The two roguish heroes of Flewelling's "Nightrunner" series return, almost ten years since their last appearance. Only a few years have passed in their world, but they've still experienced some serious changes: not least, there is a new queen of Skala, and she has little use or trust for the Watchers. Alec, Seregil, and the remnants of their merry band are left to raise families, build inns, or play at being dissolute nobles. When the queen commands Alec and Seregil to deliver a message to her exiled sister Klia, they leap at the chance for another adventure.
(SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT)
But instead of the swashbuckling excitement and intrigue they (and the reader) expect, they are quickly kidnapped and sold in the slave markets of Plenimar. (The slavers in this fantasy world are dark-skinned, keep harems, and have curly beards. OH FLEWELLING NO.) There, Alec's unique half-blood heritage is both a blessing and a curse--instead of warming someone's bed or working in a field, he is bought by an alchemist, who first "refines" Alec's blood and then uses it to create otherworldly monsters. The alchemy and the creatures are chilling and interesting; the rest of the book is less so. Alec and Seregil spend hundreds of pages just sitting around their slave quarters, and the B plot (Thero and Micum, their fellow Watchers, try to rescue them) seems tacked on. All this could have been forgiven had the interpersonal relationships been interesting, or the inner monologues been insightful, but alas, that too was not to be. Instead, I had a hard time remembering who many of the characters were. Several horrific scenes were rendered significantly less horrific due to A)Flewelling's unexpectedly euphamistic style and B)not having any emotional connection to the characters involved.
This is a mediocre beginning to another trilogy in the Nightrunners series. I like Seregil and Alec as a couple (refreshingly little angst!) and Flewelling has written good court intrigue and adventure in the past. I hope she returns to her strengths.