Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunners books were reasonably competent fantasies — your standard roguish hero fighting against dark gods and ancient prophecies. Decent, enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable fluff. So when I picked up Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin — which is a sorta-prequel to those books (set in the ancient history of the Nightrunner series) — I was expecting more of the same.
But what I got was something else altogether. The Bone Doll’s Twin, along with the other two books that complete the Tamir trilogy ( Hidden Warrior and The Oracle’s Queen ), is vastly different from the Nightrunner books in ways that I usually hate. Back when I talked about Kushner and Sherman’s The Fall of the Kings, I complained that it “takes this great urban setting, these involved aristocratic politics, and squanders them all on a plot involving ancient magic (with the by-now-standard strong sexual/fertility elements), the bond between the King and the Land, and all those similarly overused themes that fill up a hundred other fantasies.” And since the Tamir trilogy also introduces ancient magic (with sexual/fertility elements), a Queen/Land bond, and all sorts of dark psychosexual themes, it’d be entirely reasonable to suspect that I hated it for the same reasons.
But, in fact, I thought these books were near-great. Flewelling is able to take all that cliched Blood Sugar Sex Magik stuff and make it fresh. I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly how she pulled that off, and the best I can come up with is that Flewelling is writing naturalistic, real characters. The people in this trilogy don’t act like they’re figures out of high myth or fairy tales, they act like regular people who just happen to be in these mythic circumstances.
I don’t think that’s the full explanation — probably some of it is that Flewelling is just a good writer, and her story is interesting — but whatever the reason, the fact is that I normally hate books like these, but nevertheless liked this trilogy a great deal. If you normally like this sort of book, you may end up loving these. Oh, and if you’re looking for fantasy with strong female protagonists and exploration of gender issues, these are definitely for you.