on 28 March 2014
Shards of Time is the seventh novel in the Nightrunner series. The Nightrunner series is a long-running fantasy series that has captivated readers for many years. It's a bit sad that this fantastic series comes to an end (at least for now) with this novel, but all good things eventually come to an end. According to the afterword Lynn Flewelling may write more stories later, but at this moment there will be no stories or sequels, so it looks like Shards of Time will be the final novel about the adventures of Seregil, Alec and their friends.
Before I write more about Shards of Time, I'll mention that this review is in equal parts a review about Shards of Time as it is a review about the whole series (because this novel is the final novel of the Nightrunner series, it's approriate to reflect on a few things about the whole series).
I admire Lynn Flewelling's storytelling abilities and her willingness to write about difficult things that other authors would shy away from. I've noticed that she never disappoints her readers and always manages to add intriguing surprises to her fantasy novels (in my opinion she's in the same league as Carol Berg, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, Gail Z. Martin and Karen Azinger). In this novel she does her best to give her readers a memorable reading experience and she succeeds perfectly in creating an atmospheric fantasy adventure that's both absorbing and entertaining.
Although Shards of Time is the seventh part of the Nightrunner series, it can be read as a standalone novel. Knowledge of the previous happenings will help to understand certain things better, but it's possible to enjoy this novel without knowing what has happened before.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Seregil and Alec are a bit bored, because their work currently consists of delivering love letters etc. Their everyday life changes when Thero tells that something weird has happened on the island of Kouros. The governor of Kouros and his mistress have been brutally murdered in a locked and well guarded room and ghosts are blamed for their death. Nobody knows what has happened to them. The Queen Elani makes Seregil and Alec barons of the Mirror Moon, which is an estate on the island of Kouros. Seregil, Alec, Micum, Thero, Klia and Thero's apprentice, Mika, travel to Kouros to investigate what has happened to the governor and his mistress. Soon they find out that an ancient evil has been awakened on the island...
The events take place on the sacred island of Kouros. Kouros is the historical and spiritual heart of the Three Lands. It's home to the oldest oracular site in the Three Lands, and it has been said for centuries that the whole island is haunted. Many strange things have happened to its inhabitants. The author writes absorbingly about the historical details concerning Kouros and reveals bits and pieces of history to her readers as the story begins to open up.
The characters and protagonists are still as fascinating and realistic as they have always been. I have to mention that I like Lynn Flewelling's characters very much, because they're memorable characters that are easy to like. All the characters have their own personalities and traits that make them three-dimensional.
It was delightful to read again about Seregil and Alec, because they're charming characters. It was a pleasure to read about their relationship and work, because I've missed reading about them. They're well created characters who love each other and enjoy doing secret work for the Queen.
Reading about Thero and Klia was also nice, because they both have grown as characters. Thero has matured quite a lot during the last couple of novels. It was nice to see that the author has developed him a bit more and now has an apprentice. He's a bit different kind of a wizard than his late master, Nysander, but he's powerful and knows a lot about different things.
The relationship between Thero and his young apprentice, Mika, is handled well. Mika is an enthusiastic student and wants to learn new things. He has a talent for magic and Thero teaches him to use magic. Mika means a lot to Thero - it's easy to see that Thero is fond of Mika and loves him like he were his own son.
The author also writes fluently about the relationship between Thero and Klia. They've become lovers and care about each other. Love between a royal woman and a wizard is a bit difficult, but they haven't let others bother them and Thero has been recognized as Klia's lover.
I also enjoyed reading about Dorin and Doctor Kordira. Dorin is the steward of Mirror Moon and Doctor Kordira is a Plenimaran doctor who lives and works on Kouros. The author writes fluently about trust issues concerning Doctor Kordira, because not everybody trusts a Plenimaran doctor.
The evil characters in the Nightrunner novels have always been truly evil and ruthless characters who will stop at nothing to get what they want. In this novel, Rhazat is one of these evil characters. I'm not going to reveal what kind of a character Rhazat is, but I can mention that when the author introduces Rhazat to her readers, it will be impossible to put this novel down.
Shards of Time is - just like its predecessors - a novel in which the author takes her time to develop the story. This is very nice, because it's enjoyable to read a story that gradually develops to an unputdownable and highly addictive level of fantasy escapism. When the story begins to move forward it's almost impossible stop reading this novel, because you want to find out what happens at the end and how things will be solved.
Lynn Flewelling handles all the political aspects of the story exceptionally well. She writes realistically about how the Skalans, the Plenimarans and the Aurënfaie feel about each other and what kind of tensions exist between them. Writing about the sacred island of Kouros gives the author a chance to explore what has happened on the island when it was occupied by the Plenimarans and how years of living under the Plenimaran rule have changed its inhabitants and their lives.
In one of the scenes the author explores how the Plenimarans made sure that the Aurënfaie didn't have magical abilities. I won't go into details, but I'll mention that the Plenimarans treated the servants (slaves) with magical abilities in a brutal and horrible way.
I think that everybody who has ever read detective stories or mystery stories will enjoy this novel very much. Locked room mysteries have been an important part of detective and mystery fiction for ages and many authors have written their own visions of this kind of mysteries. Lynn Flewelling's vision of this kind of a mystery is charmingly different and fascinating, because it involves dark magic and macabre happenings. She has created a fresh and spellbinding mystery for her readers.
There are many excellent scenes in this novel. It was nice to read about how Seregil felt about the slaves and their situation. I enjoyed reading about how he treated the Aurënfaie servants at the estate, because he offered them a safe place to live and work at the Mirror Moon estate. The Mirror Moon estate is a well created place and reading about its history and strange hauntings is intriguing.
The scenes in which the characters explore the old temple, the oracle's caves and tunnels are also excellent and wonderfully atmospheric. The author's descriptions of these places are so good and vivid that they transport the reader temporarily to another place and offer excellent escapism from reality. It's very relaxing to read about these exotic and beautiful places, because they have a magical yet realistic feel to them.
Magic has always been an important part of the Nightrunner series and there's plenty of magic in this novel too. It was great to read about the supernatural things (ghosts, possessions, dreams, nightmares, necromancy, dra'gorgos etc). The author writes captivatingly about the weird happenings and ghosts on Kouros. Kouros is a bit different kind of place, because there's magic on Kouros and ghosts can be seen around the island. What makes matters even more interesting is that some of the inhabitants have vanished mysteriously without explanation.
One of the most intriguing scenes in this novel tells of a magical ritual performed by Thero. It was great to read about what Thero did during the ritual and how he reacted to what he noticed and how he reacted to it.
One of the best things about the Nightrunner series has always been the loving and passionate relationship between the two protagonists, Seregil and Alec. Lynn Flewelling describes their love for each other in a realistic, lush and romantic way. I think it's fantastic that she has courage to write boldly and lovingly about them and their relationship.
What makes this novel and the whole series especially interesting is that every once in a while the author explores how other persons feel about the homosexual relationship between Seregil and Alec (for example, in this novel Micum speaks briefly with Azrin about this relationship). This brings depth to the storyline, because the characters have their own thoughts and feelings about these things - some characters approve of their relationship while others don't understand it.
Nightrunning has been an essential part of this series since the beginning. As everybody who has read all the novels knows nightrunning is a term used for what Seregil and Alec do secretly for the Queen (for example, they spy and do other similar things). The author writes fascinatingly about how Seregil and Alec do the things they do. They're almost like detectives, but not quite, because they do much more than just investigate things and suspicious happenings. They've always been enthusiastic to investigate what's going on and who's behind weird happenings.
In this novel, Seregil and Alec are eager to solve the mystery of the murders in the locked room, although it may be dangerous and deadly to them. They find out that what the governor Toneus did has set something loose on the island and that something is extremely dangerous and deadly to all living things and wants to escape from its prison. The author writes well about Seregil and Alec's fight against the ancient evil and their willingness to do their duty despite the possibility of something bad happening to them.
Another well known trademark of the Nightrunner series is the use of macabre dark fantasy elements (although the Nightrunner novels are epic fantasy novels, they contain plenty of elements that are normally found in dark fantasy novels). Lynn Flewelling is one of those rare authors who aren't afraid of adding dark and brutal elements to their stories when needed. She writes boldly about necromancy and all things related to it.
In this novel, the darker fantasy elements are present in an intriguing and a bit different kind of way. I like how the author writes about what the characters find inside the locked room and how the guards have been affected by the happenings inside the room, because the descriptions are shockingly vivid and effective (fans of the darker side of fantasy will be thrilled to read about Captain Sedge's condition).
There's always been humour in the Nightrunner novels and this novel also has humorous scenes. There are a few scenes which will put a smile on everybody's face (these scenes may even make readers laugh out loud). One such scene contains interesting discussion about beans.
One of the reasons why I like the Nightrunner series is that the author understands that certain actions have consequences and you have to be prepared to pay a price when you do your duty. She writes well about these realistic and bittersweet moments. There's one such scene in this novel, but there's also joy to balance the bittersweetness.
The cover art by Michael Komarck deserves a special mention, because the cover image looks beautiful. It's a good and atmospheric cover image.
There are many things that I'd like to write about this novel (and also about the whole series), but I think that now is the time to write the final words of this review. If I were to write more about this novel, which I nearly did, I might spoil everybody's reading pleasure by too many spoilers and that wouldn't be fair to anybody.
Shards of Time is a highly entertaining fantasy adventure novel in the vein of the previous Nightrunner novels. It's an excellent read for old fans and newcomers alike, and it's a great ending to one of the best and most entertaining fantasy series ever, because it contains good prose, dark happenings and intriguing mystery elements. It's amazing that this series hasn't lost its splendour over the years, but has stayed fresh and exciting.
Shards of Time is the best kind of escapism available for fantasy readers, because the story is good and the author has plenty of surprises in store for her readers. I can highly recommend this thrilling novel to everybody who loves to read entertaining fantasy. In my honest opinion Shards of Time is an entertaining fantasy adventure novel of the highest order.