Saturday, February 12, 2011

Epic Review - The Way of Shadows (Night Angel Trilogy, Book 1) by Brent Weeks (4/5 stars)

The Way of Shadows (The Night Angel Trilogy)Reading level: Adult
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Size: 688 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: October 1, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0316033671
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in Night Angel Trilogy
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

This is the first book in the Night Angel Trilogy.  I was really looking forward to reading a series by another great epic fantasy author.  This is a really great epic fantasy.  It has an intricate plot, great characters, and is of epic proportions.  There were some things that bothered me but most were forgivable.  I listened to this on audio book.  The audio book was well done, although it was tough sometimes to tell when the reader had switched to a different character's prospective.

Azoth, and his friends Doll Girl and Jarl, are street rats who lives in the warrens under the abusive hand of a boy named Rat .  When Rat goes too far, Azoth vows to apprentice himself to the best wet boy (assassin with magic skills) in the city, Durzo Blint.  Azoth does what he has to become Blint's apprentice and ends up taking on the guise of a young noble lord named Kylar.  Kylar becomes one of the friends of a powerful young noble named Logan.  In the end Azoth/Kylar becomes deeply embroiled in the intrigues happening both in nobility and the underworld.  The fate of the country is in the hands of Logan, Kylar, and others.  If they can navigate the complex political moves, perhaps they can save the country...and maybe even themselves. 

This book had a number of things that I really enjoyed.  I enjoy reading about assassins; and there was plenty of that in this book.  There are many nifty action scenes, you learn about crazy devices the assassins use, and about the poisons they develop.  The magic system wasn't as well-defined as I like, but it did have some interesting elements to it and the reader is still learning how it is all connected at the end of the book.

The point of view changes between many characters throughout the book.  In the beginning we mainly see things from Azoth's point of view and Durzo's point of view.  As the book continues we see things from many, many points of view (generals, kings, etc.).  It was pretty easy to keep track of what was going on.  At some points minor things earlier in the book had major impact and Weeks does a good job of reminding you what happened just in case you missed it (or forgot) from earlier.

People who loved Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy should enjoy the characterization in this book as well.  All of the characters are a solid mix of bad and good.  They are very grey and make stupid mistakes at times; basically they are very, very human.  As such they were engaging to read about and in general had enough good to them that you were really pulling for them.  There are also some major female players in the book, which was awesome (I hate it when epic fantasies relegate the ladies to minor roles).

The book ended well and completed the story nicely.  Of course they are major things that aren't resolved.  The writing was very well done, if a bit wordy at times.  The plot twists and turns so many different ways that it is impossible to predict the ending; so as a reader you are kept on your toes.  This is a book for adults; there is sexual abuse, physical abuse, loads of swearing, and plenty of gory violence.

There were some things that I didn't enjoy with this book.  Azoth/Kylar makes a lot of incredibly stupid mistakes; he does it so often that I was left wondering how anyone could ever think he was a good assassin (again reminds of Fitz from the Farseer trilogy).  I think a little less blundering on Azoth's part would have made this book more believable and engaging.  Additionally the pace of the story starts to drag towards the end.  The last fourth of the book Weeks throws so many crazy plot twists at you that I ended up kind of rolling my eyes and thinking "Okay, so can we just get on with the story at some point and progress it instead of twisting it?" 

My last problem with the book was that Weeks does not care about killing off characters.  I mean seriously he will spend all this page space to develop characters and then just kill them off like it's nothing.  Towards the end of the book I thought I was reading a Shakespearean tragedy so many characters were dying.  It was unbelievable.  I think it is great to use a major character's death to grab the reader, but Weeks killed off so many major characters that I started to expect everyone to die.  At that point it was just depressing and predictable and not a good plot device.

Overall this is an excellent epic fantasy read.  I really enjoyed the characters, the story, and the world.  The writing is very solid...if a bit lengthy at times.  The pace of the plot is relentless in the beginning of the book and then drags a bit at the end.  I liked this book a lot better the Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, but not as well as Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy, Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy, or Jim Butcher's Codex Alera.   I will definitely be reading the next book, Shadow's Edge, and hope that it is a bit faster paced and that Kylar doesn't screw up so much.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

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