the Disney-Pixar character, Merida, from Brave. In this story, she is older, and yet, something within her is still restless. When Feradach and the Cailleach challenge her to make a deal, she goes along with it – in much the same way she has to in the original movie to save her family and her fate – to find out what is behind it all and where she is meant to be in her life, leading Merida to finding out things she never thought possible, and coming to new understandings about her family, her kingdom, herself, and those around her. In particular, her mother, Elinor. What follows is another story of self-discovery, not just for Merida, but the whole of DunBroch.

The story of self-discovery is a large, recurring theme in young adult novels, and through my reading, I have seen it tackled in a variety of ways. Each novel seems to make an effort to do it differently – and sometimes, the self-discovery and change happens as a result of the main plot. However, I found that in Bravely, Merida sought out the change through her journeys, and in a way, had to work out what the changes she sought for her or those around her were for herself. Or she worked it out towards the end – the combination of this made for a powerful novel and development of one of Disney’s best princesses in recent times. I enjoyed reading more about Merida and her family, and finding out more about them, and where they came from. It continued the story effectively whilst allowing the characters to grow and evolve as they might in a sequel, where we might learn more about the past of some of the older characters and what led them to DunBroch. I loved that the growth from the movie was still there, whilst still allowing for everyone to feel what they needed to feel at the right time, and to have conflict with each other as well, as this, I felt, led to the change that Merida had to find for her family. And it helped her on her quest.

It is one of those books that is aimed at young adult audiences, yet older fans of Brave will also enjoy it. It is one of those books that can cross audience and readership lines. I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about Merida’s world, and being drawn into a world of medieval Scotland and Scottish mythology. It opened up new avenues for the characters, but retained the female power at the centre of the original story, and celebrated female connection, strength, and friendship over romance, which is something I think all books need – they need to show that romance is not the answer to every plot (romance novels aside of course), but that there is also more to life than finding the person to settle down with, as Merida’s story has done. It is about finding yourself just as much as anything, and that is why Bravely is such a good novel for readers of young adult fiction.

Thanks to Scholastic Australia for sending me a copy!

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