Shadows Return by Lynn Flewelling

Series: Nightrunner, book 4

Genre: fantasy

Year of publication: 2008

Rating: ♥♥♥

Summary: The old queen, Idrilain, has died, and Phoria is now the ruler of Skala. Suspicious and jealous of the loyalty her sister, Klia, commands from the army and the people, she left her unofficially exiled in Aurënen at the end of the last book. Now, she sends Alec and Seregil to bring word to her that she is to return to Skala. En route, Seregil and Alec are attacked by raiders, carried off to the enemy land of Plenimar, and sold into slavery.

For most of the book, Seregil and Alec remain captives, subjected to various forms of torture and subjugation. The man who holds them is an evil alchemist who needs Alec’s blood to create a strange, inhuman creature called a rhekaro, which is purported to have amazing powers of healing. In the meanwhile, Seregil encounters a ghost from his past, and Alec’s mixed blood complicates matters.

Finally managing to get loose, Alec and Seregil’s future is uncertain, and the events they experienced in this book will certainly have a lasting impact on their characters and on the direction of the next story.

Thoughts: This book was, unfortunately, not as good as the first three in the series. Just in terms of physical appearance, it had a more YA feel — larger type with lines spaced further apart. The plot was not as detailed and well-paced as the previous stories, and the setting (most of it takes place within various cells and rooms of the alchemist’s house) was not as interesting. Furthermore, the regular supporting characters did not get to make much of an appearance.

The whole captive/bondage thing got really tiring after a while, and I began to wonder why the author had taken the story in this strange direction. In retrospect, I’m more forgiving – mostly because I feel like she wrote herself into a corner, but unlike many other authors, managed to write herself back out again pretty admirably. There are a few plot holes and questions left unanswered, (like if Phoria wasn’t behind the kidnapping, why did she send Alec and Seregil to Aurënen instead of just using one of Thero’s message sticks?), but nothing too glaring. In the end, some critical pieces of Seregil’s past are revealed, and the setup for the next book looks more promising.