Review of IN ASHES LIE by MARIE BRENNAN
(second in the ONYX COURT series)
The second book in Marie Brennan’s ONYX COURT series takes place in 1600s London when King Charles finds himself imprisoned by the army and then beheaded prior to the Great Fire. As with the first book, the history and fantasy blend superbly together with the fey and magic playing surprising roles in past events. The Great Fire of London might look like nothing more than vicious flames to mortals, but the fey see the fire’s true form: a dragon, bent on devouring all of London in its lust to feed on the magnificent Onyx Court.
Lune unintentionally won the throne at the end of the first book, and now this further glimpse into the fey world allows us a chance to see her as queen. She’s no idolized heroine. Lune is unsure of herself, but determined to hide her worries and insecurities. She makes mistakes, with serious consequences, often in whom she trusts and whom she doesn’t and how she chooses to reward or punish her subjects. Her redeeming feature throughout shouldn’t be underestimated: she loves her realm. She wants the best for every individual, mortal and fey alike, even if she’s not always certain how to earn the best. Even when I disagreed with her decisions, I always respected Lune for her fierce loyalty to her court and subjects, proven with wounds both physical and emotional, and her unwavering resolve to protect her realm from those who would do it harm.
As promised, Lune always keeps a mortal by her side. Her love, Michael Deven, aged and died, as was inevitable, and now she works alongside a man named Antony. The first book brushed up against the concept that faeries can only love once, but this second book embraces that idea even more. While she hides it well and the writing doesn’t overemphasize the lamentation, Lune’s grief for her lost lover is painfully apparent. The new dynamic with Antony is a different kind of enthralling. His heart, too, belongs to another, his wife, and he regrets that this secret service to a magic realm remains the greatest strain on their otherwise strong relationship.
As with the first, the second book in the ONYX COURT series is a thoroughly engrossing read, both passionate and thoughtful at the same time. Somewhat subtle in the story’s subtext is an ever-increasing sense that the world is changing. As it shifts for mortals, so must the fey, too, learn to adapt.