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Bravely book


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Book Review

It’s years after Princess Merida ventured on her magical quest in Brave—dealing with witches, spells and one very familiar bear. Since that time, Merida has grown up, and she’s recently learned some terrible news: Feradach, the god of ruin, has chosen to destroy her whole DunBroch clan, including her mother, father, brothers and herself! Fortunately, she’s got a year to prevent it; but it’ll take a bit of bravery and change in order to do that.

Plot Summary

It’s been years since any major magical happenings have occurred to Princess Merida and her DunBroch clan—at least, nothing near the scale of her mother turning into a bear and nearly mauling them all to death.

Since then, King Fergus and the family have fallen into a sort of a rut: things are put off, left unaddressed and collect dust. Their castle has since become a serious fixer-upper (one that they’ll get to…eventually), and its inhabitants have grown stagnant in their own ways, as well.

In fact, they’ve all fallen in such a rut that the family has attracted the ruinous gaze of Feradach, a god who smells the rot of the castle. The god’s task? To destroy that rot so that new life may grow in its place—even if that means killing those in the place. It’s not personal; it’s just Feradach’s impartial job to restore balance to the world.

Fortunately for Merida, not all is lost: another god, Cailleach (who deals in creation rather than destruction), has a fondness for the DunBroch family. Rather than let Feradach do his job, Cailleach allows Merida to bargain for time: time to shake each and every one of her family members out of their stagnation. If Merida succeeds, DunBroch will be left untouched. If she fails, well, DunBroch will need to expand its graveyard.

With only a year to change her stubborn family, will Merida be able to save them—and will she even like what they change into?

Christian Beliefs

Leezie, the DunBroch’s adopted servant-turned-daughter, is said to have tried all religions, including Christianity.

Other Belief Systems

The crux of the story is based around a bargain made by Merida with two gods—Cailleach and Feradach. The former is, according to Gaelic myth, a divine hag. These gods determine which humans will die and which will survive.

Leezie samples many religions, including Christianity, Judaism and several pagan religions. She also gets involved in astrology. Leezie offers an offering to a god for good luck. There’s a passing reference to demons, ghosts and monks. People pray, though it isn’t always clear which god they subscribe to. A place is called the “Holy Well.” Merida prays to a saint statue. Leezie obtains hidden knowledge through magical means.

Magic is frequently seen and referenced. Some people have a mystical power called “the Sight,” which allows them to see and understand magical things. Feradach uses magic to shapeshift. Feradach turns Merida into air so she can quickly travel.

Authority Roles

Though Merida loves her family, she is, at times, deeply upset with her parents for their apathy. Her father is jovial, and her mother is regal, but both of them tend to talk about doing things without actually getting anything done. Merida has come to recognize that the DunBroch way of dealing with problems is sweeping them under the rug with a kind attitude and hoping they just fade away.

This mentality provides some tension between Merida and her parents, as Merida knows that if they don’t change, they’ll die. At one point, Merida lashes out at her mother for being unwilling to travel with her, telling her that clan DunBroch is only pretending to be a kingdom.

“I’m disappointed that’s how you see me, is all,” Merida’s mother tells her.

“I’m disappointed this is how you are!” Merida says.

But as Merida journeys onward to find ways to change her family and save the kingdom, she discovers that she doesn’t actually know the full story of her mother—and when she finds it out, the two of them grow closer.

Merida deeply cares for her family throughout the book, even if she doesn’t always get along with them. At one point, she begins to cry in front of her mother at the thought of her family being killed, and her mother comforts her. She also grows closer with her father, who shows occasional moments of tenderness when he, Merida and one of Merida’s brothers are thrust into a dangerous situation.

An orphanage is set up to take care of orphaned girls. Feradach, despite his destructive job, doesn’t enjoy hurting people.

Profanity & Violence

Merida calls her brothers “turds” and “maggots” once. Besides that, there isn’t any profanity.

At one point, a city burns to the ground, and many people are killed, including a potential suitor for Merida. At one point, Merida tries to go into a burning nursery, but she cannot make her way in, and it is unknown if the children survived. Merida references a man who “was accused of smashing his brother-in-law’s head in with a rock” as well as later stabbing “a bunch of villagers with a sword” and running off to form “an army of fairies to kill everyone else” before he was captured. Merida’s mother warns one of her siblings that he or his dog could have had their throats cut.

Merida stumbles upon a town that was utterly destroyed by pillaging warriors. Feradach shows Merida times he ruined people and towns in order to show her the good that came from it. These examples include a town that was destroyed by raiders and rebuilt, as well as that of a man whose hands were permanently damaged in a raging river. The DunBroch clan engages in battle against attackers, and it is implied people die (and the book suggests that Merida and her brothers get a few wounds or kills themselves). There’s a reference to a bloody birth which almost killed the mother, as well as a near miscarriage that was saved through a miracle.

Feradach is seen as a different person to everyone who sees him. We later discover that he appears as the different people he’s ruined (and likely killed). A couple of these faces appear as young children. Merida hits a man in the back of the knees with a shovel.

Various types of alcohol are referenced throughout the book, including whisky, mead and rum. Merida makes a reference to going to a pub for drinks. The castle guards are said to be “halfway to drunk” at one point.

Sexual Content

Merida shares a kiss with someone. A marriage is referenced. A story of a scholar includes “an improper kiss” and “a scandal.”

Discussion Topics

Merida is tasked with helping her family change. Do you think change is easy? Is change always good? What are some positive ways to change? Some negative ways?

Merida and her brother Harris both felt alone with the burdens they had to carry. What advice might you give to them on how to deal with that feeling? If you feel overwhelmed and alone, who can you go to for help?

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Additional Comments

Bravely expands upon the lore set forth in Disney’s Brave. Through Maggie Stiefvater’s storytelling, we learn much more of the magical lands in which Princess Merida finds herself. And just as Brave centered around Merida’s journey to grow relationally with her family, Stiefvater’s story follows a similar idea.

As Merida travels far and wide across Scotland, she’ll come to understand a bit more about each one of her family members—including her rambunctious little brothers, each of whom has grown into his own archetype. And as her book journey comes to a close, we’ll see her family grow closer together once more.

However, Bravely also stays the status quo regarding its magical Gaelic origins—including introducing us to two gods who set off the plot of the story. In addition, Bravely also shows us a slightly more mature, darker Scotland, where Merida sees people die and lives ruined.

In many ways, Bravely mimics its movie prequel quite well: It shows us a violent, magical world, but it also provides us with a nice story about family and positive changes.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Kennedy Unthank