Lynn Flewelling,
Traitor's Moon
(Bantam Spectra, 1999)

Lynn Flewelling's Traitor's Moon picks up the Nightrunner series where Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness left off, though it is a far more serious book. By the same token, it is more problematic and perhaps not quite so successful.

Seregil and Alec have been away from Skala, living in self-imposed exile after the tragic events that ended their first series of adventures. The war between Skala and Mycena on the one side and Plenimar on the other has progressed; the Plenimarans, through the use of necromancy, have made deep inroads into Mycenan territory when Queen Idrilain of Skala is seriously wounded and near dying, something known only to a few close advisers. The Queen decides to send her youngest daughter, Princess Klia, to the Aurenfaie to seek weapons and horses, an open port at Gedre (the clan closest to Skala) and an alliance against Plenimar. The queen also insists that Seregil accompany the delegation, in spite of being banished from Aurenan years before. Alec will also accompany them as telmenios to Seregil and because he is half Faie. (The mother he never knew had been of the long-lost Hazadrielfaie, a group who left Aurenan centuries before to settle beyond Ravensfell in the far north.)

Traitor's Moon is much more a novel of diplomacy and political intrigue than adventure, and in that area, it is not entirely successful. The setting is beautifully rendered, especially the city of Sarikali, the center of Aurenan's social and ritual life, as well as of most of the action in the novel. The personal quests of the protagonists are believable -- for Seregil, the exile, and Alec, the half-breed, the central question becomes "Who am I?" and the answer, not surprisingly, is the same for each. Flewelling's gift for characterization does not desert her, and the cast is full and well-rounded.

Where the novel doesn't quite jell is in the intrigue and political chicanery that is so central to its action. Ulan Sathil of Viresse, Klia's chief opponent, is a smooth operator with sources of information that keep him ahead of the game at all times. However, there are too many glaring instances where he could be challenged and to some degree neutralized -- and I say glaring because they leap out on first reading rather than being something the reader can reason out later. For instance, Klia's convoy is attacked on its way to Gedre, on what was thought to be a secret mission. Seregil notes to himself that the leak need not have originated in Skala (something the reader already suspects), but this is never explored. In the hands of one of the masters of this genre, a comment would have been made to one of the Skalans' allies among the Aurenfaie and let clan rivalries take it from there. The book isn't littered with examples like this, but there are enough to cause the story to lurch from time to time -- although, to Flewelling's credit, the reader is caught up in the story enough to notice these things.

My second gripe (and this is not really so serious) is the relationship between Seregil and Alec. Given Seregil's personality, it has to be a little rocky, but somehow, despite her gift for characterization, Flewelling doesn't quite manage to convey the depth of what we are told exists. Given the nature of the talmenios bond as she describes it, I would expect a fundamental effect on their relationship, which we don't really see, aside from their rambunctious sex life (which may be stereotyping as much as anything else).

However, please do not take this as a thumbs down. Flewelling is a strong writer, and the story is absorbing. My problems with the missed political opportunities are due at least in part to the fact that Ulan i Sathil is such a detestable villain, and the Skalans are such admirable fellows, that we really want to see them take him down. Given the premises, though, the story works its way out as it must, which is only to Flewelling's credit. A must read? Not really. A very good read? Yes, certainly.

- Rambles
written by Robert M. Tilendis
published 18 December 2004

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