Review: The Way of Shadows

The Way of Shadows is book one in Brent Week’s Night Angel series. This was one of those books I picked from the bookstore at random. I’d never heard of Brent Weeks or the series. All I knew was it was sitting in the Sci Fi/ Fantasy section and was about an assassin. I bought the entire trilogy in one shot, hoping that I would at least find it mildly engaging because otherwise I had just wasted 20 bucks that I probably should have used for gas money. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, I was hooked.

Azoth is trying to eke out a meager existence as a street rat. His attention is focused on not getting beat into a bloody mess and trying to make sure he and his two friends don’t starve to death on the stinking streets of the Warrens. But he has dreams beyond the slums. If he could land an apprenticeship with the most deadly assassin in Cenaria, Durzo Blint, then he would never have to fear anything ever again.

We watch as Azoth grows both in age and skill. He learns to navigate the seedy underbelly of his rotted homeland and, under Durzo’s ruthless tutelage, he becomes an important piece in the dangerous game played by those with money and power. But Azoth, later given the alias Kylar, must learn the hard way that being a professional killer means forfeiting pieces of your humanity one by one.

A young boy born into destitution must face constant peril and rigorous training at the hands of a mysterious master so that he can come into his full and daunting potential, and be revealed later to actually be far more than his miserable beginnings suggest. Heard some variation of it before? Eragon, Rand al’Thor, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, the list goes on. Not that there is anything wrong with it. There is a reason the bulk of the world knows at least a couple of those names. It’s a story that works. However, despite the familiarity of the plot, Weeks throws in large helping of thrilling action, complex characters, and some raw emotions to make it feel new again.

The Way of Shadows is most definitely a dark fantasy. There is plenty of blood and graphic imagery. The setting is grimy and deplorable. The characters are flawed, some way more seriously than others. Weeks sets you down right in the middle of the dark alleys but he doesn’t leave you without some light in the night. Through the muck, there is still honor and compassion. Kylar, who makes a very good living on murder, is a likable character. And he’s by no means the only one.

There is a strong influence of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire in The Way of Shadows. The multiple point-of-view characters, the struggles of a kingdom in the midst an ineffectual leader, the best and worst of what it means to be human living side by side. It also means you might want to watch which character you get attached to. So far, the characters of the Night Angel series have not been subjected to the same high mortality rate as the Song of Ice and Fire, but I have a suspicion that this may charge.

I give The Way of Shadows an 8 out of 10. I docked a few points for the semi-formulaic plot. I fully intend to read the rest of the series, which continues in Shadows Edge and concludes in Beyond the Shadows. I will also be on the lookout for more novels from Weeks who revealed in an interview that though the Night Angel trilogy is complete, we have not seen the last of Kylar and his world.

For those of you who have already enjoyed the Night Angel series, I would suggest you take a look at the previously mentioned series, Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The series its quite the epic fantasy and begins with A Game of Thrones.

“Assassination is an art, milord. And I am the city’s most accomplished artist.” – Durzo Blint, The Way of Shadows

– Littlewolf

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