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Marie Brennan

fantasy author Marie BrennanMarie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time practicing piano, studying karate, and playing a variety of role-playing games. She’s been writing fantasy since she was nine or ten years old, and blames this fact on Diana Wynne Jones. Learn more about Marie Brennan and read excerpts of her writing at her website.


Marion chats with M.A. Carrick (Giveaway!)

M.A. Carrick (Alyc is on the left, Marie is on the right)

M.A. Carrick is the pseudonym of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, who write THE ROOK AND ROSE trilogy. Both writers are well-known individually, Brennan most recently for the LADY TRENT series, and Helms for her urban fantasy/dragon/superhero MISSY MASTERS books.

Alyc and Marie set aside some time to talk to me about their second book in the series, The Liar’s Knot, upcoming projects, and the nami... Read More

Doppelganger (Warrior): Marie Brennan’s debut shows promise

Doppelganger (Warrior) by Marie Brennan

I picked up Doppelganger (Warrior) because Marie Brennan is a graduate student at Indiana University where I also went to grad school, so I felt a connection there. (How she's managing to write novels while in grad school, I'll never know!) Overall, Doppelganger is a good debut.

At first the story follows the separate lives of Mirage, a kick-butt warrior who has recently graduated from warrior school and makes her living by being commissioned for various dangerous tasks, and Miryo, a witch who has been in school and has just failed her "final exam" because of the existence of Mirage, the doppelganger. Every witch has a doppelganger who is supposed to be killed while they are babies so that the magic power can be controlled by the witch. Because Mirage was not killed, Miryo must hunt her down and kill her. Meanwhile, Mirage ... Read More

Midnight Never Come: Glittering courts

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Comeis the story of two courts, and of two courtiers who must uncover a deadly secret that threatens both mortal and faerie England. Lune is a disgraced lady of the faerie court, trying to win her way back into the good graces of the cruel Queen Invidiana. Michael Deven is a young gentleman of Elizabeth I's retinue, working with Elizabeth's spymaster Walsingham to sniff out a "hidden player" in English politics. Neither is quite prepared for what they discover.

Marie Brennan has a lovely, elegant prose style that lends itself well to describing the glittering courts. There's a certain "iciness" to it, a certain emotional distance between reader and characters, at least at first. Later in the book, emotion does bleed through, unmistakable even when it's described with great restraint. And speaking of restraint, Midnight Never Come is unusually chaste when... Read More

In Ashes Lie: This is a story about power

In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan

In Ashes Lie continues the story of the Onyx Court, a faerie city situated just below London, and the Court's dealings with London's mortals. Lune, who became queen of the Onyx Court in Midnight Never Come, reigns still. Her mortal consort, Michael Deven, is long dead. Lune has chosen another man to act as her official consort and liaison with the mortal world, but the role is political only.

In Ashes Lie follows Lune and her allies through the end of Charles I's troubled reign, Oliver Cromwell's rise to power, and the eventual restoration of the monarchy. Running alongside this mortal politicking, dangerous plots are afoot in the faerie court. As you might guess by the novel's title, the climactic events take place during the Great Fire of 1666, which threatens to destroy both London and the Onyx C... Read More

A Star Shall Fall: For fans of historical fantasy

A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan

From the celestial heights the arbitrary acts of life seem patterned like a fairy-tale landscape, populated by charming and eccentric figures. The glittering observers require vital doses of joy and pain, sudden reversals of fortune, dire portents and untimely deaths. Life itself proceeds in its unpredictable infinite patterns — so unlike the measured dance of stars — until, for the satisfaction of their entertainment, the watchers choose a point at which to stop.

That’s a quote from Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, but I kept thinking of it while reading A Star Shall Fall. It’s part of the nature of the ONYX COURT series that the books are tightly focused on specific points in time. Marie Brennan Read More

With Fate Conspire: Heartrending

With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan

The Onyx Court is crumbling. The gradual demolition of the London Wall dealt the first blow to the faerie palace beneath the city. Now the Underground is hammering in the coffin nails, its iron rails ripping through the fabric of the palace. Queen Lune has not been seen in years. The elegant court is no more, and ruthless mob bosses rule in the sinister Goblin Market. Now, the Underground’s Inner Circle is nearing completion and may destroy what’s left of the Onyx Court forever.

The fate of the faerie city lies in the hands of three unlikely heroes, all of them from society’s lower classes. Eliza is a street vendor, later a maid, who faces anti-Irish prejudice in mortal London while searching for her lost sweetheart, Owen, who was taken by the faeries seven years ago. Dead Rick is a skriker (dog shapeshifter, death omen) who was once a loyal Queen’s man; now, his memories stolen, he’s ... Read More

A Natural History of Dragons: A great start to a great series

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent  by Marie Brennan

I’m not going to start at the beginning with A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan; I’m going to start before the beginning — at the cover. Why? Because it’s gorgeous: a beautifully drawn, silver and blue and grey hued dragon walking on all fours, its left front and right hind leg in the process of moving forward; its powerful legs, erect head, out-thrust chest, and soaring wings proclaiming its power; while the back half has been illustratively flayed to reveal its carefully numbered and delineated muscles, bones, and layers of underskin that create that power. It looks ripped right out of Gray’s Anatomy (the text, not the show). The interior illustrations, also by Todd Lockwood, are equally beautiful, losing little in their shift to simple black and white lines. I wish more fantasy novels had such artistic enhancements and h... Read More

The Tropic of Serpents: A wonderfully beguiling voice

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

In my review of Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, I wrote that Brenan had me immediately with Lady Trent’s “wry, rebellious, sardonic voice,” but that the novel lost its edge about 100 pages in and never quite fully recovered, leaving me somewhat dissatisfied. I’m happy to say that the sequel, The Tropic of Serpents, kept that wonderfully beguiling voice, but managed to smooth out the problems with pacing, managing a follow-up that improves upon its predecessor.

As in book one, Lady Trent must overcome Victorian (literally, the novels are set in a Victorian world, with Scirling standing in for England) mores in order to embark on a journey of discovery into a foreign and most likely dangerous land. Society’s feathers are even more ruffled this time around, a... Read More

Voyage of the Basilisk: Science and curiosity

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Warning: Some inevitable spoilers for the previous novels, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, will follow.

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2015) is the third in Marie Brennan’s series A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, and I found it falling somewhere between books one and two in terms of the reading experiences (better than the first, but not quite as good as the second). As always in this series, the narrative voice is the strongest aspect and managed to (mostly) outweigh the book’s weaknesses.

Readers will most likely note the resemblance between the title of this work and Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, Read More

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: Come for the dragons, stay for the voice

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the MEMOIRS BY LADY TRENT series by Marie Brennan, and in terms of quality I’d place it just behind the second one, The Tropic of Serpents, which so far is my favorite. And if it has a few of the same issues that have detracted from prior books, as always, these are outweighed by the wonderful voice of the narrator, which is really the number one reason for picking up this series.

As has been the pattern, In the Labyrinth of Drakes sees Lady Trent looking back on a trip to yet another foreign setting in order to study the native dragon species. And again, as usual, other issues arise that complicate her endeavor. In this case, the setting is Akhia — this alternate world’s analo... Read More

Within the Sanctuary of Wings: A fitting, if too-soon, conclusion

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Bill Capossere: Plotting and pace have always been the sticking points for me in the MEMOIRS OF LADY TRENT series by Marie Brennan, the reasons why the individual books have never climbed above a four-star rating for me and have at times dipped to three and a half. But what has never flagged for me has been my appreciation of that wonderful narrative voice, that of Lady Trent herself. Voice is the reason I kept reading these novels, and voice is what has finally led me here to the fifth and supposedly final one, Within the Sanctuary of Wings (2017). And once again, I find that while issues of plot and pace raise their heads once more, I’m willing to (mostly) overlook them just to bask for perhaps the last time in that archly clever, witty, and wry voice.
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Driftwood: A strong story collection with a great setting

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Driftwood by Marie Brennan

Driftwood (2020) is a charming, meditative, and often poignant collection of linked stories by Marie Brennan that mostly succeeds both in its individual tales and as a whole, though I had a few issues. But given that one of those is it was too short, it’s still an easy book to recommend.

The book’s general setting is the titular Driftwood. Think of it as a beach whose tide, instead of washing up the pebbles and the sea’s detritus, washes up instead dying worlds. Except instead of piling up on a sandy strand, the worlds just edge farther and farther inward, getting ever smaller before eventually disappearing forever. Or as one character explains to another whose world has just started the process:
Bits [of a world] just vanish. People die, o... Read More

Magazine Monday: A Summer’s Worth of Apex Magazine

Apex Magazine is an online magazine I’ve reviewed once before, stating some reservations about the change in editorial command. I’m happy to report that the summer’s issues indicate that the magazine is as strong as ever. The June, July and August issues contain something to satisfy nearly every fantasy reader.

The August issue opens with the stunning “Waiting for Beauty” by Marie Brennan. This twist on the classic fairy tale “The Beauty and the Beast” will stop your breath. The devotion of the Beast to his Beauty is transcendent and sad.

Kat Howard’s “Murdered Sleep” is equally extraordinary, though in a completely different way.  Kora has long heard rumors of an impossibly wonderful party, full of masks and decadence. One day she rece... Read More

SHORTS: Link, Hand, Marr, Kingfisher, Brennan

Here are a few of the short stories we read this week, all of which are free to read online.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2015, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her... Read More

SHORTS: Vaughn, Brennan, Campbell, Anders

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“Doctor Kitty Solves All Your Love Problems” by Carrie Vaughn (2001, originally published in Weird Tales 324 (Summer 2001), free on the author’s website)

Kitty Norville is a radio DJ with a late night call-in show, focusing on questions dealing with the supernatural: werewolves, vampires, witches, psychics, etc., in a world where these types of beings have come out to the public. Most of her callers want help with relationship concer... Read More

SHORTS: Brennan, Edelstein, Kress, Sterling, Sobin, Grant

Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

“From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan (2016, free at, 99c Kindle version)

Have a little pity for the editors of the Falchester Weekly Review — when they published Mr. Benjamin Talbot’s news that he had recently come into posse... Read More

SHORTS: Castro and Zinos-Amaro, Brennan, Banker, Robson

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Mouth of the Oyster” by Adam-Troy Castro & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Nov. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

In the aftermath of a deadly plague that struck their area in ancient China, the narrator and his wife, Li-Fan, are among the survivors. But the plague has left its mark on them: the narrator has lost his sight but is otherwise still a healthy man; Li-Fan is frailer and weakened, especially on he... Read More

It Happened at the Ball: 13 stories with ballroom settings

It Happened at the Ball edited by Sherwood Smith

This collection of thirteen (mostly) fantasy short stories and a novelette or two is tied together by their ballroom settings, whether it be the Almack’s Regency ballroom (where a group of young ladies happens upon an overly potent magical love potion in Marissa Doyle’s “Just Another Quiet Evening at Almack’s”) or a Civil War-era ball in Galveston, Texas (P.G. Nagle’s “A Waltz for May”). There are also some other themes that surface and resurface: masks and hidden identities, romance, and ― as editor and author Sherwood Smith freely admits in her foreword ― escapist wish-fulfillment. Here be faeries, vampires, thieves, pirates and lots of other intriguing character... Read More

Fifth Annual FOGCon + Giveaway!

Last month Marion and I attended FOGCon 5 in Walnut Creek, California (in the San Francisco Bay area) where I served on a panel called “When the Setting is a Character.” FOGCon, which stands for Friends of the Genre Convention, has a literary bent. Marion and I are going to discuss our experience here, and we've got a book to give away to a commenter.

Marion, what did you think of your first FOGCon?

Terry, I expected FOGCon to be fun because you recommended it, but this conference exceeded my expectations! From the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel staff – consistently helpful, friendly and cheerful – to the thoughtful and varied panels, this was a great weekend. And I love that they had a “Ghost of Honor,” Joanna Russ, devoting an... Read More

Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal on the Brave New Worlds Tour

I had the chance to see Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal at Copperfield's Books in Petaluma California on May 7. I have a signed copy of Kowal's Of Noble Family and a signed copy of Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk to give away to one lucky random commenter with a U.S. address.

Mary Robinette Kowal (left, with egret feather) and Marie Brennan take questions from the audience.

“We dress like this all the time,” Mary Robinette Kowal said in response to a casual question, as she and Marie Brennan sat down at the table in Copperfield’s Books. “Mine’s really comfortable. It’s like a nightgown.”

Marie Brennan looked at her. “Mine i... Read More