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Marie Brennan – Midnight Never Come

July 2, 2016

Brennan, Marie - Midnight Never Come - 40013. Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan (2008)

Length: 390 pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy

Started: 08 February 2016
Finished: 07 March 2016

Where did it come from? Library booksale.
Why do I have it? Memory’s fault.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 12 April 2014.

Queen Elizabeth
might hold all the power, but
not in the Fae Court.

Summary: During the reign of Elizabeth I, England was flourishing, and Elizabeth’s court was a center of power and influence. But underneath London, there was another court, equally powerful. Invidiana, faerie queen of the Onyx Court, rules with a power just as ruthless as that of her mortal counterpart, and the politics of the two realms are intertwined to a degree known only by a very few in either the human or fairy realms. In the mortal world, Deven, a young courtier eager to gain a place in Elizabeth’s court and thus secure his position, begins to uncover dark secrets and hints of threats against Elizabeth’s power. In the fairy court, Lune has fallen from favor after making a unfavorable bargain with the water fae, and is now caught between the queen and her ambitious and deadly lieutenant. Lune must keep her true identity hidden from Deven, even as he unknowingly stumbles closer to the truth, but in the end it will take both of them working together if they are to save both of their realms from disaster.

Review: On the surface, I should have loved this book. Elizabethan England! Fairies! Hidden secrets! Glamours and intrigues and spies and double-agents and a cameo by John Dee! Marie Brennan’s lovely writing, which I’d only previously encountered in short story form, but which I really enjoyed! But something about it never quite clicked for me, so even though I should have loved it, it took me a very long time to get through this book, and it wound up being not quite as good as I would have hoped.

While I felt like the book kept me at arms’ length from the characters and the story for most of its length, particularly in the beginning, it did definitely pick up steam once we found out more about what the issue was and got more of the history and the backstory and the actual conflict, with the result that I was much more absorbed in the back half of the book than I was in the front half. It’s a clever idea that Brennan’s playing with, and it ultimately did wind up delivering the thing that I want from my historical fantasy: a feeling of resonance and power and plausibility. I know the history (well enough, anyways); what I want is for authors to weave a fantasy world around and through that history that leaves me feeling like “yes, that could be true.” Elizabeth I’s reign was pretty phenomenal in a lot of aspects, so sure, maybe there *was* a bargain with the fae at the heart of it. And by the end of this book, I was there; Brennan pulls from a lot of British Isles mythology, and winds up with exactly the kind of resonance and authenticity that I wanted.

However, the set up to get to that point took a looooong time (or maybe it just seemed that way because of how slowly I was reading – kind of a chicken-and-the-egg thing: was it a general lack of interest in reading that made this book seem so slow, or was the slowness of the book sapping my interest in reading it?) So, while this book had a lot of good elements, it took me a long time to get to them, and this book never really got into my brain or into my heart the way a lasting favorite would. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I liked this one but didn’t love it, but if books about the Faerie Court or Tudor-era England (or both!) are your thing, then I think it’d be worth a try.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell, Fantasy Book Critic, My Favourite Books, Rinn Reads, Stella Matutina, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: Fitful drafts of chill air blew in through the cruciform windows of the Bell Tower, and the fire did little to combat them.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 17: “No one knew where Invidiana had found Halgresta and her two brothers – somewhere in the North, though some said they had once been fae of the alfar lands across the sea, before facing exile for unknown crimes – but the three giants had fought a pitched combat before Invidiana’s throne for the right to command her personal guard, and Halgresta had won.” – light elves, in Norse mythology.
  • p. 28: “After supper, when Susanna and Henry had been sent off, Deven sat with his father by the fire, a cup of fine malmsey dangling from his fingers.” – A sweet fortified wine originally made in Greece and now produced mainly in Madeira.
  • p. 68: “The covers, kicked aside some time earlier, disclosed an aging body, a sagging belly usually hidden by the peasecod front of his doublets, and his dark hair was thinning.” – a type of exaggeratedly padded stomach that was very popular in men’s dress in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
  • p. 115: “It would be a mistake to assume the rebels all unlettered recusant farmers, but ultimately, whatever their birth, they were pawns of the Crowns that backed them.” – One of the Roman Catholics in England who incurred legal and social penalties in the 1500s and afterward for refusing to attend services of the Church of England.
  • p. 145: “They rounded the herber, and found someone waiting for them.” – A garden; a pleasure garden.
  • p. 153: “Lune had been on good terms with the previous Welsh envoy, the bwganod Drys Amsern, but the Tylwyth Teg changed their ambassadors regularly; they did not like anyone to remain for too long under the corrupting influence of the Onyx Court.” – goblin.
  • p. 191: ““I cannot say when, but look you here – the Moon is in the Twelfth House, and the Stellium of Mars, Mercury, and Venus – her influence has not yet passed out of your life.”” – a multiple conjunction involving three or more planets in one house and/or one sign in an astrological chart.
  • p. 271: “Musicians wove competing tapestries in the air, flutes and hautbois and tabors sending forth sound and light and illusions that ornamented the dance.” – Oboes.
  • p. 293: “The madwoman could have hired a wherry to take her there by water – well, perhaps not.” – A light, swift rowboat built for one person and often used in racing.
  • p. 293: “Lune reached safety below, on one of the wooden starlings that protected the stone piers from collision with debris or unlucky wherries.” – A protective structure of pilings surrounding a pier of a bridge.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2016 9:58 pm

    I liked this, but I still have not read the sequels…

    • July 3, 2016 10:47 am

      There are sequels? I thought it worked so nicely as a stand-alone.

  2. mervih permalink
    August 4, 2016 10:51 am

    It has three sequels but they’re set each about a hundred years apart, so the human characters change. I loved the whole series.

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