Midnight Never Come: Glittering courts

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Marie Brennan Onyx Court Midnight Never ComeMidnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Comeis the story of two courts, and of two courtiers who must uncover a deadly secret that threatens both mortal and faerie England. Lune is a disgraced lady of the faerie court, trying to win her way back into the good graces of the cruel Queen Invidiana. Michael Deven is a young gentleman of Elizabeth I’s retinue, working with Elizabeth’s spymaster Walsingham to sniff out a “hidden player” in English politics. Neither is quite prepared for what they discover.

Marie Brennan has a lovely, elegant prose style that lends itself well to describing the glittering courts. There’s a certain “iciness” to it, a certain emotional distance between reader and characters, at least at first. Later in the book, emotion does bleed through, unmistakable even when it’s described with great restraint. And speaking of restraint, Midnight Never Come is unusually chaste when compared to many other recent faerie-themed novels. This is fantasy of manners, closer kin to Ellen Kushner‘s Swordspoint than to Laurell Hamilton‘s Meredith Gentry series.

The plot is tightly crafted. At the beginning it feels a little slow, but picks up as Lune and Deven get closer and closer to the secret at the heart of Invidiana’s court. Brennan has done a great deal of research into faerie lore and Elizabethan history, and it shows. Brennan doesn’t infodump, though; the folklore helps drive the plot and flows organically with it. There are layers upon layers of politics and curses and bargains and secrets here, and I loved discovering them along with the characters.

Brennan makes an unusual authorial decision toward the beginning of Midnight Never Come. I initially didn’t like it but eventually decided it worked. [Highlight this spoiler if you want to know why] The early stages of Deven and Lune’s courtship, when Deven first meets Lune in her guise as a mortal lady, are completely skipped over. By the time we realize Deven and Lune have met, they’re discussing marriage, and trouble brews between them not long after. I felt cheated at first, but in retrospect, I don’t think those early months actually matter much. The real development of their relationship begins later, outside the artifice of court. If Brennan had devoted a lot of page space to the romance in the early chapters, it might have resulted in the plot taking too long to get off the ground. [END SPOILER] So, I think this decision turned out well in the end.

Marie Brennan’s treatment of London is delightful. She builds her story around real locations within the city, and the legends that have grown around those locations, creating a tangible sense of place. I only wish she had included a map of the city in Midnight Never Come, so that a reader unfamiliar with London could more easily visualize the places the characters visit. I ended up reading Midnight Never Come with Forever Amber open on the table next to me because it has an excellent map of London in it.)

Overall, a slowish start, but worth it. Brennan’s prose and plotting are particularly good, and I can’t wait to read In Ashes Lie.

The Onyx Court — (began in 2008) Publisher: England flourishes under the hand of its Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Gloriana, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above. In the thirty years since Elizabeth ascended her throne, fae and mortal politics have become inextricably entwined, in secret alliances and ruthless betrayals whose existence is suspected only by a few. Two courtiers, both struggling for royal favor, are about to uncover the secrets that lie behind these two thrones. When the faerie lady Lune is sent to monitor and manipulate Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham, her path crosses that of Michael Deven, a mortal gentleman and agent of Walsingham’s. His discovery of the “hidden player” in English politics will test Lune’s loyalty and Deven’s courage alike. Will she betray her Queen for the sake of a world that is not hers? And can he survive in the alien and Machiavellian world of the fae? For only together will they be able to find the source of Invidiana’s power — find it, and break it… A breathtaking novel of intrigue and betrayal set in Elizabethan England; Midnight Never Come seamlessly weaves together history and the fantastic to dazzling effect.

Marie Brennan The Onyx Court: 1. Midnight Never Come 2. In Ashes LieMarie Brennan The Onyx Court: 1. Midnight Never Come 2. In Ashes Lie 3. A Star Shall FallMarie Brennan The Onyx Court: 1. Midnight Never Come 2. In Ashes Lie 3. A Star Shall FallMarie Brennan The Onyx Court: 1. Midnight Never Come 2. In Ashes Lie 3. A Star Shall Fall 4. With Fate Conspirefantasy and science fiction book reviews


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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