Luck in the Shadows - Lynn Flewelling

Reviewed for Usenet. Revised: Although I stand by my personal reaction to this novel, after feedback from the author I feel that the flippant nature of my original comments (Google's archive) may have been unfair in a public forum, perhaps conveying harsher criticism than I intended. I have therefore modified the text below as a gesture of apology.

Luck in the Shadows
Book one of the Nightrunner series
Lynn Flewelling
Bantam Spectra Publishers
ISBN 0553575422

Summary: I got the impression of dice rolling the background of this formulaic commercial fantasy. It's not a bad book, just disappointingly predictable; I might have liked it more when I was a teenager. Skip this and read the author's latest, The Bone Doll's Twin, which is much better.

This is going to be a short review as this is an unremarkable book and I really can't think of much to say.

Alec of Kerry is a young hunter who starts the book locked up for a crime he did not commit. A bard is thrown into his cell with him; Seregil turns out to be a dashing rogue, and soon drags young Alec off on a whirlwind adventure. Seregil is a spy of sorts, working for a mystical equivalent of your favourite conspiratorial government dept.

What can I say? This is formulaic genre fantasy, which I personally have grown tired of; there is a lot of fun with lockpicks, and much is made of Alec's acquisition of very expensive new equipment when goes to the big city with Seregil. Here he is groomed as an apprentice thief/spy, meets the royal family very quickly, gets a nice horse or two, some with elven blood (insert your own joke here), and ... oh, look, I can't be bothered. There is some decent writing here, but the plot is thin, with baddies that are just EVUUUL for no good reason, and I couldn't help but continue to think of the author as the GM instead.

Part of the reason I picked this up was that I fancied something with a sinister courtly plot, lots of intrigue and politics (long time Usenet readers might realise this pet genre of mine). The reviews I found online sounded very promising, but turned out to be promising something other than the book delivers. The romance central to the novel is decently handled, but 'intrigue' and 'politics' wouldn't be words I'd use to describe the plot elements.

The other reason I picked up Luck in the Shadows is that the author's most recent trilogy opener, The Bone Doll's Twin, is very good indeed. Go and read that instead. Unless you like formulaic RPG style fantasy, in which case Luck in the Shadows is not a badly written effort, and you might enjoy it rather a lot.

Posted: Mon - June 16, 2003 at 12:01 AM