Review: Bravely by Maddie Stiefvater

  • Title: Bravely
  • Author: Maddie Stiefvater
  • Publisher: Disney Press
  • Release Date: 5/3/22
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: 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.

First, let me say that I loved Brave. I loved that Pixar made a movie about a princess who not only is not polished, but whose ultimate goal is something other than getting married. I love Merida for her strength, independence, and fierce loyalty to her family. However, I do feel that Brave is a pretty self-contained story that didn’t really need a sequel, and Bravely did not convince me otherwise.

I did enjoy the characterization of Merida’s three brothers in Bravely. They are very young in Brave, and they never really get differentiated from one another. It was nice to learn that Hamish is fearful and loves music and that Hubert is boisterous with a big laugh. Bravely also dives more into Queen Elinor’s history than the film. These details helped bring the family DunBroch more to life.

The stakes for Merida in Brave are high: she needs to save her mother from life as a bear and keep herself out of an unhappy marriage. Bravely ups those stakes as Merida needs to keep her home from magical destruction. The premise of Merida’s adventure to save her home reminded me a little of Anna’s journey in Frozen, which I appreciated.

Like the story it continues, Bravely features magical elements. However, the magic in Brave comes from potions and witches, while the magic in Bravely comes from gods. The will ‘o the wisps we know from Brave did make an appearance in Bravely, but not until the very end. This stark difference in the types of magic in these two stories made them feel like they occurred in different universes.

One of my favorite things about Merida is that she makes it clear that she doesn’t need a romantic relationship to feel complete. However, there is an implication at the end of Bravely that she is hoping for a romantic partner. While of course, romantic relationships can be a very fulfilling and important part of life, this felt like a step back from the strong feminist messaging of the original film.

While I wanted more from Bravely, I am hoping that Disney Press continues with this series. I would love to read more sequels to Disney films I love.

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