Sunday 17 March 2013

#CBR5 Book 28. "Luck in the Shadows" by Lynn Flewelling

Page count: 479 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Alec of Kerry is a teenage orphan stuck in a dungeon on trumped up charges of spying. He's worried that he's going to be killed when a mysterious stranger is thrown into the dungeon with him, and proceeds to not only free himself from  the shackles, but takes Alec along as well. Some horse thievery, swift thinking and a fair bit of hiding, and the two have escaped their pursuers.

Over the course of the next few days, Alec discovers that the stranger is able to assume a number of personas and identities without any trouble, and is actually a spy of sorts. His true name is Seregil, and after noticing how quickly Alec picks up new skills, he impulsively offers to take the young man on as an apprentice. Alec has never really known any other life than that of a trapper and hunter in the provincial north, so Seregil's tales of adventure, excitement, travel and exotic locations sounds mighty tempting indeed.

Of course, the covert life of espionage is a bit more dangerous than being a country hunter, and some of the people Seregil's in the area finding information about are entirely ruthless. When Seregil falls seriously ill while they're on the run, Alec gets the chance to save Seregil's life, using what he's learned and his quick mind to get them safely to the capital and Seregil's wizard friend.

They discover that there is a plot against the crown, and someone is trying to implicate Seregil with very clever forgeries. Alec needs to help his new friends figure out who is behind it, before it's too late.

Attentive readers of my blog may have noticed that I'm participating in a whole slew of reading challenges now. There's obviously the CBR5, but also the historical fiction challenge, the Mount TBR challenge, and last but not least, the monthly keywords. This book is a whopping triple whammy, as it's been on my bookshelf for so long that it precedes my habit of writing my name and the date when I got the book in the front. So we're talking late 1990s, early 2000s here. That's a heck of a TBR. It's also most certainly historical fantasy, and luck is one of the monthly challenges. Hence it was nice to finally read this.

I had not realised, however, that this is basically only the first half of the story. It ends after the first part of the story is concluded, but on a fairly abrupt cliffhanger, there's even a to be continued.  So for anyone who hasn't read the book already, there is a second part, Stalking Darkness, that finishes the story of Alec and Seregil and their main adventure.

The book took me longer to read than I'm used to, both because I've been busy with course work and correction in the last weeks, but also because it's fantasy written in a different style than what is mostly common now. The story builds in a much slower way, and while there is plenty of action scenes interspersed with the exposition to keep the reader interested, the exposition is a lot more gradual. It reminded me a bit of playing a computer game, where you start out with an inexperienced, low-level character. First you have to discover your surroundings, get some basic equipment, learn your basic skills, do the basic quests. Following Alec on his adventure with Seregil is reminiscent of that - he gets new stuff, learns new skills, and slowly but surely "levels up", getting more experienced and discovering more of the world and more dangerous things keep happening.

It's a fun book, and I will absolutely be reading the next book to see how young Alec's adventures proceed.

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