Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Sixty-One Nails"

Mike Shevdon draws his inspiration from the richness of English folklore and from the history and rituals of the UK. His Courts of the Feyre series follows the adventures of Niall and Blackbird as Niall discovers a world of dark magic and strange creatures hidden in plain sight.

The first book in the series, Sixty-One Nails, is now available everywhere. It will be followed by a sequel, The Road to Bedlam, available now in the UK and Australasia, and in North America on 26th October 2010.

Shevdon applied the Page 69 Test to Sixty-One Nails and reported the following:
Page 69 of Sixty-One Nails finds Niall in the tunnels below Covent Garden Underground Station, about to be introduced to Kareesh, who may be able to help him survive. Having already met the troll, Gramawl, he has little idea of what to expect, but then this is turning into the strangest of days…
Gramawl materialised from the darkness without a sound. It wasn’t just that he moved quietly. In the silence of the passage you could have heard a feather fall but Gramawl made no sound until he reappeared from tunnel. Blackbird was unsurprised by this and took in the rapid gestures that accompanied his return.

“She’ll see us now, Rabbit. You are privileged. She must be curious about you.”

“Why would she be curious about me?”

“Because I brought you to her, I expect.”
The way that Blackbird calls him 'Rabbit' and his exclusion from the conversation through the use of sign language between Blackbird and Gramawl adds to Niall's unease. Blackbird has brought Niall to someone she believes can help him, but at this stage only she knows just how desperately he needs that help. There's a hint, though, that their request might have been refused: You are privileged. Even so, when Niall asks her why Kareesh would be curious about him, Blackbird's answer is typically evasive.
Gramawl stepped back into the darkness and Blackbird followed him. I wasn’t sure what to expect now that we were going to meet Kareesh. What would a female troll look like? Were they bigger or smaller than the males? Was she likely to decide I was a self-delivering takeaway?

The darkness eased in behind me and we were climbing slightly. The passage angled left and right and came to a stairway at one side while the passage continued onward into darkness. The metal treads of the steps gleamed dully in the darkness and I noticed a faint glimmer of light coming from above.
There was some unseen exchange between Gramawl and Blackbird and she took the steps upwards. I followed, nodding a blind acknowledgement to the hulking shape in the dimness, guessing that with his huge gold-rimmed eyes he could probably see me perfectly well.

There are hints here that Niall still isn't sure whether to trust Blackbird; she's leading, but should he follow? Reading this back to myself, it's also the moment where Niall crosses from the concrete and steel world of humanity into a place altogether more strange.
The steps doubled back at the first level and climbed up to an area that opened out, whether into another corridor or a room it was hard to tell, for every surface was hanging with rugs and heavy curtains patterned in muted gold and red. In contrast to the space below, the echoes died immediately, leaving a sensation of muffled closeness.

As we walked forward we stepped onto rugs with curving geometric patterns that led the eye to wander. Delicate filigree lamps in beaten copper hung from the ceiling…
This is not a page I would have immediately chosen to introduce a stranger to the book, but I think it touches on some important themes - the precarious balance of trust between Blackbird and Niall, and the human world concealing the hidden world of the Feyre. There's a sense that Niall is lost, that he doesn't know what's expected of him or how to behave. The rules have changed and his guide is uncertain, and now he's heading into unknown territory.

Everyone keeps looking at him strangely, even though he's normal and they're the ones who are strange, but that's because they're all looking at someone they don't expect to survive to see the dawn.
Read an excerpt from Sixty-One Nails, and learn more about the book and author at Mike Shevdon's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue