Avoiding second-book syndrome, Stalking Darkness is at least as good as Luck in the Shadows – but it also touches on some serious yikes. I have thoughts.
The plot and worldbuilding continues to be more than fine, revolving around its characters, who are charming and distinct and vivid. Great stuff! They go through good times and bad times and some terrible trauma (which has consequences beyond one book, thankfully). We get to see some morally grey politics and some real evil. All pretty good.
CW rape and icky relationships for the rest of the review.
The less bad yikes: After abandoning a Lois McMaster Bujold series (ffs) for an age imbalance relationship, I’m starting to think I’m too sensitive, but here at least, other reviews agreed: The long-foreshadowed relationship between our two protagonists becomes more of a thing. On the one hand, it’s queer rep, yay! On the other hand, queer rep with large age differences is even more yikes than those would be usually. Protagonist #1 is a 17-y/o young man, protagonist #2 is, like, at least 60 (but hey, an elf, so he doesn’t age like normal people blah blah), who starts out as a mentor and teacher. So. Yeah.
The worse yikes is that this book has some serious rape of the younger male protagonist by an older woman going on. It’s rough and, to the credit of the author, the protagonist keeps struggling with this experience (feeling violated, avoiding that person and any vaguely similar situations at all costs, etc). Not to the credit of the author, it has zero further consequences and everybody else treats it either as a joke or with confusion. One authority figure announces that coercion is not okay and would be punished, then completely fails to follow up. Not even very plot-relevant, it was just thrown in there as some foreshadowing on the traitorous perpetrator. Big yikeses.