Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling. ★★★★
Luck in the Shadows starts in a prison with Alec, a young hunter accused of being a spy. A dire fate awaits him when another prisoner is thrown into the same cell. This man is Seregil, an accomplished thief and spy. He breaks himself and Alec out of prison and then offers to take Alec on as his apprentice. Although somewhat troubled by how little he knows of his new friend, Alec accepts. Soon the two are at odds with (and on the run from) a pair of noblemen collecting mysterious wooden disks with a dark purpose.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s fast moving and leaps immediately into the action without pages and pages of boring set up. In my opinion it started at just the right point – how Seregil and Alec met. The characters themselves are fabulous, particularly Alec and Seregil, although even the more minor characters feel well realized.
Information about Seregil and the world is slowly revealed, with Alec serving as the reader’s guide as he learns more about his friend and the world around him. It’s a fairly common device – have a character unfamiliar with the world and use them to introduce the world building and character elements. It works really well here, though the world itself is typical, faux-medieval Europe fantasy fare. However, it’s well detailed and thought out.
One detail that really interested me was warrior queens of Skala, a kingdom prophesied never to fall as long as they have a woman of the right descent leading the kingdom and army. The queen and the two princesses end up playing a role in the story. There isn’t a major female character, which I found disappointing, but women are portrayed in a variety of roles, including as soldiers and wizards.
One thing troubled me throughout the book. I knew coming in that Alec and Seregil would eventually get together, and part of me wants them to. But… there’s such a huge age difference between them, and it really bothers me. Alec is sixteen and from the beginning Seregil was presented as much older, at least around twenty-five (SPOILER- later on it’s revealed that he’s part of another race who is much longer lived. He’s really fifty-eight. Even if for his people that’s regarded as being around Alec’s age, it still really bugs me. END SPOILER). They didn’t get together in this book, so I have hope that Alec will age some first.
I’d recommend this book for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora. There’s plenty of thievery and disguises, and Seregil reminds me somewhat of Locke. However, this series feels like it’s going to go down a more tradition epic fantasy path. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel and find out.