Review: Midnight Never Come, Marie Brennan

Occasionally, when I am planning meals on the weekend, I get depressed from meal-planning and take a break to do book-planning. Book-planning consists of me combing through my TBR list and making a shortlist of books to read next. I find this relaxing. I start by making a list of categories of books (gender-issues nonfiction, something in translation, fantasy, kids’ book), depending on what I am in the mood for, and then pick things from my TBR list to fit my criteria. When I did this last weekend, my list was this:

something in translation
something from Africa
something zany
something fantasyish that Memory loved

Midnight Never Come is the something fantasyish that Memory loved. By choice I’d have gone with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for this category, but I am still fourth on the holds list for that, so I substituted Midnight Never Come. This is a testament to my trust in Memory’s fantasy taste, because ordinarily I do not like books about fairies (or faerie). I am over fairies. They think they’re so damn clever. I feel like if you’re going to act like you’re as terrifying as fairies in stories act like they are, you shouldn’t have gossamer wings. JUST A THOUGHT. The only fairy-type book I like in the whole world is The Moorchild. And Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, also. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not my favorite Shakespeare, and I don’t much care for the fairies in Sandman. So.

Long ago, at her coronation, Elizabeth I struck a bargain with the queen of faerie, a bargain that somehow helps both of them stay on their thrones. Now, thirty years later, mortal Michael Deven (on staff with my boy Sir Francis Walsingham) and Lune, fallen from favor in the viciously political faerie court of Queen Invidiana, are beginning to discover secrets about the bargain, and the intertwining of the faerie and mortal court.

(Yes, the wicked faerie queen is called Invidiana. Deal.)

I really, really enjoyed the parts of the book that dealt with Elizabethan history. Marie Brennan had obviously done her homework, but she didn’t do the thing of inserting tons of unnecessary information just to show how well-informed she was (unlike some historical fantasy writers that I am reading right now). I loved almost everything set in the mortal world, except I didn’t care much for Michael Deven. And indeed I wasn’t altogether in love with Lune. The world of the book, the intertwining of the mortal and faerie spheres, drew me in,  but the characters did not. Fortunately it’s the world that continues in the sequels, not the characters.

I was excited to read the sequels to Midnight Never Come, and glad I had bothered getting A Star Shall Fall from the library at the same time that I got Midnight Never Come. In Ashes Lie, the second book in the Onyx Court series, claimed to be in at the library but wasn’t. So I skipped it. Don’t judge. I asked Memory if it was okay first.

Other reviews:

Stella Matutina
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Fantasy Book Critic
Grasping for the Wind
The Book Swede

Tell me if I missed yours!

  • I haven’t read that much that has fairies in them and I didn’t realize that there was a fey contingent in the Jonathan Strange book. I am very curious about them now since people seem to have very strong feelings about them either way.

    • Oh, yeah, there’s a contingent in Jonathan Strange. What’s good about them is that they’re scary by virtue of doing wicked deeds, and not caring about humans or trying to be scary. They may indeed be the perfect fairies.

  • bookgazing

    I’m also very wary of fairy books in general (I just find it kind of ridiculous to imagine a mortal and fairy love story, don’t know why) but I kind of want to read a book where the evil fairy queens name contains the name Diana – current royalty behind this book by any chance 😉 Historical fantasy, without heavy handed ‘I have read some books’ references sounds welcome.

    I recommend ‘Lords and Ladies’ by Terry Pratcheet though, because he is all about mixing the creepy with the ridiculous bits of fantasy with the scary and pulling it off.

    • But seriously, how could a fairy fall in love with a human? I’m not sure I buy it. Fairies have been around for hundreds of years, so it would be like falling in love with a teenager. Or a very small child! I think the age difference would be, in real life, insurmountable.

      I’ll bear in mind the Pratchett recommendation, though he has not, historically, been my favorite author in all the land.

      • Fairies really shouldn’t have time for the romance anyway, because they should be all about the stabby and the diabolical/mischevious if you want to go the less cool way plans.

        I wonder if that is kind of the draw though, the age difference – you spend all these years with other beings who have seen and done everything, learned a lot and then you get to be magical mentor lover to someone. It must be a big ego boost, if not the most healthy thing to base a relationship on.

  • There’ s surely nothing worse than a smart, tough-talking fairy. That was a category that Enid Blyton, in her wisdom, steered well clear of.

    • There are things worse, like tall sexy vampires, but I agree a tough-talking fairy is no good at all. I still haven’t read Enid Blyton…

  • Mumsy

    The one fairy book I truly love is Robin McKinley’s THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE. Does your distaste for the genre extend to that one, too?

    • I actually have no recollection of that story at all. What happens in it again?

      • Mumsy

        It’s a collection of short stories, and the one I loved best was McKinley’s take on “The Princess and the Frog.” It had just a soupcon of “The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde,”(which, as you know, I also love.) And the other stories are good too; there’s a very nice version of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Isn’t that one of your favorites?

  • I also find that making book lists relaxes me, and oftentimes when I can’t sleep, you will find me on my side of the bed, making mental lists of books I want to read.

    That being said, I have not really bought into any of this faerie business, and have not read a single book that deals with them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to try a few, because some of them look good, just that I haven’t as of yet.

    • If you have a whole lot of time, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is the best handling of fairies I’ve ever read. But it’s very, very long.

  • The thing about fairies is they have no accountability. It’s all just passion-passion, infight, glamour, seduce, stab, a little S&M, and whoops! disappear into a parallel dimension at author’s convenience. Speaking as someone who recently ditched a YA fairy novel I probably should have known I wouldn’t like after disliking the first in the immensely popular series. I do like some fairyland books, though. I prefer ones that deal more with the humans as much as the fairies, and treat the fairies more like humans; good fairy novels resemble Hamlet more than Midsummer.

    Like Bookgazing said: what about Power of Three?

    And Kage Baker!! Queen Barbie!!

    • Yeah! Down with fairies! But yes, Power of Three. I guess I forgot that those were fairies as well. I don’t know the Kage Baker books, I’ve only read the Company novels.

      • I’m thinking of Lewis in The Sons of Heaven, trapped in the fairy mound. Baker’s fairies are kind of science fiction ones.

  • Totally misread Bookgazing’s comment then referred to it. Feeling silly.

    • bookgazing

      Hehe I wanted to know what Power of Three was though so I went off and googled. Another book to add to my list.

  • The world is SO the draw with this books, and it keeps getting better and better! The historical bits are to die for. Brennan researches the hell out of everything, so you know it’s wicked authentic (except as clarified in the author’s notes).

    • Um, THESE books. I proofread about three seconds after I hit “post comment.” Note to self: this is not the time to proofread.

    • I really want to see what’s going to happen in the next book. How will they find new princes when London is expanding and people are not born in the City proper? Eek!

  • Ela

    This sounds good – though really, Invidiana? Were her parents foresighted? (Do fairies have parents?)

    Seconding the Terry Pratchett rec for the unpleasant fairies in ‘Lords and Ladies’ – I thought Robin McKinley also did a good job with fairies (though possibly not our standard conception of fairies) in ‘Spindle’s End’.

    Laurell K. Hamilton’s faeries are a bit sex and violence and magic (actually a lot sex) as Trapunto suggested.

    • DO fairies have parents? It is not clear to me how fairies come into being. I didn’t love Spindle’s End, generally.

  • I have this, but haven’t got around to it yet. I also want to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I just haven’t found time for it yet! February is off to a slow reading start and that’s very bad because there is so much I should be reading!

    • I’m now first on the holds list for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms so that’ll be happening soon. Yay. I’ll let you know how it is.

  • Jenny

    What about War for the Oaks??? That’s a fairy book and it’s a darn good read. I stand up for War for the Oaks. And nobody has gossamer anything in it either, so it’s slightly more badass.

    • Oh, okay, okay, War for the Oaks was a lot of fun and didn’t irritate me with its fairies. I knew I’d have forgotten some good fairy books.

  • “I feel like if you’re going to act like you’re as terrifying as fairies in stories act like they are, you shouldn’t have gossamer wings.” HAHAHAHA!!

    Also: I LOVE Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, too!

  • At first I was going to ask “What’s depressing about meal planning”, but then you said that you started book planning. And then it was all relative because there just aren’t that many things that are as much fun as book planning! ::grin::