This series in five and a half parts (I’ll explain later) had me completely drawn in from the moment I picked up Luck in the Shadows at the beginning of my Colorado winter trip. It had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, ever since picking up the first installment from Powell’s Books as a recommendation for Robin Hobb fans. Cruising somewhere between Vancouver and Minneapolis at 30,000 feet, I embarked on a journey – one which I will be sure to repeat in the near future.
Lynn Flewelling is an
otter author from Maine, best known for her Nightrunner and Tamir Triad series. I have yet to read the latter (both are set in the same world, though the characters do not overlap), though it looks to be just as promising, if a bit darker than the Nightrunner series. I hate to write a review using another review, but my favourite author Robin Hobb put it best when she said:
“Memorable characters, an enthralling plot, and truly daunting evil … the characters spring forward from the page not as well-crafted creations, but as people … the magic is refreshingly difficult, mysterious, and unpredictable. Lynn Flewelling has eschewed the easy shortcuts of cliched minor characters and cookie-cutter backdrops to present a unique world”
There are 5 books released in the series so far, with a sixth on the way in 2012. Lynn has stated that she will be keeping it open-ended so that when inspiration strikes, there’ll be no limitations to writing another novel. The 0.5 I mentioned earlier is from Glimpses, a collection of short stories published for fans to read about events that were always alluded to in the main series, but never actually explained outright.
The published books follow the exploits of Seregil, an accomplished “nightrunner” (thief, spy, and cunning diplomat) and his apprentice Alec. They work for the Wizard Nysander, and in general their actions are for the betterment of their Queen and country. Since this is a review of 5 novels, I couldn’t hope to describe the plot without giving away any spoilers; suffice to say that Seregil and Alec encounter many difficulties, magical and otherwise in an action-packed series that I ripped straight through. If the plot sounds a little bland, and doesn’t have the epic scope of Tolkien or George RR Martin, read on to see why I personally liked Flewelling’s style.
Now, I enjoy my epic fantasy as much as the next guy (here’s a great guide to the different fantasy genres), but every now and then I need a break. I don’t need to read about battles that change the course of the world, with so many characters that I have to constantly refer to the appendix – reading can be tiresome work believe it or not. Nightrunner provides the perfect fix. Some have complained that the pace is too slow, but I thought that brought the characters alive. Following Seregil and Alec almost exclusively through five books, even as they do mundane tasks such as set up camp or settle in to their mansion in Rhiminee, shows the author’s organic characters, whose actions spring from the story and are plausible. She didn’t just think of a few key traits and blow through a massive plot-line, changing it to “work” with what she had in mind. Seregil and Alec are loosed upon the world, and actively engage with the story and other characters, resulting in slightly flawed partners that anyone can relate to in some way.
Akin to Robin Hobb, one of Lynn Flewelling’s defining strengths is her characterization. This quote couldn’t have rung truer for her books: “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page & feel a little as if you have lost a friend”. However, her plots leave a little something to be desired (for the average reader). I thought the first two installments were excellent, but looking back, I only have a vague recollection of the story lines of the fourth and fifth book. Maybe it is a testament to her skill that she could write a whole novel where nothing much really happens, and the power of the characters makes it irresistible. Of course, I don’t mind it at all! In fact, for your next book, I suggest writing about the nightrunning Seregil and Alec do in Rhiminee. No big story with a bad guy they need to thwart, or a journey they need to accomplish. Some would call it fantasy fluff, but your two protagonists are so gripping that I like reading the little things about them.
If you liked Robin Hobb’s work, I recommend these books for you. Also if you enjoy subterfuge, cunning con artists, and clandestine actions that you can’t help but cheer for (Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy comes to mind), these are a must-read.
These books were a large kickoff for my 2011 Reading Challenge (in the panel on the right). What’s yours? Find me on GoodReads and share!
Upcoming is my review of the much-hyped debut novel by Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind. Until then, I want to hear YOUR thoughts. Comment below, or follow me on twitter (@ristea)