Book Review

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan – Book Review

“Fitful drafts of chill air blew in through the cruciform windows of the Bell Tower, and the fire did little to combat them.”

First line in Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

Author: Marie Brennan

Published: May 3rd, 2008

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Series: The Onyx Court #1

My rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Elizabethan London, fae underworld, court politics

Synopsis: 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…

Goodreads

Review

This one crept up on me. It’s a dual perspective story where we follow a mortal man, Michael Deven, and a faerie woman, Lady Lune, who each occupy similar positions in their respective courts, so it is all about politics. In the beginning, I had a hard time following the politicking because there were a lot of names and titles thrown at me, but it did help that it’s the kind of book where some secrets are revealed to the reader before the characters find out. I know some of you will be put off by this, but I will stress that it is only some of the secrets we’re let in on, not all. You still get the opportunity to guess plot twists (I didn’t, by the way).

Other than having a confusing start, it’s also a very slow-moving story where it doesn’t really feel like anything is happening. For the first half of the book, I was thinking it was quite boring actually… but I also wanted to continue reading for some reason. I think it was partially because the writing really clicked with me. It’s very formal and so dry, and I know I’m probably not selling it very well here, but it was great. With a style that formal, the writing really added to the authenticity of this historical novel. I’ve personally read quite a few historical books where the characters and their actions feel like they belong in the 21st century instead of their proper historical period. Not in Midnight Never Come. The way that the characters speak and think is fitting for the era, helping the reader immerse themselves in the 1590 version of London.

And the characters themselves are what made me realize I was loving the book despite some of the aspects mentioned above. As I said, they crept up on me, slowly and steadily, through the boring parts of the book. Brennan used that time to really build them up and make me fall in love with them so that when all the action went down, I was deeply invested. And those final 150 pages are definitely the book’s strongest and also ups the pacing quite a bit. The boring parts are still necessary, at least in some capacity, to properly appreciate the developments and the amazing character progressions.

So who do I recommend this to? You need to read this if you love intricate court politics taking place in a beautiful and authentic historical setting. If you love the idea of a fae underworld having an influence on real historic events, and if you want these fae to be mean, vicious and generally want to see an author utilizing many different aspects of fae folklore. This is also for you if you don’t mind a very dry and formal writing style that nevertheless will make you feel for these characters and their (sometimes) horrible fates.

I’m definitely picking up the sequel for this. I’m not usually attracted to stories about fae, so I was very apprehensive about this one. Is me loving it anyway a sign that Marie Brennan could become a new favorite author of mine? We’ll see. Let me know if you’ve already read this or intend to. Happy Wyrd and Wonder!

9 thoughts on “Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan – Book Review

  1. I enjoyed Midnight Never Come too! Agree with you on the language and the characters – they were what made the book stand out.

    As for pacing… well, I’ve read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell so I felt that it wasn’t such an issue here :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear from a fellow fan! 😊
      I haven’t read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell because the rumors about that one’s pacing are making me afraid of it 😅 But I totally see how you wouldn’t have a problem with Midnight Never Come then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What are you doing to my TBR, Line? 😅😂😂 This sounds awesome! I’ve always been obsessed with Victorian London (even more so ever since I watched the TV show “Victoria” on amazon prime – it’s amazing, even if they did butcher the German a little 😁). And then you say it also has lots of politics? 🤔🤗

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sorry for your TBR 😂 But I’m glad you want to read it because there’s something in it that made me think of you and I need your reaction to that! Of course, I’m also glad you want to read it because I think you’ll love it (possibly even more than me) 😄

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Okay, this comment has just made me go from “very interested” to “I’m dying to get my hands on this” 🤣 But once I’ve finished Crime and Punishment, I won’t have any books left on my TBR anyway, so maybe I’ll have to splurge soon. I desperately want The Library of the Unwritten as well, so…

        Liked by 1 person

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