This review originally published on SFFWorld.com
For a quick recap, please read my review of the first (Sixty One Nails), second (The Road to Bedlam), andthird (Strangeness and Charm) books to get a sense of how this series has shifted over time. I’ll do a quick summary below (hint: spoilers abound), but there’s so much going on you might get a little lost. My apologies in advance.
The Feyre have long lived among humans. With a strained treaty between them and humans, with one of the Feyre Courts wanting to eliminate humans altogether, and with the fact that Feyre and humans have started interbreeding, there are plenty of problems for our hero, Niall Peterson, to attend to after he realizes he’s one of the dreaded waithkin, the type of aforementioned Feyre that want to end humanity.
Niall Peterson came late to his Feyre powers after suffering a heart attack on the London underground. He’s recently divorced, feeling estranged from his only daughter, and a bit out of shape. He’s saved by Blackbird, a several hundred year old half-fey, but only temporarily. For the entire first book in this series, Niall is running for his life and he’s lucky enough to have Blackbird along to help him (and fall in love with).
In the second book, The Road to Bedlam, the overall conflict between the untainted waithkin and the fey-mongrels (half Feyre, half human) is brought to the fore, introducing a new twist. Feyre lines have gone stagnant and since the High Court (made up of seven lords from the Seven Courts) cannot figure out what to do about it, it seems that the fey have been quietly have a sort of sexual revolution. There are half-breeds everywhere. And a secret government branch has started to use and abuse them – including Niall’s daughter.
In Strangeness and Charm, the story shifts to tell Alex’s (Niall’s daughter) story. She has been traumatized by the events that occurred to her during her government incarceration, and being a teenager, she’s having a lot to cope with. She just wants to fit in somewhere and she finds a group of half-fey peers that are willing to take her in (because they couldn’t manage to kill her). But, unfortunately, that proves disastrous because their leader is trying to destroy the world. However, Niall managers to save us all (again), while he learns more about who he really is and the stage is set for the waithkin to make their move.
Which they do in The Eighth Court. The untainted, pure Feyre, are divided into Seven Courts, but with the emergence of the new half-breeds, another one is proposed so as to deal with the special problems that the half-fey/half-humans pose to the Feyre and to humanity. Blackbird, its de facto leader, is negotiating hard with the other court lords to sort out their differences and actually physically create an Eighth Court to handle all the half-breed’s business.
As a court Warder, sworn to protect all the court lords, with no bias and regardless of court affiliation, Niall is, of course, in the midst of all this sea-change in the Feyre culture. Not to mention Blackbird is his wife and mother to his newborn son. If that wasn’t enough, his daughter falls in love with a colleague. Among all this, the waithkin maneuver events so they can move in and finally do want they have been gunning to do since, well, since forever – take over.
The Eighth Court starts out with a mysterious interchange of information. Someone is betraying the High Court (where all the courts gather to settle differences and plot against each other) and offering Niall’s hide. And from there on out, nothing is as it seems. Niall is pulled between his family and his duty throughout the story, making it hard for the story to gain any momentum. We then get yanked from Niall’s trials to Alex’s growing affections for a man she barely knows, and who may be a 1000 years older than her. But, hey, she’s an adult…more or less. And the prophecy first hinted at in Sixty One Nails comes into play, sealing all their fates, while Blackbird makes one of the biggest mistakes in her life as a lady.
Now, I was really looking forward to this last (I thought it was the last) installment to the series. I had put off reading it so that I could savor the story and the ultimate sword fight that I just knew – just knew! – must happen between Niall and Raffmir (Niall’s waithkin cousin). I even forgave the waffling, disjointed story that is the bulk ofThe Eighth Court, anticipating that the final fight would be worthy of all the unnecessary setup.
I was pretty disappointed in the end, more of a fizzle than a bang.
After reading, I thought my feelings about this book were too harsh and unwarranted. I thought, maybe it was just me. The story just didn’t resonate with me. But then, while writing this review and re-reading my notes on the previous books, I realized how much fun the other books are. Niall is a great character and his magical ability set him apart from most of the other Feyre and half-fey. Not only that, he really struggled to reconcile his humanity with his fey nature. His story up till this book had been vibrant and interesting. But in The Eighth Court?
The first three-quarters of the book seemed very disjointed. We jumped from several POVs in rapid succession, making it hard to figure out what’s going on, Niall managed to get a human killed (right under his nose!), and the dreaded waithkin weren’t all that dreadful.
And to top it off, there were an inordinate amount of typographic errors.
Yup. I said it.
I don’t normally mention typos. They’re like errant nose hairs. Best not to mention them in polite company. And I normally do not need to mention them. Any book worthy of my time to write a review for generally do not contain a noticeable amount of typos. Oh, all books have ‘em. Like zits, it is impossible for a few typos not to squeeze through. But when I find myself highlighting line after line because they contain a typo and not because they are worthy of remembrance, well, let’s just say, I noticed. So, shame on Angry Robot for not putting this through the proofreader one last time.
(NOTE: I did not receive a review copy. I bought my copy at its full price on Barnes and Noble – before Angry Robot’s big sale!)
So, should you read The Eighth Court?
If you are new to Mike Shevdon’s work, I would say no. Mr. Shevdon is an excellent writer. I’m a fan and I will continue to read whatever he puts out, but this book doesn’t reflect his talent. Start with Sixty One Nails.
If you’ve read all the others in this series, The Eighth Court does (for the most part) wrap up all the story threads, and, for some, that may satisfy.