Review: ‘The Way of Shadows’ by Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows is Book 1 of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy. I had several friends recommend these books a couple of years ago and they’ve been on my TBR (to be read) shelf since. I’ve finally gotten around to them (I wanted to read this trilogy before starting Weeks’ first installment of  The Lightbringer series, The Black Prism which I hear was amazing!) and I’m glad to have done so.

Before I continue, a bit about Book 1:

The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets.

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned the hard way to judge people quickly — and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics — and cultivate a flair for death.

 

Admittedly, this book started off rather slow for me. I was more than a few chapters invested in the book before it really began to flow for me but then… then I was snared. So much so that I began writing this review before I had reached the halfway point in the book.

One reason I think it was difficult to dive right into this story was the deplorable situation in which the reader finds the first characters to be introduced. It was horrific, the lives of these street children who were forced into crime and so much more that no child should ever endure. It made me sick but it also made me care.

I realize that this is a fantasy series, and that bad things always happen to the protagonist for one reason or another. The fact that it’s not real, that Weeks made me feel so deeply for the characters and their situation so early in the book is in retrospect, quite the impressive feat. It generally takes some time for me to ‘bond’ with the characters in the books I read so my near immediate concern for Azoth and his friends, was a rare occurrence.

Still, even though I did care about these waifs and what was to become of them, my initial reading was sporadic and I found excuses to put the book down after a chapter, or half of a chapter, to go to bed early or watch some TV. It was obvious that my concern for those young characters was weighing on my mind  however, when after a time I would pick the book back up and continue. In no time, I was flying through the pages… eagerly, hungrily. I was hooked. Weeks had cast his line and after a few timid nibbles, I was caught.

I’ve just finished and am looking forward to picking up the next book in the trilogy, Shadow’s Edge. The last half of this first book was read in several large chunks because it was so difficult to put it down. I was anxious to learn of the fate of Kylar and all of his friends and so while the first half went slowly, the second went very quickly. I was even moved to tears by a certain exodus that featured not a single main character, it was so well written and full of emotion.

The magic system was interesting to me as was Cenaria’s cutthroat political scene. I was also struck by Kylar’s inner struggle with who he wished he could have been compared with who he had become… who he had chosen to become. Upon turning the last page, there was enough closure in some respects to make it a satisfying read but at the same time, there are enough loose ends to ensure that I’ll waste very little time before picking up the second installment in the trilogy. I just have to find out what happens next.

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