The second book in her historical fantasy series about the Onyx Hall: the faerie court underneath London. Set in 1639-1666.
The book starts with the start of the great fire of London. However, after just a few pages, the scene shifts back to the year 1639 and in the middle of English intrigue; the middle class is clamoring for a Parliament which King Charles I is reluctant to give. Sir Antony Ware is one of the people who wants to put some checks and balances to the King. Antony is also the Prince Consort to the Faerie Queen Lune. She isn’t interested in democracy and she’s very reluctant to meddle in the affairs of mortals. However, if England will have a Parliament, she wants her own representative there.
Meanwhile, Lune’s enemies are becoming bolder. She’s forced to send one of her trusted knights into exile as a spy. In Lune’s own Onyx Court, the courtiers are dividing into two camps: those that follow Lune’s lead and either leave the humans alone or treat them with kindness, and those that still would like to keep the old ways of terrorizing and using the mortals. Also, even though Onyx Hall’s previous Queen Invidiana is dead, she casts a long shadow. Lune doesn’t want to be like her and increasingly she thinks about what the previous Queen would have done and then does stubbornly the opposite.
From the dates it looks like the book covers a lot of years and that’s true. However, the years go by fast. Mostly, there are short scenes set in various years. Sometimes they are during the same day, for example September 3rd 1666, the day the London fire started. But most times there’s only a scene or two during the same day or the same year. Then there are years when no scenes happen. For example, the nine years that Oliver Cromwell was in power has only a handful of scenes; mostly, we hear afterwords what happened to the characters.
However, the story isn’t disjointed. If anything, it distills the required story elements during those years and makes them clearer. To me, it also made the story more faery like. Mortals age, change, and die while the faeries continue.
The book doesn’t have chapters. Instead, each scene starts with the place and the date.
Even though the name of the book and the blurb at the back concentrate on only the London fire, that is quite a small part of the book. The majority is set in the years before it. However, the scenes during the fire are intense and imaginative. Also, Lune has already another Consort in 1666.
This book isn’t alternate history to me because it doesn’t change the historical events; they remain the same. Indeed, the human history seems to influence the events in the fae court.
Unfortunately, the characters aren’t remarkable. The historical characters are pretty bland but I guess that can’t be avoided. The Prince Consort Antony is perhaps the most interesting, in addition to Lune herself and a couple of other faeries. Antony and Lune don’t have a romance nor is their relationship a sexual one. Antony is in charge of human side of the Court; he reminds Lune of what she could do on behalf of the humans of London, and keeps Lune grounded, so to speak. Together, they can use the magical powers of the Hall.
Antony is married to Kate and loves her deeply. He is distressed that he must keep the fae a secret to her and their children. Lune is still grieving for her first Prince. Antony is a doctor and wants to constantly work for the betterment of humanity.
Lune has had to made some tough decisions are a Queen and she will have to make more of them in this story. Many fae resent her for having such close ties to mortals and some fae rulers would even gladly destroy her. One of her guiding ideas is that she will not rule the same way as the previous Queen did. She’s willing to plot and work in underhanded way, when it’s necessary. But at the same time, she cares about her courtiers and does her best for them.
The other two distinguished characters are Irrith, an Irish fae more wild than the courtiers, and Sir Cerenel, the loyal knight who is sent into exile very much against his will.
For me the lure here are the excellent historical details and the pairing of the fae history and the human history, more than characters.
The plot starts out slowly but gathers up steam as decisions are made that will have consequences. It centers on political intrigue instead of violence.
You can read the prologue at the author’s site.