Irrith is a faerie, one who was originally from London and the court of Queen Lune, but she has spent the last years rusticating in the countryside. Now, she has returned to London, bearing a tithe of fairy bread, the bread that humans leave out for faeries and which enables them to walk among mortal humans without fear of Cold Iron and Church Bells, both of which are inimical to Faeries.
But the court of Queen Lune is caught up in a problem. A Dragon, an elemental being of fire unleashed in London at the time of the great fire, was imprisoned in Halley's comet the last time it passed over the earth. Now, the comet is returning, and the Faeries are seeking a way to deal with it forever, as the Dragon is only imprisoned by the ice and cold of outer space. With the comet falling back towards the sun, the dragon will reawaken, and if it gets free, it will be free to wreak fiery vengeance on London once more. And not just London, the entire world.
Ever since the last appearance of the comet, the faeries of London have looked for a way to either imprison the Dragon forever, or kill it so it will no longer be a problem. But in all the time since the Dragon was imprisoned, they have discovered no way to do either. Now, Lune is hoping that her Human Prince of the Onyx Court, Galen St. Clair, will find some way to do the impossible, if not with fairy magic, then with Human science.
But Galen is a young man, and a gentleman, and he doesn't know much about science. Worse, even though he is Prince of the Onyx court, it is meant to be a ceremonial position- an ambassador between humans and Faeries. And Galen has done more that served Queen Lune, he has fallen deeply and hopelessly in love with her, and hopes beyond hope that someday, she will return his regard, not knowing that she already lost the love of her life and it was a faerie, and she still mourns the loss of her love.
Worse for both Galen and the Court, several faeries are convinced that it was some weakness of Lune that has led to this pass and seek to overthrow her and put another of their choice upon the throne. They seek Irryth's support, though Irryth believes that Lune is just the ruler that the Fae of London need in this time.
As time passes, Galen befriends Dr. Rufus Andrews, a physician much concerned with Energy and movement. With Lune's permission, he reveals the Faeries to the scientist and asks him to help them with the Dragon. Unfortunately, Dr. Andrews is dying, but thanks to the Faeries, he receives more time to work on the problem, along with the help of Djinn traveling in England and a pair of Dwarves who have built a room where time passes more slowly. The answer that Galen receives from the result of their researches is the last one he would ever want: To defeat the dragon, with the power of fire and the sun, it will require a sacrifice, one of water and the moon, Like Lune, perhaps.
But as Galen attempts anything in his power to save the woman he loves, the forces inimical to Lune see this as their chance to be rid of an impediment to the throne. And Galen's father forces him to wed to assure the good marriages of his sister, which means he must marry into money to save his family. And he and Irryth fall into a sexual relationship, each aware that she isn't the one he really wants, and yet too deep into each other to let go.
But can Galen find some way to save the Faeries and to save the Queen that he loves more than anything else at the same time? What would such a sacrifice require, and can he save London, both Faerie and Human, from a threat that one doesn't understand and the other understands only too well?
It took me a fairly long time to get into this book, because it started rather slow after Irryth gets attacked on the road into London by a black Dog-like creature. Yes, that was actually a pretty fast start, but after that, the rest of the story slows to a pretty glacial crawl, mostly concerned with the return of the Dragon and Faerie politics. The course of the novel covers years, so it seems as though the story itself is very slow-moving when it is actually the pace of time in the story.
I would like to say that I got caught up in the characters of the story, but it was a distant sort of caring I had for them. Yes, I wanted the faeries to be saved, but as the story went on, I wasn't really all that invested in the main characters. I mean, I felt for Galen, loving a woman he could never have or possess except in the most superficial of ways because she wasn't in love with him and his position was ceremonial rather than having something to do with relationships or affection. At least, not the type of affection he wanted.
I'm not sure if it was because I realized the story was not going to have a very happy ending, or perhaps I didn't sympathize with the characters quite enough, but I felt as if I was reading the story at a subtle remove and never was completely invested in them as characters or in their plots and plans. I didn't quite sympathize or empathize with them enough, and so by the ending, I just felt... removed and somewhat distant.
Is this an effective story? Yes, I did care for the characters and something for the outcome, but I didn't care enough to make it seem anything like real for me. When it was over, I felt a vague sense of disappointment, but that was it. And this was the kind of story that should have made me care more than that, should have made me feel much more invested in the story, in Galen's struggle to save Lune, Irryth and the rest of the Faeries, but in the end, I just didn't. So, Recommended, but I can't recommend it highly. It was interesting, but not enough to make me care about it to the degree I felt I should have.