Around the age of 14 or 15 I was chewing through the entire Fantasy section at Barnes and Nobles, shelf-by-shelf, when Lynn Flewelling’s Luck in the Shadows made its way into my pile. It is, to the best of my memory, the first book I ever read containing openly gay or bisexual characters, and as protagonists at that! Of course it took me a while to figure that out, as it’s rather subtle until the second book, and I was very stupid. And very closeted: when I finally figured it out I hid it under my bed and didn’t look at it for a week. But I did go back eventually because, gay or otherwise, it’s an excellent book.
A swashbuckle-y adventure in classic fantasy style, Luck in the Shadows tells the story of Alec and Seregil, two men imprisoned by a local tyrant on false pretenses (false for one of them, at least). Together they escape, and Alec, young and recently orphaned, agrees to accompany Seregil as his apprentice in the art of nightrunning which, as the name suggests, involves burglary, lock picking, spying, and other roguish shenanigans. The two soon find themselves ensnared in a sinister political plot endangering not only their lives but the lives of many others as well.
Luck in the Shadows was published in 1996 and bears many hallmarks of the fantasy genre from that era, so expect lots of world-building and a patient plot. Characters like Alec and Seregil have since become a little cliché, but they are still well-developed and fully realized. Though this is the first in the Nightrunner series, it is a complete story and does not end on a cliffhanger. As previously mentioned the protagonists’ sexuality is not very prominent until the sequel, but a variety of sexualities do exist in the world. To produce a successful fantasy with LGBT characters in the 90’s was no mean feat, and Luck in the Shadows is still worth reading today.