the contextual life

thoughts without borders

Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon

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“It hadn’t been the best of days, overall. I had started out dead and now I felt like crap.”

Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon begins on a Friday morning in London; Niall Petersen was on the Underground platform heading to his office job when a man jumped in front of the train. Shaken, but more importantly, late to work he called his ex-wife to let her know he’d be stuck at the office that evening and wouldn’t be able to pick their daughter up until the morning for her weekend visit—unwelcome news for the ex’s weekend plans. An anticipated argument ensues as Niall rushes to the next station.

After racing through the city, Niall descends on another train line. While in the crowded elevator he starts to feel odd: “My breath wheezed in my chest. Indigestion grumbled in my stomach, the result of coffee, no food and being wedged into an airless carriage,” or so he thought. And then, “I finally realized what was happening: I was having a heart attack,” or so he thought.

The elevator hits the platform level and he staggers out to the normal rush hour treatment: morning commuters walked past him sneering, thinking he’s either drunk or on drugs. Passing out on the ground, a woman, introduced only as Blackbird, appears, mysteriously of course, and revives him to full recovery. Against his protests, the details of his brief condition still unknown to him, she drags him from the ambulance that’s been called—and that he’s already been loaded into—to avoid any chance of an official report.

The astute reader of fantasy novels will know that it was not an accident Blackbird was on the platform at that exact moment and soon it’s learned that she was sent to watch over him, to help him with what has become his new life. Before that morning, Niall was perfectly normal: newly divorced, employed by a respectable company, living in a decent enough apartment and a father to a young girl. Now he was slowly becoming aware that he was some sort of half-human whose previously dormant magic has just been woken up for some unknown reason.

Blackbird, his impatient guide, quickly explains what he is: Fey—or half-human—derogatorily known as “tainted” by the Feyre, the self-proclaimed “pure bloods”.

“Somewhere in your family tree there is one who is not human, but something else.”
“What kind of ‘something else’?”
“A creature of power. A member of the Feyre, a race far older than humanity.”

Now, as they both find themselves hunted by Feyre, Blackbird’s first orders to Niall, or Rabbit as he’s renamed, are for him to forget about his job, clear out his apartment of all personal belongings—especially any information about his daughter—and tell his ex-wife to leave town.

The barrier between humanity and the Feyre has broken down and unless Niall and Blackbird can figure out how to restore it—all in a few days time—there’s little chance that they, and the world as they know it, will survive.

Shevdon, basing his book on an ancient ritual that is still performed in London today, hides the key to the riddle in the restoration of purity in the Quit Rents Ceremony, the oldest legal ceremony in England with the exception of the Royal Coronation. In order to repair the barrier, Blackbird and Niall must convince full humans to face unimaginable danger with them as they attempt to defeat deadly, powerful creatures. But not to worry, there is still time for the two to find romance, even if it manifests in an odd Fey-ish way.

The cover of Sixty-One Nails quotes author C.E. Murphy claiming the book as “A Neverwhere for the next generation.” While I’ll argue that it’s never fair to set a bar so high, given Neil Gaiman’s well-deserved status as a fantastic writer and cult icon, there is some truth to it. Both are dark urban fantasies built on protagonists suddenly become part of a world just underneath the surface of reality. Just as with Neverwhere, Sixty-One Nails is deeply compelling; it will  tempt you away from social commitments and sleep. With the follow up, Road to Bedlam, promising more adventures from Niall and Blackbird, you’ll want to make sure your schedule is clear and coffee is brewing.

Buy Sixty-One Nails at IndieBound
Mike Shevdon’s page at Angry Robot
Mike’s website
Follow Mike on Twitter @shevdon


Written by Gabrielle

September 20, 2011 at 5:30 am

Posted in books, reviews

Tagged with , , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. I adored this book! So glad to see you loved it too!


    September 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

    • it was such a good read. i loved the feel of it.


      September 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm

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