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Friday, October 24, 2008

"The Way of Shadows" by Brent Weeks (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official Brent Weeks Website
Order “The Way of Shadows
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INTRODUCTION: Brent Weeks is a new voice in epic fantasy that publisher Orbit Books hopes to catapult to the top of the field with the consecutive monthly release of his debut trilogy, Night Angel. “The Way of Shadows” is the first book in the trilogy and I found it so engrossing that after I stayed up late to finish it, I stayed up late again to reread the book! And the next book in the trilogy, “Shadow’s Edge”, instantly became one of my most anticipated books for the rest of 2008…

SETTING: On the continent of Mydciru, there are various countries jockeying for dominance. Most developed some form of magic: some purely benign like healing magic and some that can be used for good or for evil. But the Khalidoran dynasty of the Ursuuls possesses the “vir” magic which is pure evil, as described by the seer Dorian—one of the most fascinating characters in the book—and for good reason.

The main action of the book takes place in Cenaria, a smaller country to the south of Khalidor. Cenaria is corrupt, not particularly wealthy or special in any way, and moreover it is used to being occupied by neighboring powers. A weak king and several powerful noble lines jockeying for dominance make it easy for the Sakage—the local underworld—to run the capital. The Sakage is led by the Nine, each with a particular area of responsibility, all being under the ultimate authority of the “Shinga”. There is fierce competition to ascend to the Nine, so assassinations are common within Sakage leadership and nobility, thus resulting in a thriving assassin profession.

However there is a twist. The Shinga's top assassins, called wetboys, possess some magical talent which makes them more effective, but also subject to a loyalty compulsion, so no “normal” assassin is allowed to get too skilled in Cenaria before being eliminated as a threat on the Shinga's orders. The number one wetboy is Durzo Blint, and for reasons that are made clear later in the book he finally decides to take an apprentice, the eleven year old “rat boy” Azoth. From here, we follow the two for about 10 years in which Azoth is trained in the skills of the blade and poison killing, as well as impersonating a minor outland noble named Kylar Stern.

FORMAT/INFO:The Way of Shadows” stands at 645 pages of text divided over 66 numbered chapters. The book also includes a map of Midcyru and an Epilogue. After the Epilogue there is a bonus section including an Author Interview and a very cool Excerpt for the next volume in the series, “Shadow's Edge”. The book is narrated in the third person present tense via several POVs, though the story mainly follows Azoth/Kylar. The ending comes at a natural stopping point but it's clear that the big picture is just now starting to impinge on our characters.

October 1/October 2, 2008 marks the North American/UK Mass Market Paperback publication of “The Way of Shadows” via
Orbit Books. The cover art is provided by Calvin Chu. The second book in the trilogy, “Shadow’s Edge”, will be published October 28/November 6, 2008 (US/UK), while the concluding volume, “Beyond the Shadows”, is scheduled for a November 25/December 4, 2008 (US/UK) release.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: As a terrorized eleven-year-old gang member, Azoth has two goals: first he needs to protect his friends—Jarl a shy, handsome boy of his age that the brutal gang leader Rat targets for rape and submission, and Doll Girl a mute eight-year-old—and second, to become Durzo Blint's apprentice so he will never again be afraid.

For Durzo Blint is a legend, the wetboy that strikes terror in the hearts of anyone—commoner, nobleman or even a king—foolish enough to provoke him or his masters in the Sakage. The reality of course is more complex and we first meet Durzo dead drunk and despondent since the agents of Garoth Ursuul, the Godking of Khalidor, killed his lover and stole something presumably valuable of his. Of course, even in this state, Durzo still easily kills a bunch of assassins sent by rivals hearing about his misfortune.

For reasons that are only understood later in the book, Durzo accepts Azoth as an apprentice but with one condition—Azoth needs to prove himself worthy by killing the evil Rat. When Azoth dithers and tragedy strikes his friends, he finally takes action though his moral scruples against killing, no matter how a worthy cause, will still be with him all the way to the end of the story…

Also part of the story are some lost magical jewels with awesome properties that is wanted by the Godking, Durzo Blint and various other parties, and which may be attuned to Azoth/Kylar for reasons to be found by reading the book.

Throw in a “prophet” that sees the future, a super-magical sword—the mother of all magical swords if you want—a trio of magicians determined to fight the Godking at any price, a plot that zigs and zags several times in unexpected directions, plenty of fights, assassinations by poison and blade, intrigue and even a little comic relief provided by Aleine Gunder IX (Durzo’s uninteresting master), and you have all the trappings of a superb epic fantasy that will absorb you from start to finish…

Highly, highly recommended.


Dark Wolf said...

Very nice review, Liviu :)
I have to check this title soon.

Anonymous said...

Just got it in the mail from Amazon.
Can't wait to get stuck in :)

ediFanoB said...

I'm so keen on this book after I read the first two chapters.
I ordered the book at
Today amazon informed me about delivery date: 22nd of November!!!!

I have to wait another 4 weeks!!!

Liviu said...

For people outside US - especially Germany - on Abe there is a German bookseller that offers great prices + great sh for Germany - the sh is too steep for US unfortunately - so you may try it.

Also BD should have the title and with the weakness of the pound it may be worth checking with free sh

If you read e-books the book is instantly available at Books on Board for example for 6$ or so

I barely can wait for volume 2 - if they do not pre-release it in stores - I have been checking for a week now :) - on November 1st at 1am my time I will buy and download the e-release from BoB

A similar series in some ways - or at least one that can appeal if you like this one - is the one by Pamela Freeman starting with Blood Ties reviewed by Robert and continued by Deep Water which I enjoyed greatly this week - I bought the UK release from BD, the US one is coming soon - and I hope to do a review these days.

RobB said...

Beat me to the review again! I'm writing it now, but I liked the book a great deal, too.

Are you sure this isn't Young Adult? ;)

Anonymous said...

Excellent read indeed.

I was able to pick up Book 2 at my local Borders here in Memphis, TN last Friday (October 17th).

I'm currently the second Felix Castor novel by Mike Carey or I would be digging into another Kylar adventure.

Take care,

ediFanoB said...

Liviu, thank you for information.
I know AbeBooks and it's true they offer great prices.
In this case the book is even cheaper at amazon.
Fortunately today I recieved an update of delivery date.
New deliver date is now 7th to 11th of November. That's fine for me.

Liviu said...

Great tip with Borders - I went to a nearby one in Mt. Kisco, NY and they had it :)

I usually check the inventory online and there it last said available on Nov 1...

I still need to reread the wonderful - top 5 2008 book for me - Memoirs of a Master Forger first, so I will probably start seriously on Shadows' Edge Sunday...

Dream Girlzzz said...

Pat from the Hotlist never did wrong by me in the past, so I usually go with what he says.

But this book is intriguing me, the more so because there are mixed feelings about it.

I think I'll be giving it a shot, YA or not!

Tia Nevitt said...

Ooh, now I really want to read it.

Liviu said...

Just to add that book 2 - Shadows's Edge - which again I stayed way too late to finish Monday night is as good as this one. Looking forward to book 3.

Anonymous said...

I liked the book - the review not so much, sorry. With the exception of the format it's like a PW review - a huge synopsis and little opinion.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

awesome book

Anonymous said...

If you liked this series, you should check out his new book "The Black Prism." It's his most lengthy book, and it's also a new series entirely. Hope you review that one too once you get the chance Liviu. :3

Liviu said...

I reviewed The black prism and had a video interview with the author:

I thought The Black Prism an excellent book which i regretted that it ended despite its length

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