Friday, March 5, 2010

Review of Way of the Shadows - Brent Weeks

I came to this trilogy after a long break from reading novels and it recaptured my excitement for the fantasy genre. This is the first in a dark fantasy trilogy that is full of flair and excitement. It centers upon Azoth, a guild rat who seeks an apprenticeship with Durzo Blint, the city's most accomplished wetboy (a type of magical assassin). It's brutal and bloody and the twists and turns of the conspiracy-driven plot are pretty intense. No sooner do you think you've got it sussed when you're thrown another curve ball. There was only one instance when I thought the curve ball was a bit much - a certain individual that was better off gone.

The characters manage to be both brutal and sympathetic (generally) and the author manages to tackle some really horrendous taboos (child sex abuse) in an off screen, subtle enough way that just made it all the more horrifying. I really enjoyed watching the characters develop and though I could guess at how a few of the characters would end up, I was still interested to see how it happened.

It did have a few cliches that irritated me, however. The enemy civilization was both evil and led by irredeemably evil men and there wasn't a trace of real justification for their actions other than a desire to prove how willing they were to get their hands dirty. There was also a sub-plot (thankfully just a few scenes) where a few secondary characters throw around words like 'The Magic Sword' (capitals are the writers'). This whole sub-plot grated on me and I happily skimmed through it to get to the good bits. My only fear is this sub-plot appears to be the over-arching plot for the rest of the books and it might put me off the second and third books in the series.

Having said that, most of the novels' fantasy subject matter is handled quite well. There's talk of prophecies but it isn't an ancient prophecy handed down the generations like a bad Nostrademus impersonation. Instead, its a seer's divination. Weeks also handles magic use in a rather unique fashion that is often quite horrible to behold.

Overall, a great book. I happily encourage any who like their fantasy a little darker to take a look.

Scrutinize it to learn how to do some of the best fighting scenes I've read in fantasy.

4.5 / 5

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