The Way of Shadows: Still in the rough draft stage

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy 1: The Way of ShadowsThe Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

In the back-alley slums of Cenaria, a guild rat named Azoth hopes to survive by becoming the apprentice of Durzo Blint, who is the best of the wetboys — the most elite of assassins. To do this he must unquestioningly follow Durzo’s every command, accept that life — anyone’s life — is worthless, and forget everyone he knew in his old life. He must become Kylar Stern: gentleman by day, stone-cold killer by night. Though Azoth doesn’t know it, as Kylar he is destined for much bigger things.

I like stories with strong criminal elements, action, and intrigue — all of which The Way of Shadows has. The plot has so much potential, but I went from interested, to briefly revolted, to almost started to like it, to bored, and ended up forcing myself to finish the book.

The only characters I actually cared about were a few minor ones. The villain was so sadistic and psychopathic — how can his own evil army stomach him? The system of magic is more like Matrix/Neo-superpowers than fantasy sorcery. Many times, things just didn’t make sense as they were written which made the action hard to follow — like reading about Kylar hiding behind a picture, when the author really meant a statue and not a picture at all.

The dialog came across like bad acting in a low-budget movie, and the slang was horrible — like “wetboys” being the best of the best in hired-killers. I assume this came from the term “wet-works” sometimes used in modern-day espionage thrillers to down-play assignations or maybe just because it’s a bloody deed, but every time I read “wetboy,” instead of ninja-like assassins, all I could think of was a kid caught in the rain.

Worst of all, the tone was all over the place. Sometimes it was so dark I could barely stand it, even though dark & gritty is usually my preference. For example, there were descriptions of sexual molestation within youth street-gangs. There were several cheesy descriptions of beautiful women and their breasts (despite breasts being my own personal favorite part — or should I say parts — of the female anatomy) which just didn’t fit the story. And the number of forbidden romances in a single book may be a new record in fantasy. I realize the extreme contrasts are an attempt to make the bright parts brighter, but the result was a story with a strangely wavering tone.

To Mr. Weeks’ credit, The Way of Shadows has a solid plot and some writing at the end that I really enjoyed. There was so much potential here — I think perhaps the editing is to blame. It just seemed like it was still in the rough draft stage. I’d like to see what Brent Weeks could do with a different editor.

~Greg Hersom


fantasy book review Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy 1: The Way of ShadowsAzoth, a young boy growing up in the poor ghetto of a large city, witnesses a violent confrontation between a master assassin and some thugs sent to kill him. He soon realizes that the only way to be free of the constant fear and desperation he lives with is to become an assassin himself. Thus begins Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows and the journey of young Azoth from child-thief to deadly assassin.

Mingled amidst the decadence and decay of the corrupt capital of Cenaria, Azoth stumbles and struggles to become what he can in order to make a better life for himself. Meanwhile, politics, betrayal, and magic are also afoot in Cenaria, and things don’t turn out quite for the best.

The Way of Shadows is long and meanders back and forth between the different plotlines, but Weeks creates some effective drama and some interesting contrasting characters. For example, one young man has a soul of honor and nobility while another is the epitome of deceit and lies. But then, characters who we assumed to be heartless do good things. I did feel a little like most everyone had a heart of gold underneath it all — and sometimes I found that to be a bit too predictable and not very realistic.

The first 200 pages of The Way of Shadows fairly flew by, but then I got bogged down. Things were taking too long to really get going and by the time I reached the crescendo at the end, I was impatient. It’s a good story and there are some good characters, but it was neither so original nor so compelling that I was overly impressed. Brent Weeks can write, but the story could have gone on a 100+ page diet and still been more than detailed enough to satisfy.

~John Hulet


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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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