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Literature / Onyx Court

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The Onyx Court series is a set of four Historical Fantasy novels (plus one novella and a few short stories) by Marie Brennan. The stories surround the inhabitants of the underground faerie palace, the Onyx Hall, that exists secretly under the city of London, and span about 300 years of English history, from Queen Elizabeth I to the late Victorian period. Each book focuses on a different time period and features two protagonists, one mortal and one fae (except for In Ashes Lie, which takes place over a long enough time span that two mortals are needed to cover everything). The books are meticulously researched for historical accuracy.

The Onyx Court series consists of the following novels:

  • Midnight Never Come: Takes place during the late Elizbethan period and tells the story of Michael Deven, courtier to Queen Elizabeth, and Lune, courtier to Invidiana, faerie queen of the Onyx Court and Elizabeth's dark shadow. Deven and Lune must come together to free England and Elizabeth from Invidiana's hold over them.
  • In Ashes Lie: Takes place from 1639 to 1666, starting with the faeries' involvement in the English Civil War and culminating in the Great Fire of London.
  • A Star Shall Fall: Takes place in the mid-18th century and concerns the Enlightenment in general and Halley's Comet in particular.
  • With Fate Conspire: Takes place in 1884 and deals with the destruction wrought on the Onyx Hall by the Industrial Revolution and the building of the London Underground.

The one novella, Deeds of Men, bridges Midnight and Ashes, and details Deven's efforts to solve a murder and ensure that his position in the Onyx Court is filled upon his death.

The author considers the books to be "semi-standalone", meaning that the reader need not read them all in order to understand them; however, they follow the same continuity, and reading later books first will definitely spoil previous ones. Reading them in order will also likely enhance the reader's appreciation of certain aspects of the story.


The Onyx Court series contains examples of:

  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The books take place far enough apart from each other that each one contains an entirely new cast of mortals (not including the occasional ghost), both fictional and real historical figures. Add that to the recurring (and not-so-recurring) fae characters, and you have enough that the author started putting Dramatis Personae guides at the beginning of later books to help readers keep everyone straight.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Lune in Midnight, Antony in Ashes, and Galen in Star all have to deal with aspects of this trope.
  • Plausible Deniability: The fae are generally very careful to stay hidden from most mortal eyes, and the author put a ton of work into getting all the historical details right, ensuring that for all the readers know, this could have happened in our world. Until the end of Fate, that is, when the masquerade gets broken in spectacular fashion.
  • Shown Their Work: Marie Brennan put an insane amount of work into researching the necessary history for this series, and it shows.
  • Time Skip: A large one between every book. Most of the books also contain smaller, internal time skips at various points, but of particular note are In Ashes Lie and Deeds of Men, which regularly skip back and forth between a date near the end of the story and the events in the years that led up to it.


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