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Midnight Never Come (The Onyx Court, Book 1) Paperback – June 9, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Stunningly conceived and exquisitely achieved, this rich historical fantasy portrays the Elizabethan court 30 years into the reign of the Virgin Queen, often called Gloriana. Far below ground, her dark counterpart, heartless Invidiana, rules England's fae. Brennan (Warrior and Witch) pairs handsome young courtier Michael Deven, an aspiring agent under spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, with bewitching fae Lune, who attempts to avoid Invidiana's wrath by infiltrating Walsingham's network in mortal guise. History and fantasy blend seamlessly as Deven and Lune tread their precarious tightropes between loyalty and betrayal. Brennan's myriad fantastical creations ring as true as her ear for Elizabethan and faerie dialogue. With intriguing flashbacks to historical events and a cast of deftly drawn characters both real and imagined, Brennan fleshes out the primal conflict of love and honor pitted against raging ambition and lust for power in a glittering age when mortals could well be such fools as to sell their souls forever. (June)
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About the Author
Marie Brennan is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. Her short stories have sold to more than a dozen venues. Find out more about the author at www.swantower.com
Top customer reviews
16th century England. Elizabeth Tudor languishes in the Tower of London, unsure whether or not she'll live from one day to the next. Then, one night, a visitor, a fae woman, enters her room. She says her name is Invidiana, and she offers Elizabeth a deal, a deal that elevates the both of them to power, but has unimagined, terrible consequences, and must be broken before it's too late. Very grounded in contemporary politics and English folk-tales, the novel is a very good, satisfying read that manages to stand out from the rest.
Brennan captures the voice of the period perfectly. She's no Shakespeare, but her prose is eloquent and her dialogue sounds suitably Elizabethan that it flows very well and helps to pull you into the era. This, unfortunately, has the effect of making the characters a little distant; I supported them intellectually, but it was difficult to care about them on a deeper, emotional level. But that's ok, because the focus isn't really on the characters. The focus is on the seamless way Brennan marries historical fact with flights of fantasy (the fae have a hand in everything from the Spanish Armada to Mary Queen of Scots), the meticulous recreation of Elizabeth's court and the sickening parody of it that exists on the other side, and on the psychology of courtiers, whose loyalty exists only so far as it intersects with their ambition. Unless, of course, the ruler is something special.
If you like books about Elizabeth II, you should give this one a look. If you like books that posit a hidden, magical conspiracy that pulls the strings, you should give this one a look. If you like both, then this is the book for you. And, to make things better, there's a well-written, engaging story lying underneath.
The characters are three dimensional. The visual details are all filled in. The story line quickly becomes absorbing. In all, this is a well written novel. In it, the first 2/3 read like to different, slightly overlapping novels - one set among Elizabeth's courtiers and on set in the Faerie court living below the city of London. The final third is a blending of the two novels into a cohesive whole that draws upon myth, religion and the occult science of the day to create a compelling story and a dramatic conclusion.
Even though the Tudor period has been well mined for fantasy, I recommend this one without reservation.
These are not the poetically spoken dewdrop fairies of "A Midsummer Night's Dream", although they do rise from the same folk tradition. (It's helpful that the author is proficient in both folklore and history.) Somehow, without sacrificing the poetry or sense of magic, the author makes her inhuman characters quite easy to relate to. For "great shadows", they're remarkably three-dimensional. Then too, the author has a gift for deftly blurring the lines between what's natural and what's not; there are very earthy fairies, and an unearthly human wandering their halls with mad forays into prophecy. Playing with the concept of just what it means to be human - or not - makes for vivid characterizations.
The plot is every bit as intricate - which does, admittedly, make it a bit tricky to follow in places. We shift between the story as told by different characters, and the focus shifts from events past to events present, sometimes without warning. Fortunately, it's easy to become immersed enough in the story that one picks up the trail each time the plot doubles back in a new direction, until it all comes around quite nicely with the ending.