Review: The White Road, Lynn Flewelling

Two things I enjoy in fantasy books: Chicanery.  And political machinations.  Preferably at the same time, like when people use their wits to effect the toppling of regimes or noble houses.  I have no particular books in mind when I mention this, of course, although now that I mention it, I do seem to recall that there is a series of books by one Megan Whalen Turner that possess both of these elements.  IN SPADES.

Two things I tend not to enjoy in fantasy books: Lots of made-up words.  And fuzzy-edged pseudo-mystic religions.  And look, it hurts me to say this more than I can tell you, but Lynn Flewelling’s newest Nightrunners book, The White Road, has fewer of the enjoyable two things, and more of the less enjoyable two.  Moreover, it has a creepy little critter in it.  I don’t like creepy little critters, and I have a hard time believing that any of the characters would like them either, ALEC.

Alec and Seregil are dealing with the fallout from Shadows Return, trying to decide what’s to be done with the creepy little critter made from Alec’s blood.  Alec’s people, a weird and violent branch of the Aurenfaie, are trying to track it down themselves, for what reason we don’t necessarily know; and an old enemy of Seregil’s, Ulan, wants the books that explain how the critter was made, plus of course the critter itself.  Altogether too much focus on the creepy little critter.

As ever, you do not necessarily want to read a very good book (or series of books) of a particular kind, and then read another book with the expectation that it will be similar.  That way madness lies, bloggy friends.  I was going back and forth between reading The White Road and rereading The Thief.  (I know, I just read it.  But I felt like I would appreciate A Conspiracy of Kings more if I read the first three books again; and besides, I felt like reading them over again.)  I do not recommend this as a means of gaining maximum enjoyment from The White Road.

I like the Nightrunner books, and I enjoyed the book that came before this one, but I feel like Alec and Seregil have gotten too far from their roots.  At this point, we are hearing far more about their brilliance in secrecy and spying and crafty escapes than we’re seeing.  They’re spies and thieves!  I yearn to see them doing some successful spying and thieving!  I’m mad for spying and thieving, particularly when they are spying and thieving for political reasons.  Lynn Flewelling, I recall from Traitor’s Moon and the Oracle’s Queen books, manages political machinations very nicely.  You know, where there are questions of succession, and warring factions of nobles, and sneaky dudes born on the wrong side of the blanket, and y’all, the phrase “the wrong side of the blanket” – more of that, please.

In short, Alec and Seregil have spent the last two books being reactive rather than active, and I’m ready for them to make some independent decisions about what they want to be doing.  And I would like those decisions to send them in the direction of bringing down corrupt regimes.  They can do it in Skala if that’s what they’re feeling (probably not, at this point), or they can do it in Bokthersa.  I do not mind either way.  I like the word machinations, and I really cannot have enough opportunities to use it.

If you are a fantasy-lover, what things do you like to see in your fantasy?  Dragons, social allegory, ragtag bands of rebels, tall elves, short elves, gender issues?  And what do you wish the genre has played to death and might consider steering clear of for a while?