Brent Weeks – Beyond the Shadows

A new queen has usurped the throne and is leading Cenaria into disaster. The country has become a broken realm with a threadbare army, little food and no hope. So Kylar Stern plans to reinstate his closest friend Logan as King, but can he really get away with murder?

In the north, the Godking’s death has thrown Khalidor into civil war. To gain the upper hand, one faction attempts to raise the goddess Khali herself. But they are playing with volatile powers, and trigger conflict on a vast scale. Seven armies will converge to save – or destroy – an entire continent.

Kylar has finally learnt the bitter cost of immortality, and is faced with a task only he can complete. To save his friends, and perhaps his enemies, he must assassinate a goddess. Failure will doom the south. Success will cost him everything he’s ever loved.

The final book in Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows, brings the story of Kylar to a stunning conclusion. It ties up all loose ends and does so in a satisfying manner.

The only quibble I had with the book is that at times the narrative felt a little fragmented, because of the many different storylines that Weeks had going. While each of them had a function, the jumping from the one to the other sometimes left me feeling dazed and needing to get back into the POV we’d jumped to.

But if that was my lone quibble with the book, there was much left to like. Before we get any further into themes and motives, can I just go all squee on you and say, yay, Durzo is back. Did that little nugget make me sit up and take notice in the previous book’s epilogue! I loved that he came back and the reason why he was given another chance. His interactions with Kylar left me alternately chuckling at Durzo being Durzo and touched, because Durzo at last after all these centuries got to freely feel and express those long-denied feelings.

What became clear to me in this book is that in Kylar’s world sacrifice and selflessness are essential to saving it. And this doesn’t just include love, though this is the most important force, but honour, duty and loyalty too.  This is illustrated by most of the main characters and by some of the secondary ones as well. Istariel, the Speaker for the Chantry, is willing to sacrifice everyone and everything, including her own life and reputation, to save the Chantry. Durzo, in the first book gives his life out of love for Kylar. Dorian sacrifices not just his prophetic gift, but his sanity. Vi, selflessly, relinquishes all claim to Kylar, thus enabling him to do what he has to do. And Elene through her capability to love selflessly, sacrifices herself for the same reason. In a more complex way, Kylar sacrifices himself so Logan can become King out of both love and loyalty, but at the same time Logan has sacrifice his best friend for duty in the process. And finally, Kylar sacrifices everything again and again, first to kill Garoth Ursuul and then to kill Khali.

If sacrifice and selflessness are themes in the book, forgiveness is another. Weeks shows this beautifully in his treatment of Elene and Vi and Logan and Jenine. Despite her having ringed Kylar and thus having taken him from Elene for life, Elene forgives Vi, because she understands there is a purpose for it and she steadfastly believes that her God knows what he’s doing. Even more touching to me was the scene between Logan and Jenine after they are reunited.

He breathed. “I forgive you.” She moved to get off his lap, but he caught her and held her against him. It wasn’t an emotion, it was a decision. He forgave her, even of the things that weren’t her fault. This was too precious to let the past destroy it.

That was just beautiful. And it felt completely in character for Logan, he couldn’t have done otherwise.

It also fits in with what I thought was the best line in the book. This time it belongs to Durzo:

“At the end of the day, you choose what you believe and you live with the consequences.”

Added to all of the layers to the narrative mentioned above, what is also core to the book is that it’s a wonderful action-filled story. From the scene in the palace at Khaliras, to the skirmishing at Ezra’s Wood and the ultimate battle at the Black Barrow the descriptions of the fighting are well-handled and kept moving along. The story may have stuttered for me at some of the switches of POV, but it never flagged.

We’re also treated to more back story for Solon, Dorian and Durzo. I loved seeing more of the history, not just of these characters, but of the world of Midcyru. It left me really curious about the rest of those stories, especially the stories of Solon and Kaede and Jorsin and Ezra. Hopefully one day Weeks might tell us more about them.

Meanwhile, the first book of the author’s new series, Black Prism, is set to release tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon! But until that time, I highly recommend the Night Angel trilogy to those that haven’t read it yet.