anghara (anghara) wrote,

Riffing off a July Blogathon post - Absolutely Fabulous Writers, Second Edition

The first time I met Marie Brennan in the flesh, as it were, we were just names to each other - I don't even remember the logistics - it was at a convention whose identity has fled from my mind, but that's practically all I recall about that. Whether SHE had just been on a panel that I had been in the audience for, or I had been on one that SHE had been in the audience for, or even if we'd been on a panel together - lost, in the mists of memory. But I DO remember, very clearly, the post-panel conversation out in the corridor of this anonymous hotel whose very name I don't recall. Marie Brennan was a character. Her hair smoothed down over her skull with an almost balletic severity but then allowed to swing in that dramatic braid down her back, the practically elfin features, and the eyes blazing with passion and intelligence. It was difficult to judge her age, at first - her slender build and the lines of her face suggested someone who might have been rather younger than her true age, and yet those eyes spoke of a cool and ageless wisdom which might not have looked out of place in one of the Faerie about whom she later wrote so brilliantly.

I do confess I never did read her first books, the Doppelganger story. But then... then she wrote "Midnight Never Come." And she had me. She became one of those people whose books I will buy off a shelf no matter WHAT the book is, so long as it has her name on it.

"Midnight Never Come" was the first of the Onyx Court books, the story of the Fae court which lives underneath the city of London and is far more entwined with the mortal world above than any of us know or care to think. For the Onyx Court books, starting with "Midnight" (Tudor period) and continuing into "In Ashes Lie" (the Great Fire of London) and "A Star Shall Fall" (the latest, set in the 1700s), Marie Brennan RESEARCHED LONDON. Some of you who haven't read the books might know about the research trips because she has blogged about them in so much detail - but oh heavens to betsy how vivid and involving those books are, knowing that when Marie mentions a street or a bridge or an institution it's because she KNOWS IT IS THERE and therefore the reader trusts her, in the rest of the narrative, implicitly. She is a true mistress of the city - and while her knowledge may not translate into The Knowledge, not enough to drive a taxi through the streets of London, she is immensely confident and firm-handed in what she DOES know and she is very adept at leading her readers along those cobbled streets which raised blisters on her own feet while she quartered them using Shanks's Pony, learning their nooks and their crannies and their secrets and their tragedies and their joys and what the thoughts and the feelings and the mannerisms were of both the mortals and the fae who frequented them.

Did I mention how much I love the Onyx Court books? Did I mention how much sheer WORK went into the writing of these books?

I have to admit - a little reluctantly - that, in parts, "A Star Shall Fall" felt oddly like "In Ashes Lie - Part 2" rather than a fully realised stand-alone - but perhaps that was inevitable given the prominent position of a certain Dragon in both books. But the Dragon itself is a perfectly WONDERFUL idea, as and of itself, and while "A Star Shall Fall" wasn't my FAVOURITE Onyx Court book it is certainly not one to be dismissed out of hand in any way shape or form. In fact I do believe that it does stand alone fairly sufficiently for readers who may not be familiar with "In Ashes Lie" to get something perfectly good out of. But I have to admit that I am rather looking forward to the next Onyx Court volume, to see where the now-departed Dragon has left matters... and all of it informed with the same passionate devotion to detail and meticulous research into historical setting that have characterised its predecessors.

I call Marie Brennan friend, and that of course informs all I have said up here. But even if I had never had that first intense conversation with her in the corridor of that nameless hotel - an encounter that gave me a clear sense that I was in the presence of the extraordinary - I would have felt the same way about these books. They're worth your notice. They're worth your attention. Marie Brennan is a writer worth making space for in your library.

I have read "A Star Shall Fall" in ARC-form - the book is, however, available for pre-order now, and will to the best of my knowledge be released at the end of this month (only about a week away). My recommendation is to go and reserve your copy now.

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