Lynn Flewelling’s Tamir Triad

Like many others, I too am one of those people who gets to like an author, gets all of their books and goes through them until done. Same here. After a rather random recommendation, I picked up Luck in the Shadows and totally fell in love with Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series (yay for Seregil and Alec 😀 ). After having read the first three Nightrunner books, I picked up her Tamir Triad as well, because Shadows Return wasn’t out yet and a friend recommended them to me because the general premise sounded really intriguing (see my quick review on The Bone Doll’s Twin)

It’s interesting to compare the Tamir trilogy with the Nightrunner series. The most striking differences between the two are probably the pacing and the general mood of the books. Compared to her Nightrunner books, the Tamir triad sets a much slower pace, but then again its focus is centered more on Tobin/Tamir, one character and his coming of age and general background as opposed to two already grown up characters. In Nightrunner, both Seregil and Alec are basically ‘grown up’. Alec is dragged into Seregil’s ambiguous life as foppish noble by day and the Rhiminee Cat by night. Here the premise and the character development itself sets a faster pace, while Tobin/Tamir’s character is basically built up from early childhood as a boy, through his teenage years until ‘he’ finally becomes ‘she’ and lives up to her destiny.

On the mood: The Tamir triad is one of those dark, slightly creepy and disturbing and utterly morally ambiguous series and I think that is – besides Lynn’s amazing characters – probably the thing I enjoyed most about the books. At first, we have our – let me be polemic here – ‘traditional’ black vs. white fantasy setting. Usurper king has taken the throne from his half-sister, thus broke with prophecy that land shall be ruled by a female descendant of the royal line, thus plunges land into chaos and secures his reign by killing off any female heirs who could potentially endanger his claim. So far, nothing really new. We have the bad guys and the good guys who want to restore order and prosperity by helping a newborn girl to fulfill her destiny as the rightful queen. Easy and predictable, right?

Well, not quite. Because what happens if the ‘good guys’ start using dark magic and kill innocents to achieve that goal? And in the process they kill the little princess’ brother, make her live most of her life in the wrong gender, haunted by the ghost of a vengeful demonic brother, unloved by a mother who totally drifts off to madness. Makes you wonder if that’s still the ‘good’ guys we’re talking about, right? Which again raises the question if the ends really justify the means, which pretty much is a central question of the series.

Then again, the bad guys have their moments of awesomeness as well and you almost find yourself liking/pitying some of them, because in the end there’s much of a gray-zone that some of them fall in (and for once I was happy that a particular one of them didn’t get killed off 😉 )

All in all, I still liked the Nightrunner books better, but I loved all the parallels that Lynn played with in the Tamir books that are set about five hundred years in the past of Nightrunner. Loved how some familiar characters showed up and you get to see some Aurenfaie and how Rhimineee was founded 🙂

Again, the Tamir books are character based (Brother and Ki rocked, but I also really liked Arkoniel’s character as well as Eyoli and Caliel 😀 ). Like I said before, I’d probably read the Nightrunner books first, especially to get the ‘bowl’ reference etc. but you can read them in any order. I definitely recommend and am still sad that I’ll have to wait till next summer until Nightrunner book 5, The White Road comes out.

Lynn Flewelling – Shadows Return

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.

For anyone who hasn’t read my interview with Lynn, you can find it here or meet her at her LiveJournal.

Interview with Lynn Flewelling

Some of you may remember me ranting about how much I enjoyed Lynn Flewelling‘s Nightrunner books. Now, I’m happy to announce that I rather randomly got my first author interview to post here! Thanks go to Lynn Flewelling for being awesome about replying to blog comments from random strangers like me and volunteering to be interviewed 😀

1.) For those not familiar with you and your books, what can you tell us about Lynn Flewelling the author?

Lynn: I’ve written two series: The Tamír Trilogy, and the on going Nightrunner Series. They are set in a mythical, pseudo medieval/Byzantine world, and centered around the Three Lands and the surrounding territories. My characters travel a lot.

I’m from Maine originally, have lived all over the country, and am currently in Redlands, California, which I love! Bits and pieces of my life are scattered through the books,

2.) Both your Nightrunner series and the Tamír triad are among the 100 most-sold fantasy books on amazon.com. Congratulations! Without spoilers, what can you tell potential readers about those two trilogies?

Lynn: The Nightrunner books are an on going, open ended series, which I modeled somewhat after Sherlock Holmes. The main character, a young exiled nobleman named Seregil, is part thief, part con man, a talented spy, a scholar, at times a wastrel, and a deadly swordsman. On the down side, he suffers from a dark past and a nasty allergy to magic. His partner Alec, who begins as his apprentice, is a young hunter from the hinterlands, who Seregil meets in a north country dungeon. The books are all related, as I am writing the ongoing story of their lives. They work for wizards and queens, get into a great deal of trouble, and eventually fall in love with each other. They are adventure stories, but also have an undercurrent of questions about loyalty, morality, and love. I try to never let “issues” take over the story. It’s just part of the natural flow and character development.

The Tamír Triad grew out of a minor historical reference in the Nightrunner books to a queen who had been raised as a boy for the first part of her life to save her from a usurping uncle. You have young princes, scheming wizards, a half mad king, a ghost, and more issues of loyalty, whether ends justify means, gender and sexuality. The story line takes place in the same geography as the Nightrunner books, but five centuries earlier. It doesn’t matter which you read first.

3.) What was the spark that generated the idea of writing the Nightrunner series and later on your Tamír triad?

Lynn:The Nightrunner books came out of my frustration back in the 70’s, with how women and queer characters were portrayed as weak, bitchy, evil or victims. I was sick of the big square jawed swordsmen running everything and decided to create a hero who didn’t fit the mold. Hence Seregil, who is slight, devious, queer, and more likely to trick his way out of a tight situation, or kill without mercy.

As I said above, the Tamír books were a natural outgrowth of the other series. It was great fun to go back in the history set up in the NR books, and show what really happened. I also worked with questions of sexual identity and what it means to be male or female in that world.

4.) Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about, because they suddenly took on a life of their own?

Lynn: That would be Alec, in the Nightrunner books. He started out as a flat, fuzzy concept, a Watson to Seregil’s Holmes, but once he took form he became fascinating, in part because we get to see him grow up over the course of the first three books, and more son in the new, fourth book of the series, SHADOWS RETURN (Bantam Spectra, June 24 2008 )

5.) What intrigues many of your readers is your take on gender and sexuality in both your Nightrunner and Tamír series. Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you started to write both series?

Lynn: Absolutely. I wanted to portray a world where diversity was common, women could be whatever they wanted to be, from whores to mothers to soldiers, and with a divinely ordained matriarchy. That all creates a different society than your basic medieval template.

I wanted to redefine the idea of what a hero is, or a villain, for that matter. My bad guys aren’t trying to be bad, they are just pursuing their own ideas, just as the heros are.

6.) How long did it take from the first draft of Luck In The Shadows to the published novel? Which experiences did you make as an author of a fantasy series featuring ‘queer’ characters?

Lynn: It took ten years to complete an initial manuscript, which ended up being the first two books of the Nightrunner series.

Actually having queer content in the books has been a plus. My publisher had not problem with it, and it has certainly widened my readership. I get mail from straight people saying I changed their view of homosexuality for the better, and from gay and lesbian readers who are grateful to find characters they can more closely identify with.

7.) In the preface to “Traitor’s Moon”, you point out that the Nightrunner series is NOT a trilogy. Now the fourth novel in the series will be released on June 24th. What’s next and how many more of the Nightrunner books can we expect?

Lynn: Right now I’m writing a fifth Nightrunner book, THE WHITE ROAD, which should be out next summer.

8.) Anything else you wish to share?

Lynn: I’m biased of course, but I think I have the best fan base in the world. They hang out on my Live Journal and can always find out a detail I need far faster than I could, so they double as research staff. They send me chocolate and fan art. They share their enthusiasm, and that all buoys me along to create more stories. They find the silly mundane details of my life that I impart on the LJ strangely interesting, and laugh at my jokes. Anyone can join in. See: otterdance.livejournal.com

Thank you so much for your time, Lynn 🙂