03 October 2010

Books: The Night Angel Trilogy: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (2008)

Azoth is an orphan who lives in the Warrens of Cenaria City. He and his two friends, Jarl and Doll Girl, are members of the Black Dragon guild. They make their living stealing money to buy food and pay their guild dues to Rat, the Guild Fist, an enforcer who beats anyone who doesn't pay.
One day Jarl shows Azoth a secret stash of coins that he had been saving for four years. Jarl gives the coins to Azoth so that he can apprentice to Durzo Blint, the best wetboy (assassin) in the city.

Meanwhile, a traveling mage, Solon Tofusin, arrives at the Gyre estate. He is on a mission from the prophet Dorian to help Lord Gyre. He finds that Duke Gyre has gone to Screaming Winds, but before he can head there he finds out the Duke’s son, Logan, has also been named Lord Gyre. Impressed with the boy, Tofusin stays with Logan. Azoth begins his training under Blint, which takes years. Given a new name, Kylar Stern, Azoth begins to become an assassin. But prophecy and his past is something Azoth cannot escape and he must decide if life is as empty as Durzo says it is, or can it be worth fighting for?

I approached this fantasy series with some apprehension, if only because they genre has little to offer in the way being different from the rest. Its well written, and Weeks tries to step away from the predictable, but he also creates antiheroes that makes you struggle to even like. Azoth, or Kylar, is such a character. He has some humanity in him, but it comes in the form of love. Here, in this world, love is treated, rather predicably, as a weakness. But this world, sadly, seems to lack any human emotion at all. We watch on the TV news where pundits say how human life is nothing to certain groups of people. Here, in Weeks novel, he has created a very unhappy, very dangerous, and at times, depressing universe. You feel for them, but it does take an effort.

Like any novel, there are some downfalls. Weeks introduces characters that seem to have no significance and are brought in and then dropped without any warning. Eventually, everything falls into place, but it forces the reader to really keep track of all the characters. This also leads to some convenient plot twists and poor explanations as to why they occurred. Still, I’m hoping with the next two books, Weeks tries to explore this more.

Overall, it’s a good read. And much like Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series from 20 plus years ago, you have to accept that hero of this series is flawed, and unlikable. But you know, I think, in the end, he’ll win.

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