Another book review so soon?
There are two reasons: firstly, last week was a major deadline for my day-job, so I didn’t have a lot of mental energy for writing, and secondly – this book is a fast read!
The Road to Bedlam is the sequel to Sixty-One Nails, picking up where the first book left off. Blackbird is nearing the end of her pregnancy when Niall’s daughter from his first marriage is apparently killed in a freak accident. However Alex is not dead – she has inherited her father’s fey blood and been bundled off to a secret facility for those who cannot control their powers (very reminiscent of Selma Blair’s character Liz in Hellboy). Niall is desperate to find her, but the Courts of the Feyre have more important things on their minds…
I confess I found the opening chapters a little slow. Shevdon understandably doesn’t want to short-change the impact on his protagonist of the apparent death of his child, but it does mean we spend quite a while with him in the mundane world as he tries to visit her in intensive care, attends a memorial service at the school, and so on. I felt this robbed the story of the forward momentum set up in the prologue, and it took a while to get going again. Maybe that’s just me, though; I don’t read much contemporary fantasy, so I’m accustomed to more “exotic” settings that are interesting in their own right.
Once Niall finds out the truth, however, it’s a steadily escalating adventure as he tries to balance his duty to Blackbird and his new kinfolk with his impatience to find Alex, and the book ends with an all-action finale worthy of a summer blockbuster! On the way, we get more fascinating glimpses into obscure corners of English folklore and tradition, like Oakham Castle with its great hall decorated with horseshoes of all sizes.
This is the real strength of Shevdon’s writing: the rich blend of ancient and modern, with a very English flavour (I would say British, but so far all the stories have focused on England, from London to Shropshire). I would love to see these books picked up by BBC Wales and made into mini-series – they would sit very comfortably alongside recent SFF productions like Being Human and Torchwood.
The third installment in The Courts of the Feyre is due out from Angry Robot next summer, so if you haven’t read the first two books, you have plenty of time to catch up!