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This book languished on my nightstand for a few months. My husband bought this series after realizing it's about assassins and he recommended it to me after he finished. The 645 page length was daunting though so I didn't get around to reading it until I was threatened, err, reminded that my husband wanted to lend it to a friend and I better read it before he gave it to them.

The Premise:
The first book in the Night Angel trilogy, this is an epic tale about the citizens of Cenaria, but the focus is on Azoth, a street urchin who lives on the streets with a ragtag band of other children. His group all hand in most of their earnings to Rat, one of the "Bigs" of their group, who leads through terror. Azoth rashly provokes Rat who decides to use him as an example and Azoth's only hope for survival (and protect his two friends, Jarl and Doll Girl) is to apprentice under Durzo Blint, the best wetboy (an assassin with a magical edge) in the city. Durzo is never afraid and Azoth wants to never be afraid again. That's how the book begins, but it becomes bigger and more complex as we meet new characters and see the intricate interactions between them their ramifications on the fate of Cenaria.

Excerpt of The Way of Shadows

My Thoughts: How do I describe this book? It starts off sort of simple and then becomes more complex as you go along. At first when I got a sense of the city, I wasn't that impressed by the world building. II felt like it wasn't something I hadn't seen before: the groups of street children, the idea of Guilds, the corrupt king and unrest while a neighboring land populated by evil magic-doers plots to invade. It reminds me of a lot of other fantasy, but that was okay, because after the world building foundation was in place, the characters and the plot were so unique fascinating my earlier quibbles were forgotten and I enjoyed the book. The author also introduces some new-to-me magical aspects which are peppered throughout the story.

The Way of Shadows begins as a coming of age tale. Azoth has nothing to protect himself or his two friends, the young, mute Doll Girl and the smart but small framed Jarl, and he dreams desperately of leaving the streets and apprenticing under the number one wetboy in the city, Durzo Blint. Azoth's dream is an almost impossible one, but he does manage to catch Blint's attention and Durzo promises to teach him only if he passes a test. I was really engrossed by this part of the story - wanting Azoth to pass his test and to destroy Rat, but it is also probably one of the most violent parts of the book. The abuse against children, by other children, while adults may know what's going on and do nothing, was really hard to read. It gave me chills, but it sets up the story so you know not to expect things to go the way you want them to.

The second part is the apprentice-ship phase where Azoth becomes someone else--Kylar. He trains and grows up and so do his friends and enemies. The focus of the book shifts a little and we get introduced to the points of view of some other characters. Brents starts setting the characters up like pieces on a chessboard. Friendships and actions that occur in this phase may be small and seemingly insignificant but have greater repercussions later on. We also get a lot of interesting characters and begin to learn about their motivations and secret griefs. I particularly liked Durzo Blint who avoids morality and emotional connection. Finding out why and whether it really works for him is part of the fun. Azoth/Kylar's training as a wetboy was fascinating but not glamorized. The book doesn't shy away from the darkness of the job.

The final part of the book is Azoth's final trial to become a full-fledged wetboy. The one thing you should keep in mind if you read this book is DO NOT expect things to go the way you think. At first the twists are minor, but the further you get into the story, the more you realize much of the book is set up for more and more surprises and turns. I think this author has an evil streak, because characters I had begun to like as suddenly killed off while characters I hated kept being despicable and unchecked. Each of the characters only knows his or her little part of the story and often acts without knowing that they're doing the wrong thing for the overall picture. If you really connect to a character you may get disappointed at what happens to them, but ultimately I thought that the book did end in a hopeful place despite all the things that go wrong. Of course, this book is LONG. I was 200 pages from the end and wondering how we weren't already at the end, because the sh*t was hitting the fan and I couldn't see how there were 200 pages to go. Usually in fantasy the ending happens shortly after a battle, but in The Way of Shadows, the author was not done, things kept coming, more and more twists showed up, I couldn't believe it. While I could appreciate the twists, if I can find any fault, I'd say they did start to feel improbable just by how often a new one was thrown in.

Overall: An gritty epic fantasy tale with more twists than a bag of pretzels. It didn't quite wring me out and I thought it was ultimately hopeful and worth the read, but it was a roller coaster. I'm very curious where things will go now.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
Hello, Ilona Andrews liked it! (link has Andrews' thoughts plus an interview with Brent Weeks)
Un:bound - Haglerat called it a wonderfully rich traditional fantasy
Tempting Persephone - also liked it and recommends it
Fantasy/SciFi Book review - loved it
Fantasy Book Critic - Highly recommended
My Favourite Books - also a positive review
Giraffe Days - a mixed review

Originally posted on janicu.vox.com

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
blodeuedd83
Nov. 18th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh sounds good, but big!!! Oh my, those huge books can be so so long, not to mention hard to hold
janicu
Nov. 18th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and there are 2 more of them! Luckily it's paperback and so not bad really.
(Deleted comment)
janicu
Nov. 18th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
You've read them all? I'll probably take small break then start the next one soon.
(Deleted comment)
janicu
Nov. 18th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
If you start reading it's got a great beginning. :)

But yeah, it would have languished longer if not for that *stare of a thousand deaths* I got.
sandy_williams
Nov. 18th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
"My husband bought this series after realizing it's about assassins and he recommended it to me after he finished. The 645 page length was daunting though so I didn't get around to reading it until I was threatened"

lol This is exactly the reason why I read it - my husband forced me.

I really loved the book. Honestly, it's one of my favorite epic fantasy's. I don't read them often b/c of the # of pages, but I plan to finish the trilogy.
janicu
Nov. 18th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
Hooray for threats! :) Heh.
(Deleted comment)
janicu
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)
From this comment I suspect I'll be saying "Oh my god!" out loud like I was near the end of this one. :)
calico_reaction
Nov. 18th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
I saw this at Borders yesterday and was considering it, but I wanted to wait for your review. I still think I'm going to wait: do you plan on reading the rest of the trilogy? If so, I want to hear how the whole thing ends up in terms of emotional satisfaction before I dive in. :)

Also, randomly, have you read THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA? If so, how do you feel this book compares?
janicu
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
Yeah I plan to read the rest. :) The Husband has them all.

He also owns THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA, but I haven't read it yet. I have asked him and he says they're hard to compare because they're such different books, but if he had to say which he liked better (and then he paused and stared into space for a minute), he'd choose THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA because it was more "unique".
calico_reaction
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
*laughs*

My review for LAMORA is buried somewhere in my LJ, but I won't say anything until you can read and compare. There sounds like there's similarities to the two books, based on what you've told me of the Weeks. :)
morriga
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
My husband bought this book a good while back because he had nothing to read, and none of the fantasy (or romance) books I had on my shelves appealed to him. Needless to say that he really didn't finish after reading on it for a little over a month... He said the plot sort of reminds him of the video game Assassins Creed.

Now I like a good fantasy book, something like Jennifer Roberson, David Eddings, Ed Greenwood, R A Salvatore, or Elaine Cunningham. Not really certain if this book is worth my while. Maybe, down the lines if I feel like it I "may" give the book a go.
janicu
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
It's funny how many people are saying "my husband bought it.."! Haha. Well if you have it around the house, maybe pick it up and see how you like it. I thought it started off well.

I thought the worldbuilding had Edding influences, but the rest = very different. I only read one Jennifer Roberson so I can't really compare it.. and I haven't really read Ed Greenwood, R A Salvatore, or Elaine Cunningham.
morriga
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
Which of Jennifer Roberson book have you read? I have read all of her Cheysuli books, most of her Tiger and Del (all except the last three... don't have four or five but I do have the last book)), and Karavans. I do have Deepwood in my TBR pile.

Most of Ed Greenwood, R A Salvatore, and Elaine Cunningham books I've read were Forgotten Realms. Elaine is so poetic with her words. I've even read one of her paranormal books.

R A Salvatore, he's the reason I got hooked so much on drows. His dark-elf trilogy was awesome!! Then the The Cleric Quintet series was awesome. The Crimson Shadow trilogy was another great series.

Ed Greenwood. I've only read some of his books that had the seven sisters. He really knows how to snatch your attention..
fantazydreamer
Nov. 20th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
Too funny! This one is also languishing in my TBR. I actually bought it for my son but he hasn't read it yet either. I've seen a lot very good reviews on this trilogy as whole. Nice review, thanks!
aurillia
Nov. 21st, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
I liked the story well enough but the prose drove me insane. Review here. I still got the next book though - there are elements I definitely liked, I just didn't think it was well written. Love the covers though.

But I love long fantasy! Size never puts me off! I used to never buy slim fantasy because I felt like I wouldn't be getting a real story - and also the books are expensive back home so you wanted the page count to make it worth it! (My husband definitely didn't buy it - he doesn't read fiction!)

(and because I read other people's comments, The Lies of Locke Lamora is excellent, and really puts this book to shame!)

Edited at 2009-11-21 07:15 pm (UTC)
janicu
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
Hmm, I guess I should pick up THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA sometime!

Oy, size puts me off these days. I have so much to read on my TBR pile.. I feel slow.

I linked to your review now. Sounds like the authors love of twists was a negative for you - I think it was beginning to bug me a little but ultimately not enough to dislike the book. Oh and I'm so with you on George R. R. Martin. I read A GAME OF THRONES in 96 or 97, really close to when it came out. Was meh, didn't like what he did to his characters, but other people seem to love him, including my best friend.
aurillia
Nov. 25th, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
Ugh, Martin, so overrated. Have to be impressed that he wrote a boring, heavily traditional fantasy (albeit without much in the way of wizards, which is a plus), and people lapped it up like it was the most original fantasy they'd ever read (if it were, they wouldn't like it as much). Oh and this thing about him killing his main characters - he doesn't have main characters so it really doesn't feel like a big thing, and it's not like he's the only author to do that! He gets way too much credit.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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