In late Victorian England, two stage magicians strive to better each other's illusions and create a deadly rivalry. Feeling manipulated by the secret-...moreIn late Victorian England, two stage magicians strive to better each other's illusions and create a deadly rivalry. Feeling manipulated by the secret-keeping and unreliable narration kept bouncing me out of the story, which I know is sort of unfair given that the book wouldn't be what it is without secrets and unreliable narration. I'm not sure why it bothered me, really. Nonetheless, I was terribly gripped by the last quarter or so and was glued to the pages by the end. (less)
The Perilous Gard is set in late Tudor times; the heroine, Kate Sutton, is one of the lady Elizabeth's handmaidens, exiled by Queen Mary for a letter...moreThe Perilous Gard is set in late Tudor times; the heroine, Kate Sutton, is one of the lady Elizabeth's handmaidens, exiled by Queen Mary for a letter Kate's sister wrote to her. Kate is sent to Elvenwood, also called "the Perilous Gard", where she's immediately intrigued by Christopher, the enigmatic brother of the master of the castle, Sir Geoffrey Heron. Soon, she discovers the secrets kept by the people of the castle, and to her peril, discovers also the mysterious residents of the land around the castle.
Pope's period detail is impeccable and never ponderous, and her fairies (the People of the Hill) have just the right note of otherworldliness. Kate is a marvelous heroine, clever and daring, and the rest of the characters are equally engaging. Along with Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock, this is certainly one of the best "Tam Lin" retellings I've read. (less)
In this sequel to Midnight Never Come, Brennan moves forward from the end of the Elizabethan era to the middle of the seventeenth century. As the book...moreIn this sequel to Midnight Never Come, Brennan moves forward from the end of the Elizabethan era to the middle of the seventeenth century. As the book begins, the Great Fire of London is just starting, and humans and fae alike are battling its flames. But it isn't just the fire that threatens: Brennan flashes back to earlier in the century, when King Charles I fought with politics and soldiers against the Roundheads, and Queen Lune of the fae Onyx Court struggles for her throne as well.
_In Ashes Lie_ has all the excellent historical detail and folklore of _Midnight Never Come_, and similarly good portraits of its historical characters and its fictional ones. I missed some of the emotional immediacy provided by the romance in _Midnight Never Come_, but the romance isn't just forgotten here; Lune still remembers and grieves for her human lover, who isn't simply forgotten as the immortal court lives past him. The flashback structure is well handled, and the plot is especially dexterously woven into the threads of history. I think I liked _In Ashes Lie_ even more than _Midnight Never Come_, and I definitely look forward to the next book, which Brennan calls "an Enlightenment faerie alchemical fantasy". (less)
I didn't know before I started reading The Stars Dispose that there was a sequel, but I managed to find The Stars Compel and read it fairly quickly. I...moreI didn't know before I started reading The Stars Dispose that there was a sequel, but I managed to find The Stars Compel and read it fairly quickly. It was still pretty good, but I didn't enjoy it as much, largely because it focused more on political intrigue than on the kitchen and hearth magic which I thought was such a strong feature of the first book. Apparently, Roessner planned a third book, which hasn't yet materialized; I wish it would, because like the first book, The Stars Compel doesn't exactly wrap up all the plot threads.(less)
**spoiler alert** Tommaso de Befanini is destined to be a great cook. His family have been cooks for generations, working in the households of astrolo...more**spoiler alert** Tommaso de Befanini is destined to be a great cook. His family have been cooks for generations, working in the households of astrologer Cosimo Ruggiero and of the Medici family. But when he's pulled into intrigue surrounding the young Duchessina, Caterina de' Medici, his horizons expand more than he could have imagined, as his life is intertwined with hers.
I loved Roessner's evocation of Renaissance Florence: the people (real and imaginary), the sights, the smells, and most of all the tastes. The food descriptions are absolutely mouth-watering. I also loved her use of kitchen and hearth magic; the astrologers do magic as well, but it's the homely sort I really found entrancing, the magic worked by Tommaso's mother Piera.
There was one thing that bothered me quite a bit about the book, though, which was Tommaso's sexual relationship with a much older man. Possibly this would have been less squicky in that time period, but what can I say, I found it unsettling and had to think of Tommaso as older in order for it not to bother me too much.(less)
Beneath Elizabethan London, there is a hidden city, where the faerie queen Invidiana holds court. The deal she made with Queen Elizabeth long ago draw...moreBeneath Elizabethan London, there is a hidden city, where the faerie queen Invidiana holds court. The deal she made with Queen Elizabeth long ago draws mortal Michael Deven and fae Lady Lune, each seeking to gain knowledge and power, into a deadly web of political intrigue which tangles their fates and the fates of their courts together.
I liked Brennan's previous two books (_Doppelganger_ and _Warrior and Witch_, recently reissued as Warrior and Witch) a lot and have been looking forward to this one for a while -- it doesn't disappoint. Instead of using the Seelie vs. Unseelie Courts situation which is perhaps overly common in faerie-related fiction, Brennan has created a beautifully English-feeling fae court (with allusions to counterparts in other countries) which she weaves seamlessly into her excellent depiction of Elizabethan London. Similarly, she mixes her fictional characters nicely with historical people; I thought her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth especially convincing. In terms of complexity of setting and plot, particularly, I think this is a step up from _Warrior_ and _Witch_, and I really look forward to seeing Brennan's next book about the Onyx Court (which is apparently to be set around the time of the Great Fire).(less)