“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
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…
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!