To celebrate Book View Café member Marie Brennan’s newest book, A Natural History of Dragons, A Memory by Lady Trent, here is a review of one of her older books, one that merits a return to the limelight. Midnight Never Come was published in 2008 under the pseudonym Bryn Neuenschwander. It’s the first in her “Onyx Court” series, but I didn’t know that when I picked it up, nor does it make any particular difference (except that if you loved it and want more, there it is).
The central conceit in Midnight Never Come is that Elizabeth I was not the only Queen to rule in England during that time. There was a second, shadow kingdom, one below the city of London. One ruled by a faerie queen. The two kingdoms are not independent of one another; their histories have been interwoven since a fae calling herself Invidiana approached Princess Elizabeth, imprisoned in the Tower of London by her sister Mary and awaiting execution, and made the startling offer: Elizabeth’s life and freedom for an alliance. “As I will raise you to your throne, you will raise me to mine,” Invidiana promises. “And when we both achieve power, perhaps we will be of use to each other again.”
Was this a pact with the devil or the key to survival for both England and the Onyx Court? Three decades later, the two kingdoms have become entwined in ways Elizabeth could never have foreseen, from the storm that stopped the Spanish Armada (with magical help) to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (which maintained the balance of power between the various faerie realms).
Now comes to court a young man, Michael Deven, full of idealism and ambition, anxious to find a patron and make his fortune. He is not the only one to seek favor at court; Lune, a fae courtier once trusted by Queen Invidiana but now marginalized, seeks to regain her former position. Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s master of spies, suspects a conspiracy, but has not yet begun to suspect schemes that transcend merely human politics. One plot twist follow another, with such skillful blending of historical and fantastical that at times I found myself wondering which was the real series of events.
If you like Brennan’s work as much as I do, you can find more of it right here at Book View Cafe!