Luck in the Shadows (Nightrunner Series #1)

Luck in the Shadows (Nightrunner Series #1)

by Lynn Flewelling

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553575422
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/1996
Series: Nightrunner Series , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 162,408
Product dimensions: 4.17(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Lynn Flewelling grew up in Presque Isle, Maine. Since receiving a degree in English from the University of Maine in 1981, she has studied veternary medicine at Oregon State, classical Greek at Georgetown University, and worked as a personnel generalist, landlord, teacher, necropsy technician, advertising copywriter, and freelance journalist, more or less in that order. She currently lives in western New York.

Read an Excerpt

1
LUCK IN THE SHADOWS
 
Asengai’s torturers were regular in their habits—they always left off at sunset. Chained again in his corner of the drafty cell, Alec turned his face to the rough stone wall and sobbed until his chest ached.
 
An icy mountain wind sighed through the grating overhead, carrying with it the sweet scent of snow to come. Still weeping, the boy burrowed deeper into the sour straw. It scratched painfully against the welts and bruises that bloomed across his bare skin, but it was better than nothing and all he had.
 
He was alone now. They’d hanged the miller yesterday and the one called Danker had died under torture. Alec had never met either of them before his capture but they had treated him kindly. Now he wept for them, too, and for the horror of their death.
 
As the tears subsided, he wondered again why he’d been spared, why Lord Asengai repeatedly told the torturers, “Don’t mark the boy too badly.” So they hadn’t seared him with red-hot irons or cut off his ears or opened his skin with knotted whips as they had with the others. Instead, they’d beaten him skillfully and dunked him until he thought he was drowned. And no matter how many times he’d screamed out the truth, he couldn’t seem to convince his captors that he’d wandered onto Asengai’s remote freeholding seeking nothing more than the pelts of spotted cats.
 
His only remaining hope now was that they would finish him off quickly; death loomed like a welcome release from the hours of pain, the endless stream of questions that he didn’t understand and couldn’t answer. Clinging to this bitter comfort, he drifted into a fitful doze.
 
 
The familiar tread of boots jerked him awake sometime later. Moonlight slanted in through the window now, pooling in the straw beside him. Sick with dread, he pulled himself into the deeper shadow of the corner.
 
As the footsteps came closer a highly pitched voice suddenly burst out, shouting and cursing over the sounds of a scuffle. The cell door banged open and the dark forms of two warders and a struggling captive were framed for an instant against the torchlight from the corridor beyond.
 
The prisoner was a small, slightly built man but he fought like a cornered weasel.
 
“Unhand me, you cretinous brutes!” he cried, his furious words marred somewhat by a noticeable lisp. “I demand to see your master! How dare you arrest me! Can’t an honest bard pass unmolested through this country?”
 
Twisting an arm free, he swung a fist at the warder on his left. The larger man blocked the blow easily and pinned his arms sharply back again.
 
“Don’t fret yourself,” the guard snorted, giving the prisoner a sharp cuff on the ear. “You’ll meet our master soon enough and wish you hadn’t!”
 
“His partner let out a nasty chuckle. “Aye, he’ll have you singing loud and long before he’s through.” With this, he struck the smaller man quick, harsh blows to the face and belly, silencing any further protests.
 
Dragging him to the wall opposite Alec, they manacled him hand and foot.
 
“What about that one?” one of them asked, jerking a thumb in Alec’s direction. “They’ll be taking him off next day or so. How ’bout a bit of sport?”
 
“No, you heard the master. Be worth our hides if we spoiled him for the slavers. Come on, the game’ll be starting.” The key grated in the lock behind them and their voices faded away down the corridor.
 
Slavers? Alec curled more tightly into the shadows. There were no slaves in the northlands but he’d heard tales enough of people carried off to distant countries and uncertain fates, never to be seen again. Throat tight with renewed panic, he tugged hopelessly at his chains.
 
The bard raised his head with a groan. “Who’s there?”
 
Alec froze, regarding the man warily. The pale wash of moonlight was bright enough for him to see that the man was dressed in the gaudy clothing common to his kind: a tunic with long, dagged tippets, the striped sash and hose. Tall, muddy traveling boots completed the garish outfit. Alec couldn’t make out his face, however; the fellow’s dark hair hung to his shoulders in foppish ringlets, partially obscuring his features.
 
Too exhausted and miserable to attempt idle conversation, Alec pressed into his corner without reply. The man seemed to be squinting hard in his direction, but before he could speak again they heard the guards returning. Dropping flat in the straw, the bard lay motionless as they dragged in a third prisoner, this one a squat, bull-necked laborer in homespun garments and stained leggings.
 
Despite his size, the man obeyed the warders in terrified silence as they chained him by the feet next to the bard.
 
“Here’s another bit of company for you, boy,” one of them said with a grin, setting a small clay lamp in a niche over the door. “Someone to help you pass the time ’til morning!”
 
The light fell across Alec. Dark bruises and welts showed darkly against his fair skin. Clad in little more than the tattered remnants of his linen clout, he returned the man’s gaze stonily.
 
“By the Maker, boy! What did you do that they dealt with you so?” the man exclaimed.
 
“Nothing,” Alec rasped. “They tortured me, and the others. They died—yesterday? What’s the day?”
 
“Third of Erasin, come sunrise.”
 
Alec’s head ached dully; had it really only been four days?
 
“But what did they arrest you for?” the man persisted, eyeing Alec with obvious suspicion.
 
“Spying. But I wasn’t! I tried to explain—”
 
“It’s the same with me,” the peasant sighed. “I’ve been kicked, beaten, robbed, and not a word will they hear from me. ‘I’m Morden Swiftford,’ I tell ’em. ‘Just a plowman, nothing more!’ But here I am.”
 
With a deep groan the bard sat up and struggled awkwardly to untangle himself from his shackles. After a considerable effort he finally managed to arrange himself with his back resting against the wall.
 
“Those brutes will pay dearly for this indignity,” he snarled weakly. “Imagine, Rolan Silverleaf a spy!”
 
“You, too?” asked Morden.
 
“It’s too absurd. There I was, performing at the Harvest Fair at Rook Tor only last week. I happen to have several powerful patrons in these parts and believe me, they shall hear of the treatment I’ve endured!”
 
The fellow prattled on, giving an encyclopedic recital of the places he’d performed and the highly placed people to whom he looked for justice.
 
Alec paid him little heed. Wrapped in his own misery, he huddled morosely in his corner while Morden gaped.
 
The jailers returned within the hour and hauled the frightened plowman away. Soon cries of an all-too-familiar nature echoed up the hallway. Alec pressed his face against his knees and covered his ears, trying not to hear. The bard was watching him, he knew, but he was beyond caring.
 
Morden’s hair and jerkin were matted with blood when the guards dragged him back and chained him in his place again. He lay where they flung him, panting hoarsely.
 
A few moments later another guard came in and handed out meager rations of water and hard biscuit. Rolan examined his bit of biscuit with obvious distaste.
 
“It’s maggoty, but you should eat,” he said, tossing his portion across to Alec.
 
Alec ignored it and his own. Food meant dawn was close and the start of another grim day.
 
“Go on,” Rolan urged gently. “You’ll need your strength later.” Alec turned his face away, but he persisted. “At least take a bit of water. Can you walk?”
 
Alec shrugged listlessly. “What difference does it make?”
 
“Perhaps a great deal before long,” the other man replied with an odd half smile. There was something new in his voice, a calculating note that was decidedly out of place with his dandified appearance. The dim light of the lamp touched the side of his face, showing a longish nose and one sharp eye.
 
Alec took a small sip of the water, then downed the rest in a gulp as the needs of his body took over. He’d had nothing to eat or drink in more than a day.
 
“That’s better,” murmured Rolan. Getting to his knees, he moved out as far as the leg chains allowed, then leaned forward until the manacles drew his arms back tautly. Morden raised his head, watching with dull curiosity.
 
“It’s no use. You’ll only bring the guards back,” Alec hissed, wishing the man would keep still.
 
Rolan surprised him with a wink, then began to flex his hands, spreading the fingers and straining the thumbs about. From across the cell Alec heard the soft, sickening snap of joints separating. Rolan’s hands slipped free of the manacle rings. Falling forward, he caught himself on one elbow and quickly relocated the joints at the base of each thumb.
 

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Luck in the Shadows 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's a lot made about the sexual orientation of the lead characters, and it was a bit jarring at first - only because it's so unexpected within this genre. Whenever other books deal with homosexuality, it's generally only for secondary characters, the traits of deviants, or part of a strange culture the heroes are baffled by. I found it refreshing, actually, to see a relationship that was convincing, real and, in doing so, defies the convention. But to be honest, it isn't the main point of the series, only one of its layers. It's a great story that's smart, fun and kept the pages turning for me. It only gets better as the books progress.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the writing style, the author's ability let you in the character's heads or completely shut you out to fend for yourself. I loved the whole world she built with the different cultures brought up here and there (I've read the first 3 books of the series). If you like science fiction and fantasy and don't mind the sexual orientation of the main characters then this is a great series to go for (I'm a major slash shipper so it's no problem to me). Pay attention to the details because the plot twists span whole books. ^_^
AbelNM More than 1 year ago
At first I wasn't expecting much from this book. But as I began to read, I was not able to stop. Loved the characters and the plot enough intrigue to keep you interested. I found the idea of none judgmental love very rewarding. As must for fantasy science fiction readers with an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was great. Seregil is interesting, original, and unique. if you cant deal with the author occasionally mentioning his sexual orientation, thats your loss. this is a wonderful series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has to be one of the best I've ever read, and I love fantasy books. You really feel connected to the characters and what's happening to them. My only regret is that I bought the first one, but not the second. (I didn't know if I'd like the series or not.) So now I have to go back to the bookstore and get the second one!
anonTX More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I ever read in the fantasy genre and I've been hooked ever since. Excellent series and author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is fantastic. Its one of those that grabs your attention right at the begining and keeps it the whole way through. Lynn Flewelling is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. i havent read the third book in this series yet but i just ordered it so hooray for me! one thig about these books is you have to have an open mind. all in all these book are wonderful and i cant wait to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hooked from the first page, this story just drew me in to the world of Serigil and Alec and made me fall in love. The world building was so subtle but complete that before you knew it nothing sounded strange. Everything just fits perfectly. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves good stories and characters you can fall in love with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite series besides one other. Highly recommend!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story, strong and deep characters, really interesting fantasy world and cultures. Very character driven, many subplots of interest. Great new writer! If you haven't read her, please give her a try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down!
BookHockeylover More than 1 year ago
I loved the entire series and can't wait until the new book comes out
MrYaoi801 More than 1 year ago
Reading this book will surely intrigue you. It is filled with alot of action and mystery. If you liked the movies Pirates of the Carribean, then you might like this story because that's what this book reminds me of. Lynn Flewelling did amazingly good creating Luck in the Shadows. I love her writing style alot. I'd give this book a six star rating if that were possible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can always tell a really excellent book by the number of times I read it. I've now read the entire 'Nightrunner' series so many times I've worn them out and need to replace with new copies. The characters are beautifully developed, in a world that is as believable as it is diverse. Each book has a story that can be read independently, but the beauty of the series is how the story grows from one book to the next. Highly recommended!
Aurone on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I must say that Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling is one of my all time favorite novels. It is the first book in what is currently a five book series. The plot is sound and moves well and I absolutely love the main characters Seregil and Alec. I have read this novel several times and for me it never gets old. Plot: Alec is a simple woodman. He is good with a bow and he traps and kills animals for a living. Think French fur-trapper type. He has just lost his father to illness and for the first time is on his own. Unfortunately, one day he finds himself in the wrong woods at the wrong time and he is jailed for being a spy. He is tortured and finds himself facing being sold to slavers. Not a pretty future. Then a bard gets thrown into his jail cell. But the bard is not what he seems. This bard is actually a master of disguise, a thief, a rogue so to speak. He escapes his chains and releases Alec out of his. The ¿bard¿ springs them both from the dungeon and so begins a beautiful friendship. Seregil, the name of our mysterious bard, believes that Alec would also make a good rogue so he decides for some reason to take Alec with him as an apprentice. Now Seregil might seem like a fishy character but he is actually working for a wizard name Nysander who is a friend to the crown. During one of their first jobs together Alec and Seregil lift a seemingly unimportant wooded disc which causes them to be hunted by a pair of nasty characters, one of which is a necromancer (raiser of the dead). The disc itself has some kind of power that nearly kills Seregil (who is wearing the disc around his neck). With Seregil out of it, and Alec a green woodsman, the boys are in trouble. Alec undertakes a long journey to Seregil¿s home city to find the wizard Nysander who might be able to save Seregil¿s life. Can Alec reach it before Seregil dies? You will have to read the book to find out. There are a couple of secondary plots in this book that meld well with the plot of establishing Seregil¿s and Alec¿s characters. There is also a background plot of a war brewing. What I love about Flewelling¿s novels are her characters even her secondary characters like Nysander and Thero (Nysander¿s apprentice) are excellently done and 3-D. I absolutely love Seregil and Alec. Currently I am re-reading the novels and it feels like visiting old friends to me. I am so excited to watch the plot unfurl again. Seregil is an excellent rogue with a heart of gold. There is a lot of depth to his character and you watch him war with lots of internal issues throughout the books. Alec is a doll such an innocent in the beginning. You will wonder how he will ever survive Seregil, but Alec bends rather easily and becomes used to his new life. He grows a tremendous amount in this novel. It is definitely a tie for me between Seregil, Alec, and Vanyel (from the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey) who is my favorite book character of all time. All of Flewelling¿s characters are engaging and believable. Flewelling writes an engaging book with spectacular characters and a solid plot. There is a lot of history about each of the countries and a religion you have to learn, but the important things are repeated to Alec who is learning all of it with you so it is not so bad. I like her writing style, it is a lot more involved than some other writers but she will pull you in and captivate you. Luck in the Shadows is one of my favorite books. If I could only keep 10 books out of the 1100 I own, the first three books of the Nightrunner series would make the cut. If you like a good fantasy novel then you will love this series like I do. It is a fantastic read, give it a chance.
Maaike15274 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Great! A fast adventurous read, with charming protagonists. I really want to read more of this series!
robreadsbooks on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I did enjoy this book. The characters are well thought out and the plot (for the most part) was quite thrilling. I say "for the most part" because I found the scenes where the characters were verbally retelling the history of the land to Alec to be tedious. These scenes were scattered throughout the first half of the book and they really stalled the pacing. I found Seregil to be a great character. He's a bit of a rogue but he has a great heart. The friendship between he and Alec grew slowly but it was entirely believable. But overall, I can't say that I was impressed enough to continue reading the series. If, indeed, there is something "brewing" in Alec and Seregil's relationship, I saw--or felt for that matter--nothing indicating this. There were very vague references to Seregil being gay but I saw and felt no such thing regarding Alec. Not enough for me to want to continue reading about them anyway. Still, it was a good read and I do recommend it for those who want more action than romance. I was just hoping for a little more of the latter.
silentq on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I really enjoyed this book, it's a young adult fantasy that edges on the adult. Alec is super sweet and I can see myself patterning a DND character after him (he's a great archer and tracker). Serengil takes Alec under his wing and teaches him the trades of spy and thief, but things stay relatively light, as they're in the service of a powerful mage trying to keep the kingdom together. The acceptance of alternate sexualities in this world is refreshing, Serengil is at least bisexual if not mostly gay and I can see the beginnings of a close relationship blooming between him and Alec - they take care of each other through some life threatening situations, magical and mundane.
jshillingford on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I love epic fantasy, so I was delighted to come across the Nightrunner series (though I seem to be late finding it). There are a lot of familiar tropes from fantasy: the rogue hero, the innocent boy, the wise old wizard, a lot of traveling "there and back again," etc. Sometimes this can feel repetitive: why is there always a dark god, that know one knows of, who wants to enslave or destroy the world? For once, couldn't it be a beautiful goddess who wants to protect mankind...from themselves? How does a 16 year old boy manage to stay so innocent? Surely there are girls in the village? But most of the time, such familiarity is comforting and why I keep coming back for more. Flewelling manages to balance familiarity with enough originality to make this a very good start to a series. First, Seregil is a great character (who owes more than a passing nod to Silk from the Belgariad) because he's so three-dimensional. He's imperfect, funny, self-deprecating, loyal, and wicked deadly. But, he is the only fully developed character. Alec comes across as overly innocent, and so more one-dimensional, but he is a good foil for Seregil and has potential. Unlike Garion, or other such characters, Alec is already on his way to becoming a thief, and more interesting because of it. The pace can be somewhat slow at times as the world-building takes place as the characters travel across the fictional landscape. The underlying plot/conspiracy is built in a similar way. However, one jewel in this slow evolution is Rhiminee - a city so vibrant and well described it is practically a character in the story. The author has a gift for description, and does ocassionally go overboard with it, but I felt like I was in the story as a result. Yes, Seregil is at least bisexual, and attracted to Alec. But, as with Vanyel in the Last Herald Mage series, this is simply one of many traits of the character. It was nice to see a gay protagonist treated so matter-of-factly. Though the conclusion is not exactly a cliff-hanger, there is obviously much more to come. Overall, I was drawn in and look forward to continuing the series. Highly recommended to fantasy fans.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Well. This book took too long to read. I like my fantasy novels to go by fast, but this one felt like I always had more pages to go. There is a LOT of world building. The characters are fleshed out. The politics are fleshed out. The world is fleshed out. The homosexuality, however, is fleshed around. It's clear the author spent a lot of effort to slowly build up the "shock" of the main characters being gay. A little dollop here, a tiny hint there, a medium dole here, and voila! at the end of the book we know they'll be lovers.I don't particularly enjoy being spoon-fed. I also don't really care who is having sex in a fantasy novel... I don't read them for "romance" ('cause if I wanted romance, I'd, I dunno... go get a romance novel?) Anyway, I think it's almost a good novel. I will start the next in the series and if it is also as slow to read, I'll stop there 'cause I don't want to feel like my fantasy is work.
flemmily on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Pretty good, although to be honest I'm more of a fan of the Tamir series. I like these sorts of epic/quest fantasy books, but they get a little seen one seen 'em all.That being said, I think Flewelling is a good author, she writes interesting characters and interesting situations. The tension between characters is not quite dynamic enough for me in this book however.
extrajoker on LibraryThing 24 days ago
first line (of the prologue): "Mouldering bone crumbled beneath their boots as Lord Mardus and Vargul Ashnazai lowered themselves down into the tiny chamber beneath the earthen mound."first line (of the first chapter): "Asengai's torturers were regular in their habits--they always left off at sunset."Having read the Tamir Cycle (the three prequel novels), I finally got around to the original Nightrunner novel. As evidenced by the opening lines, this is not your shiny, happy fantasy novel. That's right: no butterfly-chasing, unicorn-coaxing virgins need apply. I don't read much high fantasy these days, but Lynn Flewelling's good for tight stories with strong characters. And it's refreshing that someone's giving "alternate lifestyles" a prominent place in fantasy fiction.
willowcove on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Where the main characters are gay thieves...and they're the good guys. Full of court intrigue, and very enjoyable.
maughta on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Pretty standard high fantasy. A little Tolkeiny at times (a piece of jewelry that causes one to fantasize and go crazy? C'mon!). This book has a subplot that takes over the second half of the book and leaves the main plot for the following volumes. So it goes with three-part high fantasy.
salimbol on LibraryThing 24 days ago
A very solid early book from Flewelling, which I enjoyed very much after a bit of trouble getting into it. It's relatively simple stuff compared to her Tamir Triad, lacking the underlying darkness of that series (so far, at any rate), but it was very interesting to visit the world of those books at a later stage of its development. I liked all of the main characters, appreciated the gender politics of her world and the open homosexuality (bisexuality?) of one of those leads (still such a rarity in fantasy), and I think the author mostly struck a good balance between the needs of the overarching plot for this trilogy and telling a self-contained tale in this first volume (the balance may have wobbled a little far in favour of the latter by the end, but that's not a huge criticism). I'm looking forward to reading the next book!