I’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating: tell me a book or an author to review, and chances are I’ll probably do it. TicTocRabbit on Tumblr was kind enough to not only give me a handful of possible books to do reviews for, but also to donate the funding to get the first book in Lynn Flewelling’s fantasy series, “Nightrunner.” It is an older book (first edition clocking in back in 1996), but it’s been a while since I’ve read an actual fantasy book, so I gave it a shot.
As I said before, it’s been a while since I’ve read real fantasy as opposed to books that take place in our world but happen to have vampires/werewolves/whatever, so I forgot that the usual length of fantasy genre novels (in series or otherwise) are around 400 to 500 pages. If you’re not a particularly quick reader but you’re eager to get through the story of a book, length can affect your willingness to get a book, so it’s worth mentioning that, had I not had free evenings and lunch periods, it would have taken me probably a lot longer than the two days I spent reading it. Not necessarily beach fare, but it goes hand-in-hand with wherever you’d read other long fantasy novels such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Game of Thrones.”
I don’t have very many complaints about “Luck in the Shadows;” things that haven’t been explained yet are, I assume, probably going to be explained in the following volumes (there are currently seven in the series, and while I can’t find much more information, I assume that there are likely more coming). That said, part of the reason why I’ve been avoiding traditional fantasy, I think, has to do with the amount of detail that goes into world building. On the one hand, it’s necessary because I don’t know anything about the customs of this place. On the other hand, a lot of the prose can be overwhelming, and while Flewelling mostly avoids info-dumps, it does still occur.
I’m also pretty irritated because when Micum was introduced, I assumed that he and Seregil were an old couple, and felt tricked when it was revealed that Micum actually has a wife and at least three kids (with another on the way). Micum’s wife does explain that at one point, yes, Seregil did have a thing with Micum, and yes, Micum was attracted back, but nothing ever came of it.
The novel does start strangely, with torture and false imprisonment that Alec, one of the protagonists, is saved from by Seregil. I went in not knowing what exactly to expect, and I still don’t understand the why of the beginning besides needing a place for the two to meet. Maybe I missed something (entirely possible).
That said, I do think the premise of the story is neat: I like spies in general, so it was cool to see someone show how they would function in a fantasy world–and I’m pretty sure that the Watchers are pretty much a spy organization that uses magic. When not bogged down by description, the prose is good and even with the description, it rarely if ever feels clunky and poorly crafted. I like the characters a lot, even if I’m not sure what their motivations always are. Their behavior, fortunately, makes up for that lack of clarity.
On the Barnes & Noble website, both the eBook and the paperback versions of the book are $7.99, so if you have $8 to spend (plus shipping) or can find a better deal anywhere else, I’d say pick it up. There’s not excessive violence against women, which is an unfortunately common trope in a lot of fantasy media these days, and I thought the world building was done to a degree where I could actually identify it as being unique and separate from others I’ve seen before. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to start, I’d say that “Nightrunner” might be the place you’ll find it.