41. Luck in the Shadows - Lynn Flewelling - 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Alec of Kerry is mistakenly taken to be a spy and tortured in a dungeon. He happens to be a cellmate with a man who is not who he appears to be. The man, named Seregil, breaks Alec out of jail and impulsively takes the boy on as his apprentice. Seregil is a royal spy and thief who dons various personas. He calls himself a nightrunner. Alec, a country boy who has never seen a city, is suddenly ensnared in a complicated web of political intrigue and comes into his own. The story begins in the remote north, Dalna, where Alec is from, and Seregil and Alec journey to Rhiminee, the capital of Scala, and come across trouble along the way. Alec suddenly finds himself in an enormous city, meeting royals and powerful wizards and risking his life ever-more-frequently as he uncovers a plot against Scala and the ever-growing threat of necromancers from the rival country of Plenimar.
I don't know what it is about this series, but I re-read it every other year or so. I really care for the characters of Alec and Seregil. Alec is bumbling and naive, and Seregil is mischievous and loves getting into trouble and teasing Alec every step of the way. The plotting is fairly even and it's one of the few series I can sit down and read several hundred pages in one sitting. Lynn Flewelling (otterdance on LJ!) took ten years to write what ended up becoming the first two books of the series, so that gave her plenty of time to develop the details of the world.
It does have a fair amount of the tropes of the genre: fresh-faced country lad leaving everything he has known, an elderly, kind wizard, mysterious baddies and necromancers, magic without long-term consequences (except in the case of Seregil). It is her first novel and you can tell in some places--the prose is a little clunky or overly worded.
I tagged it as a guilty pleasure, and it's not because it is a bad book I feel guilty reading, but it is a series I've read at least three times before, and I should really be reading other things this summer. But this series is unapologetically fun, and I always turn to either this series, her other trilogy set in the same world, or Robin Hobb's books when I want a good escape. This series is still quite forward for its time for its views on homosexuality and bisexuality. In this world, homo- and bisexuality is not frowned upon at all and people are very open about it. Seregil is very openly bisexual, along with various other characters.
If you are in the mood for a series that sucks you in, in a fun world with a duo stealing from nobles, putting on and discarding various identities, becoming embroiled in magical and political intrigues, then this is a fun series that I recommend that you read when you need a bit of an escape.
(PS -booksforfood is my blog where I post book and occasional film reviews, blog on library-related subjects, and ruminate about life as an ex-pat American in Scotland. Care to follow?)