I would love to rhapsodize about this book, but I’m kind of pressed for time (doubt I’ll be able to write this review before Christmas, and I don’t want to hold off since I just finished this book and it’s fresh in my mind). The best way I can describe this, I think, is to say that The Way of Shadows (2008) a bit like The Name of the Wind (2007) by Patrick Rothfuss mixed with an Assassin’s Creed video game.
Azoth is an impoverished child living in the slums of Cenaria City (called the Warrens). He, and his two friends Jarl and Doll Girl, are members of the Black Dragon Guild, a gang of thieves. Azoth comes across the mysterious Durzo Blint, a legendary assassin (known as “wetboys”), and seeks his tutelage in the hopes that it will free him from his life of poverty, violence, and fear. Without giving too much away, this is a bildungsroman, much like the Rothfuss masterpiece – only it doesn’t take so much time to get on with the story.
And it works. The whole thing. The world is well constructed, but not given away so quickly that you struggle to understand what’s being discussed. You know, that’s a problem I used to never have with fantasy – but now always do. The alien names and places, the unfamiliar continents and political dynamics and history. I used to almost exclusively read epic fantasy, and now seldom do. My fantasy muscles must be atrophied, because these books always feel a little intimidating now, when they used to be awe-inspiring and boundless. But Weeks does a superb job, here, keeping the world approachable but just out of reach; slowly divvying out information and painting the broader picture.
And the characters aren’t wholly unknowable. Kvothe (from the Kingkiller Chronicles) and Azoth are both interesting and flawed characters, but I always felt that Kvothe’s love interest was a bit ethereal and unapproachable. That isn’t the case, here.
The first few hundred pages seemed like it was following the same basic plot of The Name of the Wind, but I never felt bored or impatient. I liked the world, and was fully immersed in it. It helps that the books were written around the same time, so I don’t think Weeks was simply copying what he read.
The only real thing, in my opinion, that Patrick Rothfuss has over Brent Weeks is that he’s a better, more poetic writer. Besides that, though, I would certainly put this in the same league as The Name of the Wind. And if that isn’t a huge selling point for you….I don’t know. Have you read The Name of the Wind? That shit is gold.