by Mike Shevdon
One moment Niall Petersen is an ordinary London commuter, married to his career and harassed by his ex-wife, fighting his way through tube-station traffic while having another kind of fight over his cell phone. The next moment he is dead, thanks to a massive heart attack brought on by stress. Just when you're thinking this could seriously bring down the life expectancy of main characters in novels, Niall comes back to life. But his old life is over.
The woman who brings Niall back calls herself Blackbird. She explains that the faerie magic she used could not have saved him unless they both had the blood of the Fair—I mean, Feyre—in them. A seer told her something big would happen if she waited that morning at the spot where Niall dropped, so it seems they are fated to be together. And since, by bringing him back from the dead, Blackbird prevented something evil from crossing over from another place and taking possession of his body, Niall will have to go on the run. They, with a capital T, know he's out there, and They will not rest until They destroy him.
You see, there are seven Courts of the Feyre, but only six of them sit on the Council. These include everything from trolls and dwarves to your basic winged fairies. The Seventh Court, which takes a rather fascist view on blood purity, has broken off relations with the other six and bides its time by exterminating everybody with mixed human and Feyre heritage. Once half-bloods start to show their powers, these creatures of darkness and evil can usually find them and kill them without much trouble. So Niall has a very simple choice: run or die.
This is a lot for a pudgy, divorced architect and father of a teenage daughter to take in all at once. He really doesn't quite believe it until something unspeakably nasty tries to surprise him in his apartment that night and causes a local policeman to die a horrible death instead. And then there's the weird powers that he begins to discover in himself. Powers that suggest the seemingly impossible: that Niall, now known as Rabbit (because names have to be changed to protect, well, everybody), is the same type of Feyre as the beings he is running from.
For reasons that I don't have space to explain here, Rabbit and Blackbird realize that the key to keeping the Seventh Court from overrunning our world and enslaving mankind lies in a centuries-old covenant known as the Quit-Rents. Here author Shevdon blends fancy with the type of fact that is even stranger, acquainting us with the legal and ceremonial office of the Queen's Remembrancer. To make a long story short, and thereby almost totally incomprehensible, this peruke-wearing personage must perform a ritual involving a sharp knife, a dull knife, a cane of hazel, six horseshoes, and sixty-one horseshoe nails. These ceremonies actually take place, and have taken place annually since the 13th century, as payment for a place in London called "The Forge" and a tract of land in Shropshire called "The Moors." And since no one can quite explain why the rents take this particular form, the explanation that their proper observance prevents all fey hell from breaking loose seems as good as any other.
This is a book full of disturbing magical beings, weird rituals, high-paced action and danger, and a unique romance between two people who are (mostly) undeterred by an age difference of several centuries, perhaps because they can (usually) look any age they choose. Their sensitivity to iron suggests that such folk would find this an uncomfortable age to live in, though they have abilities to compensate. Niall's abilities are particularly unsettling, not only to us but to the woman who loves him, because they represent the greatest pain and evil that she knows. And whether the Council will ever extend its protection to a creature like him remains unresolved until almost the last page of this book—by which you will be glad to know that this is only Book One of a series titled The Courts of the Feyre. Its sequel, already in print, is The Road to Bedlam.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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