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Shadows Returns by Lynn Flewelling

1/04/2011. Contributed by Sarah Bruch

Buy Shadows Returns (Nightrunner book 4) in the USA - or Buy Shadows Returns (Nightrunner book 4) in the UK

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Shadows Returns (Nightrunner book 4) by Lynn Flewelling. pub: Bantam Spectra. 523 page paperback. Price: $7.50 (US), $ 8.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-59008-1.

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This is the fourth novel in the ‘Nightrunner’ series, preceded by ‘Luck In The Shadows’, ‘Stalking Darkness’ and ‘Traitor’s Moon’ and recently joined by the fifth book ‘ The White Road’. I would suggest that these books are read in order as they aren’t really stand-alones in my opinion. This book especially is not one I would suggest someone new to Lynn Flewelling’s novels read as a first introduction. I think it’s necessary to read the other books first to gain an emotional attachment to the characters that will help you through this book.

The basic story in this novel is that Seregil and Alec accept a mission from Queen Phoria to travel to Aurenen and, having been stopped from their previous work as spies and nightrunners, they accept. During this mission they are both captured and sold into slavery, both for very different reasons. Alec is required for his blood, Seregil is needed by someone from his past and they both, unknowingly, end up in the same household. Much of the book is centred around their different reactions to their slavery, worrying about what has happened to each other, Alec’s blood magic and their friends trying to save them. Throughout the novel, there are small suggestions of the political intrigue that has been a more central theme in the previous books. For example, trying to guess who had arranged for Seregil and Alec’s abduction.

This book is a lot darker than others in the series and lacks the elegant settings and sumptuous descriptions found in previous books. It is a lot more of a stark description of how Seregil and Alec manage to get by without each other in terrible conditions. I found it to be a very basic book with a storyline that didn’t really deserve an entire book dedicated to it. Maybe Flewelling was trying to get back into the characters of Seregil and Alec after such a long hiatus away from them? It certainly feels like a first book in a series, but having already introduced us to the main characters, Flewelling hasn’t got this traditional first book fodder to play with. This is not the best of the series, it could possibly be seen as the connection between the first trilogy and the next few books.

Having said all that, I would still recommend it to people who have read the first three books in the series. Even a slightly bad Flewelling is better than the best offered by some authors. I have to say that I like the fact that this book is so different in style from the previous books, I might be worried about getting bored with the writing style otherwise. But I could have done with a bit more substance as well as this different style.

I did enjoy the new magic introduced to this series, a combination of necromancy and alchemy, very interesting. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of this as the series continues and I’m really looking forward to discovering more about it along with the characters. I’m not sure if Flewelling might be trying to introduce some kind of a paranormal edge to her novels with this introduction, we’ll have to wait and see how far she goes with this.

Not a fan of the cover art, it looks too much like a Mills & Boon for my liking. I’m not sure why the publishers have changed this half-way through the series as I know a lot of people, myself included, like to have a series of books looking the same on their bookshelves.

There are some clumsy lines in this novel, but not that many that it caused any kind of problem for me. Repetitions of words, sentences that need a second read to understand them etc. I’m not sure if this is because I was reading a pre-publication proof or not. Having seen reviews for the actual copies I’m guessing a lot of these errors crept into the final cut.

Overall, I have to say I did enjoy this book even though it had its bad points. It just felt a little like putting on a comfortable old coat or watching an old film you once loved. You notice the bad points, a hole in the pocket, etc but you don’t really mind because you love it anyway. I admit that I probably enjoyed the book because I already love the old characters of Seregil and Alec and it would take a really terrible novel to put me off them, this isn’t that novel.

Sarah Bruch

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