Urban fantasy is a hard subgenre - it has to integrate the fantastical into our rather more mundane planet without creating dissonance. Thankfully, this is something The Thirteen Hallows does well - very well. The magical is based in mythology and history, mainly in the form of the titular objects, thirteen legendary objects invested with a mystical significance. Which is, of course, one of the novels' mysteries (and one resolved in a very surprising way). Of course, our protagonists come across all this in a less than knowledgable way. Otherwise, where would the fun be?
So the legendary Keepers of the Hallows are... senior citizens. And they're being murdered. When Sarah Miller saves one from a mugging, she's inadvertently drawn into the conflict. Called upon to deliver the Broken Sword, Dwynwen, to the Keeper's nephew Owen, the pair rapidly become suspected of murder. With the real criminals after the Hallow and the police on their tail, they'll have to work out what the Dark Man's after and how to stop it. Fast.
While this might seem like a YA-style 'collect 'em all' plot (get the Hallows before others do?), it isn't. For that matter, this certainly isn't YA, so don't give it to children or overly squeamish cats: there's a number of graphic scenes. While the violence does add to the darker realism of the story, the sex did seem gratuitous: used as a method of generating the power to 'scry' on the protagonists by the villain. I mean, why?
The book is, however, very well written: it's hard to predict, fast-paced, and a pageturner by any standard. I couldn't stop reading, and despite a few problems, it's still a very enjoyable read. Sinking protagonists in incredible amounts of trouble is a fun sport, and The Thirteen Hallows does it to professional standards. As a result, I was reading this book non-stop since I picked it up! All in all, this is a great way to while away an afternoon, if you don't mind your villains unsympathetic (because the Dark Man doesn't have many redeeming features. Actually, I don't think he has one.) It's a fun, fun read, and that's what counts. Filled with mythology, some rather darker magic, and more trouble for the protagonists than anyone except Martin can cope with, this is definitely a worthy read despite a few problems.