A few years ago I challenged my husband to find me a new author. He came back with Brent Weeks’s The Black Prism, volume one of the “Lightbringer” series. I loved it and instantly became a fan. Looking into him I discovered that he had previously written “The Night Angel Trilogy”. While curious to read more outside of the Lightbringer books by this newly discovered author, my TBR is deep, so I passed on seeking it out and instead focused on the books physically in front of me. During San Diego Comic Con this year Brent Weeks posted on Facebook that if you stopped by the Orbit booth (his publisher) and said a secret password, you would get a little surprise. Stopping at book publishers’ booths was something my husband and I were going to do anyway, so we went, said the password, and received bracelets promoting the Lightbringer books. We chatted with the woman at the booth about how we started reading Weeks and it came up that we hadn’t read any of the Night Angel series. As we wrapped up the conversation and started to leave the booth she held out a copy of The Way of Shadows. and insisted that we take it. I suspect the fact that it was Sunday, and therefore the last day of SDCC, was part of the reason she gave it to us (the less to pack up and ship back the better) but our enthusiasm for Weeks as an author probably didn’t hurt. Being a paperback, I deemed it perfect travel material and saved it for a pair of cross country flights at the beginning of August.
Durzo Blint is a master assassin. No mere killer, he is magically gifted, or Talented as it is called in this world, and therefore is in a special class of killer. He is a “wetboy”. When a wetboy takes a contract, the victim becomes known as a “deader”, because hiring a wetboy gives you a guaranteed kill. Talent can help a wetboy become one with the shadows, silence footfalls, and give speed and power to physical strikes. Blint is not one to rely only on his Talent and so trains vigorously as well as study the properties of plants and their uses, particularly poisons.
“Life is empty. When we take a life, we aren’t taking anything of value. Wetboys are killers. That’s all we do. That’s all we are. There are no poets in the bitter business….. You aren’t making art, you’re making corpses. Dead is dead…..Don’t play with your kills. Don’t go for the one-thrust beautiful finish. Cut someone twenty times and let them collapse from blood loss – then finish them. Don’t make it beautiful. You aren’t making art, you’re making corpses”. Durzo Blint is a legend and Azoth wants to be just like him.
Azoth is a street rat, child of the undesirable Warrens, and member of the Black Dragon guild. Without a guild a street rat’s chances of survival are nearly nonexistent. With a guild your life is still misery as days are spent to collect guild fees with heavy punishments should you come up short. Azoth dreams of what his life would be like if he were as fearless as Blint. With the help of his best friends Jarl and Doll Girl, Azoth sets his sights on becoming Blint’s apprentice but apprenticeship comes at a heavy price. To become Blint’s apprentice, Azoth must kill a guild member and turn his back on his former life, shedding the identity and friends of Azoth to become Kylar Stern.
Intrigues abound in the kingdom of Cenaria. The king is weak and despised by many. Some say the true rulers are the secretive sa’kage, who in turn are overseen by the mysterious Shinga. Neighboring kingdoms have long looked at Cenaria as an overripe fruit that could easily fall with the right leverage. As Azoth is starting his apprenticeship to be the ultimate killer, plans are being put in motion to lead to Cenaria’s downfall.
There is a lot to like in The Way of Shadows, magical assassins, mystic sages, secret guilds, family dynamics, the tortures of unrequited teen romance, legendary weapons, and solid world building so I can see why this series has it’s own devoted following, as evidenced by the amount of fan art work it has generated that Weeks shares on his Facebook page. While I enjoyed it, I’m only giving it 3 stars as the writing is not as polished as future series. There were several times that I had to back up and re-read to understand what was going on, and even then there were one or two times I still wasn’t entirely sure until things were clarified later. It took until nearly the end of the book to clearly structure the politics in my head, to fully understand what all was happening. I suspect these are the results of first book syndrome as I haven’t had these problems in the Lightbringer series, of which there are four currently published and the fifth will be out sometime next year. While I am curious as to where the story goes and would be interested in reading the second and third book in the Night Angel trilogy I will not be rushing out to get them.