Book Review: Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon

Mike Shevdon's Sixty-One Nails, the first in the Courts of the Feyre series, is almost unclassifiable. The novel is part modern urban fantasy - but not the kind with scantily-clad vampires leaping from rooftop to rooftop - part secret history of England, and part mystery-adventure. This is in no way a bad thing, however: the 500+ page novel is gripping, suspenseful, and finishes faster than this reader would have preferred. I'm already excited for the sequel.*

Sixty-One Nails starts with Niall Peterson, a work-a-holic divorcee and distant father to his only daughter. When he has a heart attack at a busy London tube station during rush hour, his path crosses with that of Blackbird's - and their paths collide, bringing Niall fully into an as-yet hidden world of secret magic and a centuries-old power struggle.

Shevdon's world-creation is thorough and satisfying; he creates a world in which magic and secret histories are carefully interwoven with normal, everyday tasks and city life. Annual legal ceremonies in London history - based on fact, as best I can tell (check out the Getting Medieval article on the ceremony of Quit Rents**) - are tied up in a battle between conflicting sides of a magical world, in which the Seven Courts of the Feyre struggle to keep the exiled court - the Seventh - at bay. The various kinds of the Feyre are loosely related to those mythological creatures that exist in most folklores (though of course the human tales have got it wrong, as always): leprechauns, fairies, the like.

I'm probably starting to confuse you, no? Don't worry, I was lost too; Shevdon reveals the world of the Feyre to his readers as it is revealed to Niall, resulting in a slightly confusing but consistent growth of knowledge as the book progresses. I haven't read the sequel yet, but for this fact alone, I'd recommend starting with the first book in the series.

Bottom line: Looking for a modern, action-packed (oh dear, I hate that phrase) fantasy novel that doesn't include vampires that sparkle in the sunshine? Or, for that matter, doesn't include vampires at all? Look no farther. Sixty-One Nails won't disappoint, and with further books promised in the series, I look forward to more from Shevdon.*


Note: I read the British edition of this book, released by Angry Robot through HarperCollins earlier this year. The title will go on sale in the US in September, released by Angry Robot, now owned by Osprey Publishing.

Note #2: In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that I work for Osprey Publishing, but this review in no way reflects the opinion of my employer, etc, etc. I'd also like to reiterate that I really did enjoy the book, and wouldn't have reviewed it at all if I hadn't.

*Sequel is due October 2010.

** Oddly enough, this article sites a Shire title, Discovering English Folklore and Traditions, as a source. Shire is also part of the Osprey group. I swear the article just popped up when I Googled "sixty-one nails," though.

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