I read Brent Weeks’s debut novel The Way of Shadows some time ago. It was not a brilliant book but it kept me entertained enough to try the second part in the NIGHT ANGEL trilogy, Shadow’s Edge. On the whole I liked Shadow’s Edge much better than The Way of Shadows. With the wider scope of the story, it is a much more satisfying read, though it still has a number of annoying flaws.
The story picks up right where we left the characters at the end of book one. The army of the Godking (as he styles himself; there is little proof of his divinity that I can see) Ursull has taken the city of Cenaria in an orgy of violence and blood. The nation appears subdued, all resistance broken. Kylar has decided to give up his life as an assassin and prepares to move away from the city with his beloved Elene and their adopted daughter Uly. Elene has made Kylar promise not to kill again whatever the circumstances, but Kylar finds that a promise impossible to keep.
It becomes even harder after his old friend Jarl shows up on his doorstep and tells him Logan Gyre, the recently appointed heir to the last king of Cenaria and close friend of Kylar, is still alive. To escape the Godking, he has hidden himself in the most unlikely of places, the worst prison in the country, a place known as the Hole. It is only a matter of time before Logan is discovered or perishes in his hellish prison. Kylar needs to act and he needs to do it now. Especially since the Godking does not seem to have forgotten Kylar either.
Where the story of The Way of Shadows was very much confined to Kylar and the city of Cenaria, Shadow’s Edge zooms out a little. There’s a lot less emphasis on Kylar’s character and more on the politics surrounding the conquest and occupation of the nation. It gives the story more depth than the first part of the trilogy. I still think a bit more detail on the Godking and the search that drives him would have done the story good, but there is something to the mysterious bunch of magicians opposing him. I guess Weeks does not want the puzzle resolved too early in the trilogy.
I like the character of Kylar a bit better too, now that he has finally admitted to himself that he is an assassin. With the control over his powers increasing, Kylar gets into a number of very cool, almost Matrix-esque fights. His relationship with Elene, on the other hand, is a bit over the top. Considering Elene grew up in one of the worst parts of town and has seen more than enough human misery, you’d expect her to hold a somewhat more realistic view on human nature. Her religious views were so at odds with the world around her that no reasonably intelligent being would expect themselves to live up to her ideals. It did make for some funny scenes with Kylar trying to talk her into having sex with him, though.
I am not all that fond of another of the major female characters either. The second most talented wet boy after Kylar is Vi. Her apprenticeship with the successful but excessively cruel Hu Gibbet puts her through the same mental and physical abuse Kylar suffered, but on top of that Hu heaps enough sexual abuse to break even the strongest spirit. Vi puts on a brave face but ultimately she has very little control over her emotions, which makes her easy to manipulate. Hu is described as a very cruel man, so I guess the cracks in his apprentice’s psyche are fitting. For the story, it is something of a loss though. Vi would have made a very good strong female character but Weeks has turned her into a helpless woman in denial, at the mercy of anyone who is clever enough to pull her strings.
Where The Way of Shadows leaned heavily on the action scenes, the pace in this book slows down just a little to allow a bit more worldbuilding to slip into the story. Personally, I feel Shadow’s Edge is a bit more balanced and a much better read than previous novel. In fact, for a middle book it has a surprisingly satisfying end. Weeks leaves a number of storylines open for the final part in the trilogy, of course, but the story arc in this book doesn’t suffer from these loose ends. Unfortunately, he manages to undo some of that good work in the epilogue with a plot device that is turning into a pet peeve for me. I can’t tell you without spoiling the book. though. Overall, Shadow’s Edge shows significant improvement over the first book. After The Way of Shadows I doubted I would continue this series. Now, I look forward to the final part in the NIGHT ANGEL trilogy, Beyond the Shadows.
FanLit thanks Rob Weber from Val’s Random Comments for contributing this guest review.