Heh, say one thing about Nym, say she’s been very damn unproductive all of yesterday, because she’s been reading! Somehow I should have known this before, but since my favorite bookstore called me Tuesday kindly letting me know that the fourth book of Flewelling’s Nightrunner series got there, I haven’t been able to put it down until I’d finished it last night.
In retrospect I’m rather glad that I got into this series as late as I did by a random recommendation of yours truly’s favorite book guy, because it would really have sucked big time to have waited for book 4 for 9 years (volume 3, Traitor’s Moon came out in 1999 followed by Flewelling’s next project the Tamir Triad). Call me impatient 😉
After their victory in Aurënen, Alec and Seregil have returned home to Rhíminee. But with most of their allies dead or exiled, it is difficult for them to settle in. Hoping for diversion, they accept an assignment that will take them back to Seregil’s homeland. En route, however, they are ambushed and separated, and both are sold into slavery. Clinging to life, Seregil is sustained only by the hope that Alec is alive.
But it is not Alec’s life his strange master wants—it is his blood. For his unique lineage is capable of producing a rare treasure, but only through a harrowing process that will test him body and soul and unwittingly entangle him and Seregil in the realm of alchemists and madmen—and an enigmatic creature that may hold their very destiny in its inhuman hands…. But will it prove to be savior or monster?
Having read the first three Nightrunner books just a little while ago, one thing that definitely strikes is the change in style. With I think about 110,000 words, Shadows Return is shorter than Traitor’s Moon, but Flewelling definitely manages to pack those pages with a lot of plot that makes the book a pageturner and in my case a one day read, because I just couldn’t put it down anymore.
I still haven’t finished her Tamir Triad (am in the middle of Hidden Warrior right now), but even so it’s great to see how her style has changed over the years and even though we still have the same lovable characters and a familiar setting, there’s much more subtlety and unexpected plot twists in the book.
Oh and did I mention that one very significant character from Seregil’s past showing up and how it’s a) in a different way than you’d usually expect and b) that you’re really torn in the end whether to like or pity said character? I sort of like how the end of this particular subplot is consciously left open so we may hope for a recurring character there 🙂
In general I had the impression like Lynn said in the interview that I had with her a while ago, that her writing has improved, but one thing surprised me particularly positively and that was how she goes much more into depth in Shadows Return. Her villains are much more fleshed out, their motivations are twisted, but altogether ‘logical’ in a villainous sort of way, but she also plays with some previous perceptions of characters, twisting it around so you don’t really know whether or not to dislike this character anymore. Yay for character-based writing is all I can say 😀
Of course Shadows Return did have awesome Alec&Seregil moments, maybe even more so because they’re separated for most of the book. As far as the ending is concerned, it rocked. I loved how the main plot of Shadows Return found a conclusion, but leaves enough loose ends to make you want to read the next Nightrunner installment The White Road (due next summer). Let’s hope for recurring characters and of course Alec and Seregil’s past will catch up with them again 😉
For anyone who’s new to the Nightrunner books, I’d suggest to start with the first three books, Luck in the Shadows, Stalking Darkness and Traitor’s Moon, because even though Shadows Return is different in many ways, it continues the story more or less seamlessly and it would probably be confusing otherwise.