I have no complaints whatsoever. And that's very rare. I even bought the love-story, and that is so rare that I won't even try to find a metaphor to d...moreI have no complaints whatsoever. And that's very rare. I even bought the love-story, and that is so rare that I won't even try to find a metaphor to describe it. Great world-building, an intelligent, capable heroine that holds up to most feminist standards, the love-story merely a well-written subplot. I did not believe someone could still think of any way to make dragnons new and interesting - Hartman succeeded. The writing was awesome - wonderfully tight and to the point. I can't wait to read more. An instant favourite, and that doesn't happen often to me anymore.(less)
Now... this one was a little less tough to rate than its predecessor, Luck in the Shadows. In comparison, the action was more lively, the writing bett...moreNow... this one was a little less tough to rate than its predecessor, Luck in the Shadows. In comparison, the action was more lively, the writing better, the finale grand and... well, yes, I admit it, even heart-breaking.
Now... as for this Lynn Flewelling's product. The premise, doesn't elicit such an eyeroll anymore. Sure, our blonde ingenue and our dashing spy are still saving the world, but... the world's getting darker. Alec's all grown up - well, almost - and Seregil has got some new, less sparkly and more anti-heroish overtones. The book basically continues where the first one (Luck in Shadows) left off, so if you haven't read that one yet, shoo, go grab it and come back later.
And then it again didn't quite go as I expected, even though, this time, my estimate got a little better.
Still being headstrong as well as interested, I kept reading.
Again, I got rewarded.
These two books got one thing going for them - atmosphere. They really pull you in. They do. This second book is darker than the first one, and I especially loved the final battle part. It's really worth it. The ending is bittersweet and satisfying, and I won't say anything else.
If you liked the first book, you will certainly like this one. I did. The atmosphere got strengthened, people died, there were losses and prices to pay for everything. Nothing came cheap, and I could appreciate that.
This book actually shares many of its pluses with Luck in Shadows.
While the plot, the setting and the general atmosphere of the book are very classical - the Eye can See you, Frodo! - it is not long before you are willing to play along. The espionage scenes in the capital are traditional, but highly enjoyable. The action soon becomes quite exciting, and, amazingly, you actually start to care. You start to care about what happens to the world and what happens next and if it all ends well and what will become of the characters and... and... and... This is the first book I've ever read where the characters really, believably grow and change with time. It is the first book in history where our innocent, blue-eyed orphan... actually grows up.
I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe my brain when I suddenly realized I'd started liking Alec almost as much as Seregil. The thing is, I always like characters like Seregil. They are their own brand of cliché, but it just so happens that this particular brand is a favourite of mine, so I am more willing to forgive its flaws. Normally, I always hate characters of Alec's starting point. The whiny, incapable 'protagonist' who is no good at anything and cannot do anything without a full cast of supportive sidekicks, and just wants to be 'a normal boy'. (I am talking about you, Harry Potter, Eragon, Bella, Garion, Richard Cypher... I could go on indefinitely.)
Alec, surprisingly, does grow up. As the book progresses, he starts gaining wits, elegance and a certain manliness that, in the end, become more than a match for Seregil's quick mind. The romance between the two is very neat, and, what a happy circumstance, never takes over the main plot. However, it complements that main plot nicely, and adds a strange feeling of poignancy to what might otherwise have been just another 'camaraderie' fable fit for your typical fantasy inn storytelling.
I am a big fan and supporter of gay relationships in all media (and real life), because, even if I wanted to ignore the simple we-are-all-equal-who-sleeps-with-whom-is-a-moot-point, IT SHAKES THINGS UP. Come on. How often have you started a book, and then, after five pages, realized you knew how it ended? Of course, the hero and the heroine fall in love... at some point, without debate. You can always tell which of the characters will end up together. And some always will. That is the reason I am a fan of books without relationships, as well. If you can't make it interesting, don't do it at all. How many times have you read a non-romance book where the romantic relationships between the characters didn't add to the plot in any way? They were there just because. Just because people like that sort of thing. Or just because the author needed to let some steam out. I, personally, think that those subplots are boring, annoying and redundant, especially handled as they often are.
Stalking Darkness was one of the few books where the romance part was handled subtly, elegantly, in an interesting way, and - it still managed to remain a subplot. Neat.
So, what is the overall verdict? Is this a good book? I guess. Is it a book worth reading? Hell, yes. Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness make for an intriguing, albeit traditional tale that nonetheless manages to bring in some new twists. If you want a classic, you want a classic like this. It is a good classic, a fun classic, a classic in the best sense of the word. It's never boring, and, hell, I even cried a few times.