With Fate Conspire, by Marie Brennan

With Fate Conspire [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the fourth and final (at least for now) book in Marie Brennan‘s Onyx Court series. (I’ve reviewed books one, two, and three.) These are meticulously researched historical fantasies set in London over various time periods. This one takes place in the late 1800s (the industrial revolution) as the spread of iron rail lines threatens to destroy the hidden Onyx Court of the fairies.

Brennan and I both wrapped up a fantasy series this year, and it’s fascinating to see some of the similar choices we made. Much as I did with Snow Queen, Brennan wrote a darker story, raising the stakes for all involved. We both wrote about a formerly good character twisted to dark purposes. In Brennan’s case, that’s Dead Rick, a wonderful character trapped in a horrible situation, his memories torn from him by–  Well, I won’t spoil that bit, but I loved the technique used here.

Brennan and I are working on a discussion about ending our series and the choices we made. More on that later, assuming I get off my ass and finish my part. (This was supposed to be posted already. It was not, on account of the fact that I suck.)

So, back on topic. Oh yes, Dead Rick rocks, and the blending of magic and technology that Brennan began in earlier books has progressed to fascinating ends. I remain in awe of the way Brennan so seamlessly intertwines history and fantasy.

She also does a nice job of portraying a society in decline, a magical kingdom on the verge of disintegration. Lune, Queen of the Onyx Court, has vanished, devoting herself to holding the court together through the sheer strength of her will. I missed her character, and I think that loss is a major contributor to the darker tone of this book. Some fairies are searching for a way to escape, while others seek to find a way to heal the court, and the darker fae work to take advantage of the chaos.

In the human world, a girl named Eliza has devoted herself to finding her lost sweetheart, stolen by the fairies years ago. But it was Dead Rick and the plight of the fairies that really sucked me into the book. Their desperation, the urgency of their quest to save themselves and their home … it’s powerful stuff.

While I think you can read this book on its own, I’d definitely recommend reading them in order. And if you’re a fan of richly detailed and vivid historical settings, full of old-school fairy magic, then I’d definitely recommend reading them, period.