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WesternSFA
With Fate Conspire
by Marie Brennan
TOR Books; $27.99; 526 pp
Release Date: August 30, 2011

The title of the novel comes from 73rd stanza of the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (based on the Fitzgerald translation):

          Ah, Love! Could thou and I with fate conspire
          To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire
          Would not we shatter it to bits and then
          Remold it nearer the heart’s desire.

This is the poetical heart of the novel and an apt title for the book.

Much of this was a sad tale, the crumbling of the Faerie Onyx Hall—the magical realm for the fae folk beneath London being destroyed by the incursion of iron: the building of the Underground. In this instance, specifically the completion of the Inner Circle Line so that, fundamentally, all of London is pierced by a loop of iron beneath. And iron, as we all know is poison to most of the fae. There is the faintest whiff of steampunk about this story since it deals with the iron horses of the underground and even Charles Babbage’s analytical machine. This is the fourth in Brennan’s Onyx Court series.

There is a huge cast of characters (and plenty from other non-English faerie tales): Dead Rick, a skriker (one who can see death coming to mortals) whose memories have been held ransom by his being oath-bound to a horrible fae named Nadrett who not only has plans for an alternative to Onyx Hall but pretty much runs the Goblin Market; Eliza O’Malley, a poor Irish lass searching for her lost love Owen who had been kidnapped by the faeries. She is determined to find a way to Faerie and rescue Owen, even though it has been seven years. There is the Prince of the Stone, Benjamin Hodge, a mortal and his consort, Lune the Queen of the Faeries, whose very heart and spirit are keeping the Onyx Hall from collapsing. Her strength is pure, but the piercing of the Underground causes her great pain and her struggles to keep Onyx Hall from total collapse are excruciating.

It’s a grim world, this 1884 Victorian London---even with the promise of the Underground making travel easier, the lives of most we see in this novel are a miserable slog; very Dickensian. There are only a few glimpses of the upper class. It is a constant struggle to find what is lost and keep the old from succumbing to the new. Because the new may/will completely destroy the old and that which was magical about London will be no more.

The writing is excellent. The characters are multilayered and fascinating. Ms. Brennan has definitely done her research. Her details are rich and satisfying.

Even Charles Babbage is given a place of honor in this tale as the Galenic Academy (the fae equivalent of the Royal Society) works to develop an alternative source with Babbage’s analytical machine to create and support a new home for the fae in London —everywhere and all around---and just a “step sideways.”

For at the end of the tale after great sacrifice—the fae decide to go public, to be more a part of mortal London and less outside and beyond it and making the interaction between fae and mortal that much easier and less likely to provoke destruction on either side.

A terrific effort. I highly recommend it. ~~ Sue Martin

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