Monday, January 25, 2010

Review: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The last decade was an absolute gold mine for emerging talent in the fantasy genre and I’ve stumbled across yet another one in Brent Weeks.

Azoth is a young orphan living on the streets, part of a guild of child thieves. Life has always been a struggle for survival but becomes even more so when Azoth makes an enemy of Rat an older and stronger boy who is one step away from the guild leadership. Azoth dreams of becoming the apprentice of Durzo Blint the most skilled wetboy, super skilled assassin, in the city. A chance encounter with the man himself leads to an ultimatum; If Azoth can kill Rat within one week Blint will take him as an apprentice. Azoth finds that he can’t do it, at least until Rat horribly disfigures one of his best friends, Doll Girl. Once the deed is done Azoth fulfills his promise. Blint fakes Azoth’s death and the young man assumes the identity of Kylar, a young nobleman, and is thrust into a very different world. Kylar is swept up in larger events that threaten the kingdom, all the while he faces a threat of a different sort. If he fails to tap into his talent, the magical ability employed by every wetboy, Durzo will kill him.

What immediately struck me about Way of Shadows is it really is Kylar/Azoth’s story. Larger events are taking place but the focus is always on him which gives it a very intimate feel. Following a similar vein to other recent releases the story is dark and gritty but at the same time it emphasizes the message that hope lives on. I was very impressed with the way Weeks portrayed his characters, especially the younger ones. From the way Kylar grew up he is wise in some things while naïve in many others and this contrasts with the way other characters such as Logan and Doll girl, with different upbringings, see the world. One minor gripe I have is there are a few too many miraculous survivals after characters are seemingly killed. This is not so much an issue when the reader is aware of this and the characters are in the dark but I don’t think it is a good idea to bring characters back from the ‘dead’. If this happens too often it risks sucking meaning from the scenes in which important characters do actually die, a mistake often made in comic books.

Other than that The Way of Shadows is an immensely satisfying debut and one I highly recommend. 8.5/10.

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