The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
The street rat Azoth wants nothing more than to live free from fear. He will never get that as a thief with an oppressive gang leader. So he seeks an apprenticeship with the most fearless man he knows of, the legendary assassin, Durzo Blint. But Blint isn’t just a common assassin. He is a wetboy, a killer so deadly that even the underground leaders of the city aren’t certain they can control him. He can teach Azoth to be just as fearless, just as deadly, but is the knowledge worth the price? Azoth thinks it is.
And so Azoth becomes Kylar Stern. He must master magic and murder, leaving behind everything he ever cared for, forsaking those who loved him. If he fails, he knows there is only one punishment. To stay alive he must kill. But no matter how good Kylar is at dealing out death, he can never be as heartless as a wetboy is supposed to be. When political intrigue endangers those Kylar secretly loves, he is forced to choose. He must choose between being the perfect wetboy and losing the respect of a loyal friend. Choose between killing his own master and saving the woman he has loved his entire life.
This book kept me up at night. Not only did I not want to put it down, but once I did I couldn’t get the characters out of my head. The cast was incredibly compelling, with depths and twists that revealed startlingly realistic motivations.
The hero of the story is an aspiring assassin, and let’s make this very clear: he kills people for a living. Yet there is never any doubt that Kylar is the “good” guy. We know him, we’ve grown up with him, and when his heart aches, ours ache with him. He faces choices that are both heart-wrenching and believable. And while Brent Weeks throws us for a loop every few pages, he is always true to his characters. I may not see a twist coming, but once it’s there, I can’t imagine it happening any other way. And I have a pretty good imagination.
Brent Weeks bravely slogs through poverty and prostitution, betrayal and assassination. Some may even say he goes too far, but for every gritty theme he weaves into his work, there is an answering call to light and honor. This story is about the darkness and violence that runs deep in humanity. It delves into the inherent evil of rape and murder. But above all it is a story of hope, of redemption, and finally of love. Weeks’ surprising, yet appropriate, humor lights the way through some of the darker twists of the criminal mind.
Though the story is cohesive, I did have to reread bits in order to make sense of some of the convoluted politics. I thoroughly enjoy it when an author drops the reader into the middle of their world and expects them to be intelligent enough to pick up the clues that have been left, but I felt as though I was missing something for the first half of this book. Some of the early clues provided were a little too mysterious and the context to explain them came a little too late.
Overall this book was an incredible read, with a good amount of action as well as compelling relationships that developed over time. Brent Weeks used the darker themes of despair and murder to balance and highlight his message of hope. I flew through the last three hundred pages, breathlessly waiting for the hero’s redemption, and I wasn’t disappointed. I, personally, can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment of the Night Angel Trilogy, Shadow’s Edge.