The Fantasy Series Everyone Should Read

Book covers are meant to communicate something about the stories inside the pages, and I think the covers of the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling do a good job of that — just not necessarily in the way you would expect.  They touch on the classic feel of the books, and the fun of them, without giving you a good sense of the depth or the complexity of the world or characters.

I stumbled into the Nightrunner series entirely by accident. I thought I knew what it would be like — stereotypical fantasy, right? With wizards and dragons, probably some prophecies and portals. Nothing special. Yet for some reason, after buying the first book, Luck in the Shadows, on a whim, I felt it calling me. It was pulling me to read it, some curiosity driving me to pick it up over the other books I’d purchased that day.

So I did. I started the book that night, and before I knew it, I was 50 pages in and completely invested. I had never fallen so completely in love with characters so quickly. I had never known that my sympathy for fictional people could be grabbed with such quick and unrelenting ferocity. I met Seregil and Alec in a little dungeon room and before we even left that room, they had me.

Over the years since discovering this seven-book series, and following it to its end a few years ago, I’ve been a champion of these books whenever I’ve had the chance, because I feel an absolute need to tell everyone that when I thought I knew what this book was going to be, I was so wrong. Or, more accurately, I was grossly over-simplifying.

Yes, there is magic, there are prophecies, sometimes there are even dragons. But there is also intrigue, a brilliantly crafted world full of language and culture and history, this fabulous profession of nightrunning that’s captured both my imagination and my heart.

Really, though, what these books offer that I could not have foreseen or expected, what keeps me coming back to them, is the unfaltering and unfailing love that they inspire in me. This love comes from the characters.

Lynn Flewelling has a gift. It’s a gift I have never seen the match of, in any writing I’ve come across. She has an uncanny ability to make her readers fall in love. You fall in love with the main characters of Seregil and Alec (and believe me, you fall in love immediately) and you fall in love with their friends, you fall in love with their rivals and hell, you fall in love with their servants. (I almost wish I were kidding about that one, but I’m not.)

The stories are rich and rewarding, of course. They’re complex, they’re insightful and revealing. It would be hard to have seven books if they weren’t. But the reason I read the first two books of the series and then, immediately upon finishing, read them over again, the reason I’ll be re-reading the series again, start-to-finish, many times through my life, is for the remarkable and unforgettable way that Flewelling’s characters grip me by the heart and ring every drop of emotion, every feeling I possess, from me.

Her characters love, they fight, they lie and steal and cheat, and they die, and whatever they feel, I feel. I read them as though I am a friend to them, but it’s more than that too. They’ve become a part of me. Or, perhaps more accurately, I have become a part of them. When I read these books, I am one small piece of every character. I see them through everything, no matter how exasperated I get when they find new trouble, no matter how heartbroken I am when they suffer a loss, because being connected to these characters — to these people — truly is like being free to live more than just my one small life.

If any of that sounds appealing to you, please do yourself a favor and give these books a chance.  I’d recommend starting out with the first two books, Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness, because once you read the first one, you won’t want to stop.

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