Luck in the Shadows (Flewelling)

Luck in the Shadows - Lynn Flewelling

Back before I discovered the amazing and sometimes awful world of slash fanfiction, I grew interested in a somewhat similar phenomenon, though more muted, in published science fiction and fantasy by women, featuring gender transgressions (well, transgressions in those days) amongst mostly male characters. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula Le Guin, Storm Constantine and others seemed to me the late twentieth century successors to a conversation that started with homoerotic undercurrents in the work of sentimental historical novelists like D.K. Broster.


The first two novels of this series were recommended to me long ago (though I can't remember by whom) as being in that same fantasy tradition. This first in the series, which I enjoyed, barely merits the "homoerotic" tag - we have only the beginnings of sexual awareness in the youthful protagonist, Alec, and a little bit of reported, suppressed attraction from the himself attractive somewhat older man, Seregil. What it does have is lots of solid world-building, along with a good cast of supporting characters, including a number of strong and disparate women. If I had a quibble at all, and it only occurred at the end, it was that the plot, which I found well-paced, was in fact rather obviously divided in two, with a detailed set-up of a dark magic threat in the first half, not fully resolved but then lost in the political/fraudulent machinations of the nobles in the second half. A serious threat to Seregil is averted in each half, but how or whether the two strands are otherwise connected has yet to be revealed. In a fantasy series, I'm much more inclined to forgive this kind of partial lack of conclusion, because the series, obviously, has to continue.


By and large the writing was good and the tone well-maintained. I was very occasionally lifted away from the page by some lapse into slanginess that I would have queried if I had been editing the book. If I've been stingy with my stars (as usual), it is only because I am anticipating with some pleasure that I may be able to push the rating up when Seregil and Alec achieve more of their destiny in the next book.