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Shards of Time by Lynn Flewelling – Review
The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts…and things worse than ghosts.
Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec—who have died and returned to life—can step between the worlds and confront the killer…even if it means a second and all too permanent death.
What I expected: When I heard this was going to be the final story about the Nightrunners, I was both happy and sad. I really liked the characters of this story, but the past couple of books just hadn’t been my cup of tea. So I was happy that since the story seemed to be winding itself down, the author was going to respect that and finish the series rather than drag it out over several more books. I was also sad because I really do like these characters. They’re pretty close to being Gary Sues and perfect in every way, but their earnest hope for a better world is what always dragged me in. Yes, I’m a hopeless and sappy “let’s all get along” kind of person, and as a reader I fall for these good guys who always try to do right and fix things. I’m a sap. Get over it. So I expected a story that wasn’t fully concentrated on the latest mystery/crisis but more on being a closure of the series. That isn’t a horrible thing, but isn’t usually all that great either. And, considering that I was very poorly pleased with the previous book in the series, I didn’t expect to get a rip-roaring adventure with my two favorite Gary Sue Do-Gooders.
What I got: I got a decent fantasy mystery adventure with two of my favorite fantasy characters. There was quite a bit that was over and above even the expected astounding and miraculous events, but it was a fun and interesting mystery to be solved with some very creative plot devices. I got a page turner that didn’t feel like an obvious series goodbye.
What I liked: I liked that Alec and Seregil weren’t starting off this book under the gun of some rogue magic event/user but after a genuine mystery to be solved. I enjoyed that they were taken out of their comfort zone and were without a great many resources they may have called on if they were in the city. I also liked that the two had adventures on their own as well as when they were together.
What I didn’t: Well, I think that without giving spoilers for the book, all I can say is that I found some elements of the plot to be less than believable. If you read my reviews often (and hey, thank you for that!), you’ll know that I’m a fantasy fan who likes to have logical fantasy stories and can get cranky if the plot or a character falls outside of logic just to move along. The disconnects in this one were more of a personal dislike of the elements rather than a logic fail by the author, so your mileage may vary.
Cover talk: This cover reminds me so much of the old 1980s epic fantasy covers by the likes of Michael Whelan, Darrel K. Sweet and The Brothers Hildebrandt – but with a darker, 90’s twist. So I fell for it twice. Pretty in a fantasy art kind of way and nostalgic for me and then interesting – hinting and fun and adventure for Alec and Seregil. Had this not been a series book that I would have picked up anyway, my guess is I would have checked out the back based on the cover. So, it works.
Recommendation: Anyone who is already a fan of the series, absolutely read this. If you are a fan and you may have skipped that last one or two books, read this one anyway. It is worth your while. If you are not a fan or haven’t read any of these books, I urge you to at the very least read the first book in the series, Luck in the Shadows, as it is excellent.