The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows was Brent Weeks’s 645 page debut novel. It is the first book in the finished Night Angel Trilogy, which is a fantasy trilogy that Weeks has stated that he plans to write more about in the future. I borrowed this from the online NEIBORS site via my hometown library.

The plot takes place mainly in Cenaria, a country that is quite far behind us in technology. The main character, Azoth, is a guild rat who dreams of a better life. The guilds are groups of children and teens that steal to survive in the gutters and alleys of Cenaria’s ghetto, the Warrens. Azoth goes to the top wetboy–Durzo Blint–to apprentice him in order to get out of the slums. A wetboy is similar to an assassin, except for the fact that they are practically infallible. As Weeks writes, a wetboy has a deader, an assassin has a target–because assassin’s sometimes miss. Azoth does everything he can to get out of his abusive guild and into Durzo’s life, although overcoming his innate goodness makes his entrance into the world of killing difficult.

In order to do that, Durzo charges him with changing his identity and lifestyle.  Azoth must become Kylar Stern and learn politics and manners in order to get into the world of killing. He also trains with Durzo, learning the art of combat and poison and so much more. One interesting thing about wetboys is that they have Talent. This is a sort of magic that can be used for disguise, combat, stealth, and much more. This is what really separates wetboys from assassins. While Azoth was a good boy character, Durzo was my shining star of this book. He was ruthless and mean and misunderstood and just fun to read about.

One thing that threw me off was that some of the dialogue is odd–whenever anyone talks about “fucking” it gets a little weird. I’m not against cursing, it just feels out of place with the rest of the clean language and dialogue in the book, in both wording and content. It was relatively easy to overlook this, though, because the rest of the book was great. The characters are really well developed, Azoth and his guild rats are sympathetic, and the guild heads and lackeys like Roth, Azoth’s enemy, are brutal and make for great villains.

Cenaria itself was also interesting to read about, including the behind-the-scenes criminal government that runs the real government, the Sa’kagé. They run everything in the background, and treat corruption as desirable. Weeks writes a rich world and complex characters, although this novel is just the tip of the iceberg for the worldbuilding he accomplishes in the Night Angel trilogy.

Although The Way of Shadows seems rather long (645 pages!), it is a quick read. Weeks really showed his ability to write action and thought well. I found myself pleasantly surprised and impressed from his first novel. It is a solid start to a great trilogy. I really do hope that Weeks writes more novels in this world.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Adam
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 21:39:07

    My older brother had this series and he really enjoyed it so he told me I should read it. I really enjoyed the first 200 pages of this book, but after that it fell flat for me. I just didn’t care enough about Kylar as a character. After I read this book I went through George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (this was before the fifth book in his series came out) before I even picked up the second one. I read the first 150 pages of the second book and put it down. I’m glad you enjoyed the book, but Weeks writing just doesn’t do it for me.


    • hannahrose42
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 08:00:53

      Ahh, see I tried to go through Song of Ice and Fire and never made it past book two. I kept falling asleep. This is probably Weeks’ weakest book, and second in line for series. The Lightbringer series is what really sold me on him. That one is just beautiful. It’s also been a while since I read Way of Shadows, so I don’t remember specifically how Kylar differs from the second book, but in the third (that I’m reading now) Weeks gets more into the world stuff, and other main characters, which helps even out the Kylar narrative. I’m glad you at least gave the second one a shot, though!


      • Adam
        Oct 03, 2013 @ 08:39:33

        I’ve heard a lot of people say the same thing about Martin’s series, and to be honest I felt the same way about book 5 (the book that everyone waited about 6 years for and then when it came out nothing happened in it) but I slogged through it anyway. I’m not especially convinced that he’ll ever finish the series anyway, so I honestly wouldn’t worry about trying to read them anytime soon.

        The problem with the second book in this series is that I could tell that the first 150 pages of it didn’t need to be in the story because absolutely nothing happened. Maybe I’ll give Weeks the benefit of the doubt and say that it was partially him being a newer writer or maybe a lack of communication between him and his editor. Eventually I might have to check out one of his other books, but it’ll probably be a long while before I do.


        • hannahrose42
          Oct 03, 2013 @ 09:06:45

          That’s fair. Again, it’s even been a little while since I read the second book, and I’ll admit the first half wasn’t that memorable. He probably could have made this a two-book deal, but a trilogy just sounded more appealing, I’m sure. The third book has been great, although none of them were quick reads for me.

          I do plan to finish Clash of Kings eventually, but reading is a mood thing for me, and I definitely haven’t been in the mood to trudge through a book reading POVs from two characters I don’t like (Cat, Sansa). Tyrion did redeem it a little, and I realize I won’t have to read Cat forever, but still.

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