13 August, 2009

Review: Midnight Never Come, Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Come (2008) by Marie Brennan [US] [UK] is the first book of The Onyx Court series. The books (so far Marie Brennan has signed a contract for four books) in this historical fantasy series are set in my favorite town, London, and cover different periods of English history. The title of the book is derived from The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow [Free online read].

"Now hast thou but one hower to live
And then thou must be damnd perpetually:
Stand stil you ever moving spheres of heaven
That time may cease, and midnight never come!"

The Setup

Earth, England, London, Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth I, Virgin Queen, Gloriana rules England. She holds court in Hampton Court Palace in south west London and her "spymaster" Sir Francis Walsingham suspects a conspiracy against the Crown. To be honest this story also fits neatly with other non-fiction works, such as Sir Francis Walsingham: A Courtier in an Age of Terror (2007) by Derek Wilson [US] [UK] and Elizabeth's Spymaster (2007) by Robert Hutchinson [US] [UK].

But it is only half of the setup. Marie Brennan introduces us to a second court. The Onyx Court is beneath London and there Queen Invidiana rules. She is a... FAERIE. Both courts are connected by secret bounds and it is up to Michael Deven, a young man who must attempt to serve both Queen Elizabeth I and Lady Lune, a faerie, to both solve a dangerous riddle and reveal a dark betrayal. Two Queens, two courts; one shines bright in the daylight while the other exists in the shadows. "But a great light casts a great shadow" This is the prelude to a superb story...

My Take in Brief

I won the book at a giveaway in May 2009 and read it during my holiday in July as part of my summer reading list. So the stasis time on my bookshelf has been short compared to unread books I bought up to two years ago.

The story alternates, letting us see both through the eyes of Michael Deven and Lady Lune. Right from the beginning we are rewarded by Marie Brennan's extraordinary writing style, which manifests itself with stunning world-building and characterization; she pampers readers with her prose. The more the plot unfolds, enriched as it is by sumptuous detail -- can you imagine how a human tastes to a faerie -- and supported by memories and flash-backs, the more you loose contact with the real world. You may think now that there is no action in the book, but I promise you there is plenty, and more than enough people die or are tortured to satisfy even the most physical of readers. Sadly though, the depiction of violence is nothing compared to other books like The Ten Thousand (2008) by Paul Kearney [US] [UK] -- which is a powerful read where depictions of battle are so realistic you will find yourself ducking at sword thrusts.

The use of magic is well proportioned and it is refreshing to read about beings with magical abilities who don't manifest themselves as supernatural entities. The whole book is like a hot bath in winter -- but not an ordinary hot bath -- it is bath where soft music plays in the background, a glass of champagne sits next to you, and the water is foam-flecked and generously seeded with your favorite bath salts. Bathe your brain in Midnight Never Come... but beware, once you open the book you can't escape.

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

I can't deny it any longer, I must confess that I am an Anglophile. I like the country, the history, the language, the pubs, the beer, the castles, and even the fog, but most importantly, London. I am vulnerable to books which are set in England, and especially London. You should know this already since you read Bona Fide: The Magic of London.

Uh oh, my alter ego Bona Fide is mumbling in the background: "Stop this senseless yammering and drink two pints of ale. Maybe that will loosen your tongue, and you can finally praise this extraordinarily well written book. Beware, for if the ale doesn't work, I will have to call Gog and Magog. They will give you a good kick in the pants which will surely speed up your thoughts. Now, tell your readers about this brilliantly woven historical fantasy, how it accurately integrates fact and faery myth. Indeed, so well is the feat achieved, so subtly does it suspend disbelief, that one might easily classify the book as a History. You can easily recommend this book to all those who enjoy a superb mix of history, myth, romance, fantasy, politics, with intrigues and riddles woven throughout. Damn you, you woeful reviewer. Use my thoughts and write!" My answer:"Shut up, you have clouded my thoughts! How shall I concentrate with such an annoying voice in my head!" Dear reader, please accept my apologies for the interruption. Of course I have my own opinion about this book. I highly recommend Midnight Never Come to anyone who loves the Elizabethan Era; who is still fascinated by faeries and their myths; who wants to read historical facts masterfully interwoven with fantasy in well written prose; who wants to uncover the price that must be payed when you fall in love with immortals.


For more information please check out following sources: Marie's Live Journal blog and Marie Brennan's homepage. Don't miss the The Stories of The Onyx Court section which contains free reads and a novellas. The idea of the Faerie Queen has been inspired by the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, written in praise of Elizabeth I.

Piqued Your Interest?

For you who will read until the end of the post I will beg on you to open your purse and buy copies of Midnight Never Comes and In Ashes Lie (2009) [US] [UK] the second book of The Onyx Court series. Don't worry, I am only just one step ahead of you because a copy of In Ashes Lie is whispering to me from my shelf: "Read me, read me, read me..."


Dave said...

Haha... I also enjoy London quite a lot, despite only being there twice! And it's not as expensive as I had thought, especially when starting with Euros in my pocket.

The book sounds great!

ediFanoB said...

but you still need GBP in order to pay :)
A trip to London will get expensive when you go out for dinner every day.

I hope my review express how much I liked to read Midnight Never COme. I look forward to read In Ashes Lie.....

Donna said...

Nice review! Sounds like I a book I need to checkout, and I love the cover. One word: Faeries!