Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Luck in the Shadows

by Lynn Flewelling


Luck in the Shadows follows the fortunes of Alec of Kerry and the roguish Seregil of Rhiminee. They meet in a dungeon where Alec is waiting to be sold into slavery and Seregil, impersonating a bard, has been accused of spying and awaits execution.

This is a traditional sword 'n' sorcery romp, with plenty of fighting, trekking across country and sneaking around other people's castles. There is also a fair amount of dressing up since Seregil is a man, and sometimes a woman, of many guises. He's a thief and a spy, handy with a sword and a lockpick as well as being a master of disguise.

After escaping the prison, Seregil decides to take Alec on as an apprentice, and the two form a bond of friendship. Which is just as well, because Seregil has plenty of enemies. He is secretive about his past, and says little about his origins other than that he is from the south. After stealing an unassuming wooden disc from some nobles, he is affected by a mysterious illness and uncontrollable feelings of rage. He has stirred up something, and both Alec and Seregil have to flee for their lives before Seregil succumbs to the evil that is taking him over.

There are all the usual ingredients: palace intrigue, wizardry, and a war brewing. Seregil finds himself in the middle of it almost by accident, although possibly his birth and his past have something to do with his troubles. The author skips between the viewpoints of Alec and Seregil so that we are told just enough about each of them to raise more questions than are answered. There's a subtle tension between the two of them, Alec is fiercely loyal to Seregil who he thanks for saving his life, but it seems to go further than mere gratitude. Seregil seems to inspire this in people, such as his friend Micum who joins them on their journey.

In the city of Rhiminee they come under the protection of the wizard Nysander, but there are things that even he can not predict or guard against. Accusations of treason are just as likely to harm Seregil as a knife in the back. Cue more sneaking around narrow passageways in disguises, and more spying and skulking before we find out who is behind the plotting. As this is the first book of the Nightrunner series, the ending isn't a conclusive one. It doesn't disappoint, but most of the story remains to be told.

Luck in the Shadows is an amusing fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's not dazzlingly original. Borrowing heavily from fantasy that has gone before, it certainly works as entertainment. Seregil is engaging and feisty, and just a little unconventional for a hero, whilst Alec is every bit the keen apprentice spy. They're well-drawn characters so it's easy enough to care what happens to them next. This is the sort of book that will absorb you whilst you read it, but it stays firmly within the fantasy genre so don't expect anything radically different from this story.

Book Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Lynn Flewelling