Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon (509 pages, Urban Fantasy)
Sixty-One Nails follows the adventures of a middle-aged Brit named Niall after he has a heart attack in the London underground. This event opens the door to his previously unknown Fey heritage and sucks him into a world where he finds himself hunted and in constant danger. The novel cracks off at top speed, but, overall, was a bit of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the pacing was good, the protagonist was interesting company, and the central problem (disruption of a British ceremony performed annually since 1211, called the Quit Rent ceremony) was sufficiently intriguing. On the other hand, the romantic line in the story (which was prominent) turned me off a bit and the climax came a good 50 pages too soon, giving the actual ending a strange, tacked-on feel.
So, first the good. In many ways, Sixty-One Nails is a rather conventional urban fantasy involving the Courts of the Fey existing alongside a modern world that knows nothing of their existence (in this case London). What distinguished the book from so many others was the aforementioned use of the historical Quit Rents ceremony as a plot device. I got quite caught up in the hero’s efforts to discover why this ceremony was important and how it related to his own predicament. The history nerd in me really enjoyed this.
What felt a bit flat, however, was the fact that the plot line surrounding the Quit Rents ceremony wrapped itself up well before the book was over. Subsequently, a bunch of other things unrelated to the main story line lept to prominence at the end of the book. It was structurally jarring.
Shevdon plays with some cool ideas in this book, though. One of them was the magic/power the protagonist must learn to control. I don’t want to give away too much, but it was pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. I also liked how Shevdon played with ideas of age and appearance and whether they truly define who we are. Some of this really resonated and struck me as, if not original, at least insightful. Some of it, though, messed with my enjoyment of the romantic elements of the plot (which made me feel rather shallow, truth be told). Ah well, nobody’s perfect.
On the whole, I’d say if you dig the whole thing where the Fey and human worlds exist side-by-side, especially when enlivened with cool historically-based plot points, you’ll probably enjoy Sixty-One Nails.