Having read the previous four books in Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, I was excited to receive a copy of The White Road, which continues the events set forth in Shadows Return.
The story follows Alec, Seregil and Micum as they attempt to learn more of the mysterious creature Sebrahn. Created by dark magic from Alec’s own blood, sweat and tears, Sebrahn can kill with a song, heal with his blood and even bring the dead back to life. Added to this mix is the appearance of a group of people who are intent on stopping (either by killing or capturing) Alec and Sebrahn for understandable, if a bit extreme, reasons: Alec’s unique blood can be used to create more of the creatures. Oh, and then there’s the faction that wants to recapture Alec so that they can create more creatures like Sebrahn.
Thus the stage is set for some quite personal conflicts as the two main characters, Alec and Seregil, face difficult choices.
I enjoyed this outing because characters felt more like themselves than in the previous volume, partly because of the circumstances they found themselves in, I suspect. In Shadows Return, Flewelling had both characters captured and sold into slavery. That would be enough to make anyone feel a bit “out of sorts” with themselves, in my opinion!
Also, the world that the books inhabit feels solid and rooted. As the party travels across the lands of the book, they encounter places and things that happened in previous books, or in ancient history of the land (which was also chronicled in Flewelling’s excellent Tamir trilogy), and the whole world-building just feels “right.”
The characters have grown, as well. The wizard named Thero, in particular, is becoming one of my favorites because of the journey he has made and who he has become through those hardships. His growth across the five books from insular and sullen apprentice to outgoing and courageous wizard has been a pleasure to read. Also, Alec and Seregil are finally growing back together as a couple and acting more like a well-versed team than they have in the previous two books.
The rhekaro, Sebrahn, is still an enigma, however — one that I think Flewelling intended to keep. We are given peeks into his nature, and given tantalizing hints about his potential, but they are never followed up on. In this volume, at least …
Unfortunately I felt that the ending of the book, which had been reached through much hardship and the shifting of character’s perceptions about each other, seemed rushed, slightly awkward and somewhat tacked-on. Which is a shame, considering that the book was released after many months’ delay. I expected more polish to the “big end battle.”
The final conflict that takes place feels a bit contrived because the motivations of the attacking party aren’t fully explained. Thus it’s difficult for me to feel much sympathy for their position. And so it seems slightly pointless to me, because I already know the good guys are going to win. There is no tension to the conflict, and so its enjoyment is diminished.
Unfortunate ending aside, I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to seeing what predicaments my favorite Nightrunners get themselves into in the future.