Midnight Never Come
Marie Brennan
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Buy *Midnight Never Come* by Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Come
Marie Brennan
400 pages
June 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In March 1554 in the Tower of London, two women make a pact: they will help each other to become Queens. One of them is mortal and of royal blood; the other is an ambitious fae. So Elizabeth becomes the Queen of England, and Invidiana becomes the Queen of the English fae.

In 1588, Michael Deven arrives to the court of Elizabeth I and is admitted to the service of the Queen's Gentleman Pensioners. He has already done some spywork and wants to offer his services to the Queen's spymaster, her Master Secretary, Sir Francis Walshingham. Before that, he intercepts a mysterious and threatening stranger and manages to chase him - or her - away. Soon after, Walshingham takes Deven into his service.

At the same time in the Onyx Hall beneath London, Lady Lune is a fae in disgrace. She is offered a chance to redeem herself by the fae Queen's spymaster, Lord Ifarren Vidar. He sends her to spy on Walshingham in the mortal court. Lune develops the disguise of a mortal gentlewoman in the court. Because she has not yet regained her former favored position, many other fae shun her; only the Goodemeade sisters, two brownie sisters who are friendly by nature, give her refuge in their Angel Inn.

The fae are in almost constant danger when they are in the mortal world. They must have fairy bread - bread or milk given by humans to the Good Folk - to protect themselves from the invocation of the name of God, church bells, and other shows of mortal faith. The bread is most often given to country fairies who have to tithe most of it to Queen Invidiana. In turn, the Queen's high-ranking officials give the bread to those who have been assigned among the mortals - but only as much as is necessary.

Soon enough, Deven's and Lune's paths cross. Walshingham has started to suspect an unknown influence among the court and assigns Deven to investigate. The young man finds out much more than he suspected. In the end, both Deven and Lune must decide where their loyalties lie in a game that is even more dangerous that either of them could have imagined.

Midnight Never Come returns the fairies to their roots: terrifying, alien, yet captivating at the same time. Queen Invidiana is cold and cruel, and every English fae is scrambling desperately to stay on her good side. The mortal pets of the fae who have been changed by their stay among the fairies are sad and frightening figures not allowed to even keep their own names. Yet the intrigue among the fae is quite familiar to those who know the mortal courts: blackmail, plotting, and a favor for a favor or a promise of favor in the future. Of course, Queen Elizabeth I never executed people out of whim, unlike the Fairy Queen.

The characters and setting are vivid. The characters have their own problems and joys: the kind and welcoming brownies who keep a safe tavern for the fae in the mortal world have secrets of their own just as do the spymasters in both realms, and the terrifying giants who are the leaders of Invidiana's personal guard are very different from the scheming but delicate elfs. The court of Elizabeth is true to the history, as far as we know.

Lune and Deven are the main point-of-view characters, but there are also scenes which are either their or other characters' memories. The memory sequences deepen the backstory and the characterization and usually they also add to the dark atmosphere. Even though there are ambitious and plotting people in both courts, there is a sharp contrast between the law-abiding reign of the mortal Queen and the Fairy Court which is completely dependent on the whims of its cruel fae Queen.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Mervi Hamalainen, 2008

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