Friday, 11 July 2008

‘Midnight Never Come’ – Marie Brennan (Orbit Books)


I’m not sure whether to call this book ‘historical fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy’. The story takes place in an urban setting but it’s historical context sets it apart from the contemporary theme normally found in Urban Fantasy.
Hmmm… *Tosses Coin* Ok, I’m calling this one ‘historical fantasy’ but if anyone has a convincing argument otherwise just leave a comment ;o)

England flourishes under the rule of Elizabeth, last of the Tudor monarchs, but only a few people realise that England owes it fortune to more than just the efforts of its Queen… In the thirty years since Elizabeth struck a bargain with the ruler of faerie England, Invidiana, mortal and fey politics have become inextricably entwined as each ruler seeks to better both themselves and each other. Two courtiers, from the mortal and fey courts, are about to find out how closely the two thrones are linked as their separate tasks bring them together. Michael Deven seeks to discover who the mysterious power behind Elizabeth’s reign really is while the Lady Lune seeks to curry favour with various factions, of the faerie court, by spying on Elizabeth’s own spymaster. Both of them will find that their machinations are only scratching the tip of something much larger…

Over the last couple of days I have raced through ‘Midnight Never Come’ for reasons that have varied almost from page to page. ‘Midnight Never Come’ is an enthralling read but one that I also found more than a little infuriating at the same time…
I’m in awe of Marie Brennan; not only has she created an intricately realised world of faerie but she has also joined it seamlessly to the world of sixteenth century England, both in terms of history (we get to find out what really happened to the Spanish Armada) and the way in which characters and story are able move from one setting to another. While Brennan’s faerie characters are familiar to anyone who’s ever heard a fairy tale they have a real alien streak at the same time, acting in completely different ways (to their human counterparts) for reasons entirely their own. It’s this kind of behaviour that really marks them out as different to the reader and adds a little bit of emphasis to the magic that is employed.

Sixteenth century England is also skilfully drawn and Brennan shows that she has obviously done a lot of research around the subject with a blend of everyday life and historical events. However, this was also the main area where things fell down a little bit for me. It sometimes felt like the book had been so heavily researched that the story didn’t have a chance to breathe. Everything was authentic to the time but the overabundance of information slowed things down the point where I sometimes found myself skipping pages and then having to go back when I realised that I’d missed something important.

This was a real shame because when the story got going (which it did, in fits and starts) it was good fun to read and really made me think about what was going on. The transition from ‘we’re dealing with this…’ to ‘actually no, we need to deal with this instead’ was smoothly done and made a lot of sense. In the tradition of all the best fairy stories ‘Midnight Never Come’ is a love story at heart and perhaps not the one that you will be expecting…

There’s room at the end for a sequel and I’m sure there’s one in the works, if the pacing improves then this could become a series worth keeping an eye on.

Eight out of Ten

1 comment:

Darren Turpin said...

Hi Graeme

The sequel to 'Midnight Never Come' will be called 'And Ashes Lie' and is set during the era of the Great Fire of London - Marie is posting periodic updates and background notes over on her LJ page (http://www.swantower.com/journal/index.html). And check out www.midnightnevercome.com for additional background to the first book.

DT
Orbit Books UK