Series: Nightrunner, book 3
Year of publication: 1999
Summary & thoughts: The third installment of the Nightrunner series was a bit of a slower read than the first two books. The bulk of it is taken up by political intrigue and careful mystery solving, rather than action. It takes place in Seregil’s homeland of Aurënen, and revolves around Princess Klia’s efforts to establish a trade agreement and gain Aurenfaie aid for Skala’s ongoing war with Plenimar. Meanwhile, Seregil is dealing with the emotional pain of returning home while still under the ban of exile, and considered a murderer and traitor by most of his own people.
A tiny bit is learned about Alec’s mysterious heritage, but nothing concrete. A few things happen to Alec that hint at something special about him, but nothing comes of it by the book’s end. Given Flewelling’s deliberate plot pacing, this could well be setting the stage for the next book.
As for the main attraction: Alec and Seregil are now officially lovers, but the book remains decidedly PG-13. I was disappointed that most of their relationship development seemed to have happened “off-stage” between the end of the last book and the beginning of this one. Their devotion to each other and the strength of their feelings are now taken for granted.
Supporting characters: Thero does indeed step in to fill the place of the “wizard friend,” and becomes more likeable; in fact, he is actually one of the most dynamic character in the series, in that his character changes as the story progresses. Beka remains a strong supporting role, and gains a love interest of her own during their time in Aurënen, who promises to be an interesting addition in his own right. I could see Beka having her own book — or even her own series. We also get to know Princess Klia better, and her relationship with the other characters deepens.
I strongly respect Flewelling’s ability to write a complex, high fantasy story without making it a chore to read. I also love how Alec and Seregil’s romance is almost incidental. It’s part of their characters, and it’s the reason I read the books at all, but without it the plot would be just almost as compelling, and the characters just as strong.