Review: “Deeds of Men” by Marie Brennan

Reviewed by Ziv Wities
“Deeds of Men,” by Marie Brennan, is entirely upfront in establishing its particular genre niche: it’s a historical faerie murder mystery. And a damned good one, too. So if any of those elements, or the delicious combination thereof, sound up your alley, then “Deeds of Men” won’t disappoint.

Sir Michael Deven bridges between the fae Onyx Court and the politics of Great Britain; he is the faery’s representative and expert in mortal affairs. He’s responsible for ensuring the coexistence between both people – but he’s growing old, and his greatest fear is that he might die before finding a successor for this duty. And now, Henry Ware, the protege he’s been grooming for three years, turns up murdered in an alleyway.

Mysteries, when done well, can be wonderful vehicles for exploring both setting and character – the investigation provides both motivation and means to discover as much as possible about the world and the people involved. “Deeds of Men” makes good use of this: having established cooperation between humans and fae, it explores the challenges of such cooperation, the qualities necessary to make it possible, and the character of Henry Ware – and how well he lived up to those expectations.

Altogether, this story is well-written and intriguing. It knows how to use the tropes it depends on and bring the most out of them, and presents many compelling situations and relationships. It’s also an enticing introduction to Brennan’s “Onyx Court” novels – if this is what Brennan manages with a novella, I’d love to see what she does with the same ideas in full novel scope.

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