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Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks


The Way of Shadows (Night Angel, #1)The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was recommended to me as a good example of gritty, street-level fantasy. If this is a good example, I'm going to stay far, far away from the bad examples.

The book starts with Azoth wanting to apprentice to a famous assassin, but then he balks when given the condition he has to kill someone. I would've forgiven the angst and waffling and realization this is what it means to be an assassin, if that was what stopped young Azoth. But, no. Instead, we're treated to a long, drawn-out thought process of how he might do it, why he should, what the consequences are, and everything but what I'd expect an 11-year-old boy to think about. When it finally happens, the text glosses over it, to be doled out in flashbacks later.

Then we're treated to flashes of life over the next ten years for Azoth, now going by Kylar Stern. Most of the characters in this book have more than one name, incidentally, and names are used interchangeably. So, if you still want to read this after reading my review, be warned that you'll have to keep track of not only people's names, but their pseudonyms. And several people have names that could be confused for one another's. One character goes by Elene, and there's a minor character named Elena, as well.

Female characters are described in terms of their relationships to male characters. One woman is described as headstrong, and, within a few paragraphs, is informed her preteen son holds the power in their house. Her attempts to subvert this are crushed, and the next we hear from her, she's brutally murdered.

The strongest female character in the whole story is a prostitute. Not that I have a problem with prostitutes, but it tells me a few things about what the male author thinks of his female characters. There's a queen who could've been a decent character, except that her biggest role is to plot to put someone else on the throne, instead of her. Because they'll respect him, you see. Which is where I made a choking noise that's still hurting my throat.

So ten years are glossed over in a few overwrought scenes, leading me to the distinct impression that the author only had a few cool scenes he wanted to write, and had only the thinnest justification for stringing them together. As this book is long enough as it is, I suppose I shouldn't complain too stridently.

There's a guy who can tell the future who fits into all this, of course, because the plot isn't maddening enough without the author blatantly adding some, "I know something you don't know!"

While we are treated to tedious inner dialogues, we're rarely given the insights that would make the characters real, at least to me. Inner motivation is often left for the reader to guess, and characters often act in ways that are counter to their interests. I'm left to conclude, most of the time, that they did it so there would be a plot.

As for the plot, it shows up around the halfway point with an assassinated prince. One would think the child (Azoth/Kylar) has grown up some in the last ten years, but there's plenty more dithering to be had. Sometimes, we follow thought processes leading us to conclusions with no bearing on the plot, or that are blatantly wrong, or that we've already figured out. Had the author been forced to cut dithering and navel gazing, this book would've been a quarter its size.

When I found myself yawning through the drawn-out battle between apprentice and master, I knew this book was a mistake to pick up.

I will not be picking up the next book in this series. This one was painful enough to get through. As it is, I'm sorry I finished it. There are so many better books I could've been reading, meanwhile.

I read this on audio, which didn't help the book's quality one bit. The narrator read a lot of it with melodramatic emphasis. So many of the voices sounded similar that, in one scene with three people with the same accents, I couldn't tell who was speaking. A better narrator would've been wasted on this book, but it didn't make an unpleasant read any more palatable.


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