For Casket of Souls, Alec and Seregil are back in Rhiminee and up to their favorite games of spying and thieving among the various social classes. No sooner have they really begun to settle in than plots of treason and a mysterious plague test their skills and their endurance. Meanwhile, the war with Plenimar drags on, threatening the lives of Princess Klia and Beka Cavish.
A few warnings
First, by this point in the series, Flewelling has given Alec and Seregil a lot of background—too much to recap quickly and do it any justice. So, as I often say for later books in a series this long, don’t pick this book up first. While you may be able to do so and enjoy it, you will lose a lot of subtext in how the characters relate to each other. There will also be some plot points that won’t make as much sense as they would for someone who had read the previous five books.
Also, Alec and Seregil are a gay couple, and there are a few small, light sex scenes. While the more risqué scenes are easily skipped, Alec and Seregil are very much romantically involved outside of the bedroom. You cannot mistake their complete and utter devotion to each other. If you would be bothered by this, pass this series by. On the other hand, there aren’t many epic and/or high fantasy gay protagonists out there, so if you don’t mind LGBT material, be sure to seek the Nightrunner series out.
A lovely romp
While this book still follows the basic format of the previous five books, where Alec and Seregil must save the kingdom using their rather dubious skills, there are a few game changes in this one. First, this is the only book that spends all of its time in Rhiminee, Alec and Seregil’s home and the capital of the kingdom of Skala. Previously, the plot has moved in and out of the city rather than just staying put. As a result, Casket of Souls includes a lot more of the Skalan nobility and political infighting than previous books have. Flewelling also showcases just what Alec and Seregil like to do when not traveling all over their known world, from going to the theater to visiting salons. I really enjoyed this change of pace, and didn’t miss the constant traveling of previous books.
Don’t worry if court intrigue isn’t your thing. The secondary plot takes place primarily in Rhiminee’s slums as a mysterious plague strikes the young poor. As the plague seems to be magical in nature, it’s up to Alec and Seregil to figure out where it’s coming from before the city starts panicking and rioting. Mixed with the ongoing war, and the infighting in the court, things look very bad indeed! There are a few war scenes from Klia and Beka’s points of view as well, which also help balance the book away from the court.
Why you should read this book
Again, this is not likely a good choice if you haven’t read the previous five books or if you object to LGBT subject matter. If you have read the previous Nightrunner books, this is a worthy installment that I very much enjoyed. The plots are meticulously done and interweave very well. Or, if you’re looking for some high fantasy that’s a little different, pick up Luck in the Shadows. These are fairly quick reads with a lot to enjoy about them.