In “Sixty-one Nails”, Niall, a divorced businessman, has a heart attack on the London Underground and wakes up to a world in which things are not as he believed they were. It turns out that the Fey exist and live side by side with humans – and he has attracted the attention of Blackbird, a female Feyre, who helps him navigate this new world, where both Niall and the people around him are in constant danger.
The setup of “oh, look, there is a Fey world” and a decidedly awkward and disbelieving anti-hero is nothing new as such – there have been numerous new tales of the Fey interacting with the human world including Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series and my beloved Dresden Files.
What makes “Sixty-one Nails” different is the history – Shevdon has done a lot of research about London and old rituals that are still upheld by the Crown and the City today. He has found a twist on the by now stereotypical setting and has managed to create an exciting and engaging story filled with a sense of reality that gave his world a shiny new and different feel.
I really liked both Niall and Blackbird, and was happy to go along the ride with them and discover this new and strange world filled with kind and dangerous Fey alike. Blackbird particularly is a new kind of anti-heroine and was a fresh and courageous creation by Shevdon.
Unfortunately, Shevdon was not entirely unable to avoid some of the pitfalls of “human introduced to supernatural world”-storytelling, and I was not at all surprised when it turned out that Niall is naturally extra-special and not just someone who randomly stumbled into the Fey world. The worst situations were often saved by some seemingly random and just-made-up-for-the-occasion rule or happening, and there were a few too many lucky coincidents to completely ignore them.
All in all, I was able to overlook these as stables of the genre and be charmed by the dark nooks and crannies of known and unknown London, and the unexpected twist of genuine English history in a supernatural light.
“Sixty-one Nails” is the first in the Courts of the Feyre series.
Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre #1) by Mike Shevdon; published by Angry Robot in 2009