There are a few authors, Joe Abercrombie included, whose books I've read in large part because everything they've said outside of their novels (on blogs, etc.) has been hilarious and witty and they don't take themselves too seriously. Brent Weeks (or Sussex Months...yes I still think it's funny) is one of those authors.
One of the reasons it's taken me this long to get to this book is because I think the cover is awful. I know cover art doesn't really effect anything and probably shouldn't anyway, but it was very offputting for me. Does anyone really want to see Hayden Christensen dressed up for Halloween on a cover? Maybe I shouldn't ask that... :) (It does look like HC doesn't it?)
The covers were what set this series apart, although it's hard to imagine that now, but they set the standard that is now almost a necessity and I can at least give them credit for doing that much. But really, what would a fantasy novel cover be without a cowled figure anyway...original?
Okay, now that the cheap shots are out of the way. I do love a good hood and The Way of Shadows (2008, 645 pp.) is full of them. Realistic covers, for me though, only really work for urban fantasy/paranormal romance. It must be the tats I guess. :)
This tale begins with the struggles of our main protagonist, Azoth, a guild rata nothing who's got no where to go and nothing to lose. His only way to escape the slums and a life of cruelty and pain is to apprentice himself to Durzo Blint, a renowned wetboy (kinda like an assassin times a hundred) and legend. This, however, is not as easy as he supposed since he is forced to turn his back on anyone he's ever loved and devote himself to a practice that's not altogether savory for anyone with some sense of morals. Like the cover blurb says, "The perfect killer has no friendsonly targets."
To accomplish this, Azoth is given a new identity and a new name, Kylar Stern, while he begins his training and attempts to unleash his "Talent", or his magical abilities that would extend his skills as a wetboy.
The Way of Shadows is a fastpaced dynamite of a novel. I was up late into the night burning through pages to find out the next twist. I have to admit, I love a good assassinthemed novel. Weeks does a great job with characterization and I became really attached to Kylar, Momma K, and Logan; some awesome characters with convincing motives. This is the definite focus over worldbuilding, which while an admirably realized world, is only given the barest of details necessary to further the plot. In a character/plot driven novel, The Way of Shadows doesn't get bogged down in description and it was much appreciated.
Kylar, although desiring to be a killer, is easy to relate to and has his own qualms throughout the story of doing such work. His character works well with his cranky master, Durzo Blint, who seems to have given up any such feelings of regret for his job. And, although this story plays on many fantasy archetypes (assassins, masters, a powerful sword, an unconquerable enemy), Weeks creates a unique feel that is all his own.
One thing I was surprised about was how violent The Way of Shadows is. For some reason, it was not what I was expecting (weirdassassins = violent?), leaning more toward The First Law trilogy than anything. I'm not complaining, it was only unexpected. Weeks does a good job weaving it into the story adding to the emotions (mostly of hatred toward the inflicter) the reader feels for the characters.
Basic grammar errors, such as missing words, were almost to the point of annoyance, but didn't distract too much from the story and in the end I felt that the climax was a little underwhelming as I didn't feel like the actions of the main characters were as necessary as they were made out to be. Otherwise The Way of Shadows was romping good fun. I didn't realize I would like this series so much.
When Should You Read The Way of Shadows?
The best time to read The Way of Shadows is when you're in the mood for something actionpacked and quickpaced. If you need a break from reading description after description and you want something that moves the plot forward through short, concise chapters, The Way of Shadows will do you good.
And in the end, covers don't really matter as long as the book's good.
(side note: I may sound like I hate descriptive novels, but this is far from the truth. I do like balance, however, and a frequent mix of faster and slower novels fit the bill for me.)
Rating and Links
4 out of 5 Stars (Really really liked it) 3.5 stars
”I don’t ask you to like reality. I only ask you to be strong enough to face it.”
Durzo Blint is Cenaria’s most feared killer. Azoth is a frightened little boy living on the streets. Through a series of coincidences, the two come together in the dark underworld of the capital, and the guild rat becomes the assassin’s apprentice.
The only thing you know about the plot is that you’re following Azoth’s journey from the streets to becoming a topnotch killer. That can make things a bit confusing, as you’ll occasionally wonder what on earth is actually going on, but at least it’s mostly coherent. And luckily, there are tons of interesting subplots coming up every now and then.
The setting is interesting enough, but not in such a way that it adds to the overall quality of the book. It’s a city; a capital city, and the novel takes place on its streets and in its mansions and castles. As for the world, it does appear to have many interesting aspects, but sometimes it feels as if though random lore is added to give depth where there is none. However, as fantasy lore is like a drug to me, I won’t pretend to dislike it.
Azoth himself is generic young human male protagonist #1162. There is nothing special about him, his personality, or the way he does anything. However, this is actually positive for the book, as it takes away the attention from him, and sets the focus on the book’s absodamnlutely fabulous secondary characters.
Just like in many other books, movies and games, The Way of Shadows is about a mentorprotegé relationship where the obvious star of the show is the mentor. Durzo Blint is the most skilled and infamous killer in Cenaria, and by far the character with the most depth. He’s the one with all the secrets and the mysterious past. The one everyone fears, to the extent that he may insult the king with virtual impunity. And does so repeatedly…
“Your Majesty,” Durzo said gravely. “A man of your stature’s cursing vocabulary ought to extend beyond a tedious reiteration of the excreta that fills the void between his ears.”
Aside from Durzo, there is a trio of incredibly interesting noblemen who steal the show from time to time. The first, Duke Regnus Gyre, is the good noble archetype. The one who refuses to seize the throne because it would be dishonourable, and walks knowingly into exile instead. Gyre is a great character to read about, but it is the other two who really caught my attention.
The curious thing is that both of these characters became my favourites in an instant. In one scene. In the case of Count Drake, that instant was in the middle of a short conversation where he talks about his past, which is, if possible, even more interesting than Durzo’s.
But the other… oooh, my. Lord General Agon, ladies and gentlemen. Lord General Brant Agon, with a single swift swing of his sword, became my favourite literary character of all the ones I’ve encountered this year.
On the other hand, there is also another character, who goes by the name of Elene, who is so incomprehensibly annoying I would say she’s singlehandedly responsible for much of my disappointment with the book. I don’t really want to talk about her.
As for the writing, this is not a book in which to search for eloquence or beautiful prose. Weeks’ style is the same simplistic one that has been popularised by several of the most rapidly rising stars in fantasy in recent years. The best word to describe it is adequate. It does not add anything to the quality of the book, but it serves its purpose.
There is one major downside, however, and that’s the fact I have never read a fantasy book with a more stupid terminology. Durzo Blint is a wetboy, and while that sounds like an orphaned kid running the streets doing shit jobs for change money, the book gives the notion that a wetboy is some sort of ridiculously superskilled masterassassin. The only thing that’s even more ridiculous is when the characters are trying to figure out what a female wetboy is called.
The book is not so fastpaced in the beginning, but eventually it gets unputdownable. The last twenty or thirty chapters are filled with deadly action and fascinating revelations to no end. And while I was disappointed by the ending itself, I would say that the second half of the book as a whole was great.
So as a whole, The Way of Shadows is not a disappointing book, but it’s not impressive either. There is nothing that will blow your mind away, but there is plenty of excitement. It’s a flawed book kicking off an interesting series, and so I am definitely interested in learning what happens in the continuation of Azoth’s journeys.
”Now, boy, are you ready to become a sword in the shadows?”
From New York Times Bestselling Author Brent Weeks
For Durzo Blint, Assassination Is An Artand He Is The City's Most Accomplished Artist
For Azoth, Survival Is Precarious Something You Never Take For Granted As A Guild Rat, He's Grown Up In The Slums, And Learned To Judge People Quicklyand To Take Risks Risks Like Apprenticing Himself To Durzo Blint
But To Be Accepted, Azoth Must Turn His Back On His Old Life And Embrace A New Identity And Name As Kylar Stern, He Must Learn To Navigate The Assassins' World Of Dangerous Politics And Strange Magicsand Cultivate A Flair For Death 1.5/5
“Do you know what punishments I've endured for my crimes, my sins?" < I read The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, I think that's punishment enough for my sins.
This novel had a promising start, I really enjoyed the start and was excited to fangirl over this novel for eternity, as everyone already knows I am Brent Weeks trash & I'm not ashamed to admit it. So I expected to absolutely adore this book, to be submerged in feels and just want to cuddle it for long hours and cry tears of adoration. Having a promising start and being quite fun I thought I'd hit the lottery. It starts off with some Locke Lamorr vibes, a bunch of young children living in a guild. A tiny 9 year old girl gets cut up for fun and a young boy is raped into submission. Extremely grim and totally had my full attention, however it quickly went sour from there and I lost interest very fast and after a while I realised I hadn't hit the lottery at all and what I instead had was a cliche novel full of tropes, sucky names and forced badassery. Lets be honest here folks the writing was extremely choppy and lacked direction, most of the story itself was talking and talking is boring. I wanted a lot more show instead of tell. But weeks only delivered 5% show the rest was just lines of whining and a POV from an insecure child... sound familiar? Kylar (Azroth) is a twin of Kip (lightbringer series) except it's not "I'm so fat" instead it is "I can't protect those I love.. Wah Wah Wah". I don't know if it's a case of its me and not you Brent Weeks, or it's a full blown case of it was definitely Brent Weeks fault why I disliked this novel so much and can't continue with this series because it's the same old crap from his other series and I can't be bothered reading garbage. Maybe I've just out grown Brent Weeks stupid horny school boy writing style? I'm not sure. I honestly hope not tho... because I am and always will be Gavin Guile (lightbringer series) trash. Another major issue I had with the novel is the use of the word "Wetboy" for an assassin name.. shittest assassin name ever... like ever.. How could someone even justify calling a killer such a pathetically shit name? I'm not even kidding right now, anything would have been better and tougher then that name. I can think of atleast 7 names which would have been cooler and more appropriate. When I think of a Wetboy I think of something a pedophile would google or that awkward moment after my toddlers bath and I chase him around the house with a towel screaming "get here boy, your wet".
So this book is marketed as "grimdark" or "dark fantasy" WHICH ACTUALLY RUFFLES MY FEATHERS. What a load of dog shit.. About two things in this novel could be considered grim & both happened in the first 100 pages. The main character is an assassin who ONLY KILLS BAD PEOPLE. WHICH THEREFOR MAKES HIM A HERO. He is not a grey character but instead pure white. “It is better to suffer evil than to do evil.” are you sure about that? Pretty sure only evil people become assassins but anyway.. you go be white and a hero Kylar, no one gives a fuck. I'm so bored of your standard black/white characters, they honestly have no depth or personality and I'm not interested in heroes, they are boring. But my main problem with this book is the lack of originality and the fact it stunk so badly of this authors other series that I can't even forgive this for being a debut novel, Brent has brought nothing new to the fantasy genre or his own writing style. It was actually pretty childish and kinda lame. Are we certain this series wasn't written by Brent at age 12? When he first hit puberty and could only think about sex, girls and wanking?
“Life is empty. Life is meaningless. When we take a life, we arn't taking anything of value. Wetboys are killers. Thats all we do. Thats all we are. There are no poets in the bitter business.”
The story is basically about a child named Azroth who wants to become an assassin so he can stand up to his bullies in the guild and protect his friends. One night he runs into Durzo Blint the baddest and deadliest assassin going around. Durzo doesn't take on apprentices so it's Azroths job to impress him and show Durzo why he should be apprenticed. After awhile Azroths changes his name to Kylar Stern and to be honest the book gets more and more cliched towards the ending. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a well done cliche plot; I love assassins, I love magic, I love the hateful but nice mentor, I love the weak boy who turns into a strong focused individual trope.. What can I say I just love tropes, however this book just made me roll my eyes, it was boring, annoying, I honestly felt like I had read this book 1000 times over. It's safe to say I'm actually sick of these tropes, this was not a warm trope cuddle more of a trope slap. But it wasn't all bad there was a few redeeming factors; some of the twists and plot points were unpredictable and made the story more interesting, the magic system was interesting, Durzo Blint was cool... Ummm.. *cough*.. Hmm let me think.. That's literally all I can think of... So yeah pretty much a bust.
Recommended to people looking for a novel to begin with in the adult fantasy genre.
Ps. Safe to say I will not read the rest of the series because quite frankly I got better things to do. 😴😴 *New individual reviews are on the way. Until then, make your self comfortable with this sorry excuse of a review"
This review is for the whole series (spoiler free).
This is, by far, my favorite fantasy story of all times. It begins as a personal story of a kid apprenticed to an Assassin, and ends as an EPIC fantasy story, including amazing magic, mystical artifacts, Immortals, Godkings, and of course politics.
Both character & world building are impressive (Its architecture is delicate and refined), but the gem of this book is the magic system. Magic easy to understand, yet complex and multileveled. The pace in all of the books is great, except perhaps the first 100 pages of The Way of Shadows.
"That pain you feel," Master Blint said almost gently, "is the pain of abandoning a delusion. The delusion is meaning, Kylar. There is no higher purpose. There are no gods. No arbiters of right and wrong. I don't ask you to like reality. I only ask you to be strong enough to face it. There is nothing beyond this. There is only the perfection we attain by becoming weapons, as strong and merciless as a sword. There is no essential good in living. Life is nothing in itself. It's a place marker that proves who's winning, and we are the winners. We are always the winners. There is nothing by the winning. Even winning means nothing. We win because it's an insult to lose. The ends don't justify the means. The means don't justify the ends. There is no one to justify to. There is no justification."
Finally, in this book, you will meet the biggest bad mofo* of Fantasy. Forget Logen Ninefingers. Forget Jorg of Ancrath. Forget Vaelin al Sorna & Kvothe. Here you will get to learn Durzo fucking Blint. I totally recommend this book to every fantasy reader out there, and trust me, you will love it!
*bad mofo: A person of such dangerous capability that it produces a natural coolness about them, which when those two qualities combine (coolness and danger) create a reputation that is renowned. They exude these qualities in every aspect of day to day living, therefore leaving their mark on society in legendary form. Other Synonyms: Durzo Blint, Acaleus Thorn, Dehvirahaman ko Bruhmaeziwakazari
You can find more of my reviews over at http://BookNest.eu/ I liked this book, although it didn't tread the newest ground ever, the characters were interesting and the plot held my attention. I think the only thing lacking was the world building, it was confusing and I found it hard to really get a grasp on everything that was happening politically. BUT I recommend it highly, especially to people who like Robert Jordan, Joe Abercrombie, Stephen Erikson Robin Hobb or Terry Brooks. Very accessable, but with the new era "grit" we've come to know and love in fantasy :) If Charles Dickens was born in 1977 and grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and then World of Warcraft and reading sword and sorcery mags and playing online games and who liked wearing a cowled hoody all the time – he may have come up with a book much like Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows.
This is a good book.
I was prepared to dislike it, thinking that it would be a pulpy X Box serialization or a campy Assassin’s Creed type fantasy – and both descriptions are fairly accurate – but it is also much more.
Actually, this is a gritty, bloody book. The subject matter is, after all, a bildungsroman about an assassin, ahem – a WETBOY. Weeks’ does an above average job with characterization and the plot is none too sophomoric. There is more than enough to keep a reader engaged throughout the 600 plus pages. Weeks writes about good and evil, right and wrong with the odd perspective shared with Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga, coming from the outside looking in. Or with a nod to Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon.
This is not great literature, but it is a lot of fun. Weeks is a great writer in much the same way as I, the Jury is a great book and Mickey Spillane a great writer (as opposed to Hemingway being an Author). Actually, this is great in the same way that Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon is great.
Enter the Dragon was never going to win an Academy Award, but it did get a ton of respect and street cred. Why? Because it does what it does very well. A reader picking up Way of Shadows or a viewer selecting Enter the Dragon likely does not care why Heathcliff loves Cathy, or why The English Patient was a cinematic success. What this reader or viewer does care about is that Weeks delivers a damn fine adventure. Charles Dickens or Mickey Spillane (or Bruce Lee) would be proud.
Likeable, really, but something made this a hard book to delve into and get lost in the story. Could be the gritty scrabble of life in the mud of the Warrens. Could be that while character building was excellent, the world outside the Warrens lacks details, even as we meet the characters living there. Could be I've read too many stories lately with heroes of questionable ethics, and I need to cleanse my palate with light and fluffy (taking applications for light and fluffy~).
Halfway through. Found myself starting to skim to get to the resolution (or get to bed; sometimes they coincide), so I put it down until I could focus. I'm finally liking the world being created. The characters are interesting, and the narrative has returned to each enough times that I care at least a little bit about them, and if a few are rather onedimensional (especially the love interest), overall they are done well.
I do find that there seems to be awkward narrative jumps, where one moment we are going through a day per chapter, and then all of a sudden,movie montage our character is sixteen, almost completely transformed from the awkward, unskilled youth into a fully competent assassin. Additionally, the narrative skips around, from primary to characters so minor that they are never heard from againinsert carol's lament of the disjointed narrative standing in for foreshadowing and tensionbuilding
Almost finished. Surprised by (view spoiler)[ the fact that Kylar was allowed to read Eileen's letters, and didn't leave them hanging. Also surprised that Jarl made a reappearance and had advanced basically parallel to Kylar without Kylar knowing it(hide spoiler)] A plucky street urchin Azoth wants to be a wetboy (*). Which is basically an assassin on steroids . Minus the unfortunate side effects of acne, neck hump, obesity, testicular atrophy, and manboobs.
Also, call me immature, but when you call your magical artifact ka'kari, despite the mandatory fantasy apostrophe, the "kaka" part inevitably elicits immature giggles from me. Dear writers, please be careful in your word choices.Anyway, as I said above, our plucky street urchin (hello, fantasy trope!) Azoth strives to become a superassassin under the tutelage of Durzo Blint, a cruel badass wetboy ( but deep, deep, deeeeeeep down inside he is, of course, a caring mentor in his own gruffy wayhello, another trope! ). He gets his wish after a few counts of child rape and child mutilationbut relax, it does not happen to Azoth; really bad things are only allowed to happen to the sidekicks . Anyway, he gets the training and adopts the identity of Kylar Stern, which sounds marginally better than Azoth.
"The truth was, Azoth hated Azoth. Azoth was a coward, passive, weak, afraid, disloyal. Azoth had hesitated [...] He was Kylar now, and Kylar would be everything Azoth hadn’t dared to be."He meets a noble and honorable Logan along the way (to be prominently featured in the sequels). He also has a mandatory love interesta saintly mindnumbingly boring Elene, whose soul is pure and childhood disfigurement does not seem to interfere with her beauty, like, at all. She basically is a virginal Madonna of this story.
NO, NOT THAT MADONNA................. THIS ONE!
One of my main gripes with this story is the overreliance on fantasy tropes/cliches. In this case, in addition to the ones above, we get a mandatory virginwhore dichotomy (Elene being the virgin). And another tropepretty much all the whores turn out to have a heart of gold. Of course.
No, really, women come in more than two varieties. Believe me.
The character development of the entire story is rather nonexistent, more of a videogame variety. The characters are cardboard caricaturesvery perfunctory, very stereotypical and cliched, with very little stepping out of of designed fantasy tropes. Durzo Blint failed to arouse much sympathy or admiration despite learning about his tragic/tortured backstory. Logan is a prototypical hero/good guy. Elene is a cute love interest devoid of personality. Only Jarl and Momma K seemed to be interesting at all, but they don't get nearly enough onpage time. As for Azoth/Kylar himself, he is a decent action hero, but I could not care less for him as a person; he just lacks depth.
Nevertheless, despite characterization being his weak point, Weeks is a good storyteller. His story is very plotdriven and flows reasonably well with the exception of a few parts where the pacing was a bit uneven. The plot drags just a bit in the first part, but picks up quite nicely in the second half of the book. Action scenes are vivid and written very well, and the loose ends get nicely wrapped up. The book, despite its weaknesses, managed to eventually capture my attention, making it hard to put down until I got to the end. Reading it is, in my limited experience, just like playing a videogamea fun ride without too much depth.
Overall, an average
¹ After realizing that I have given 3 stars to quite a few books that I liked way more than this one, I realized that the fair thing to do would be to knock this one down a star. For the life of me, I have no idea why I was so generous with rating it in the first place.The Way of Shadows is so laughably bad, I thought it was satire. Let me give you an example. So, near the end of the book, the protagonist is about to express his love to this girl after like 20 years of lusting, and at this point in the story, there's been a little cursing, the violence is PG13 and badly written, all very YA. So, our protagonist approaches his lady and says to her (this is a direct quote):
"I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. And the purest. I'm not asking you to fuck. But maybe some day I'll earn the right to ask you for something more permanent." He turned and facing her was harder than facing thirty Highlanders.
Ahh, Brent Weeks. I think he has a little Vogon in him.