Caveat up front: This is a slightly edited version of the review I posted on Goodreads in June. With the first book in Brent Weeks’ new series, coming out at the end of the month, I thought it would be an auspicious time to re-post this review and start reading the last two books in this series.
The Way of Shadows is Brent Weeks’ debut novel published in 2008. He turned up in my recommendations at Amazon not long after and after reading a lot of positive reviews on his work on the book blogs I follow, I finally got around to getting his first book in the Night Angel Trilogy earlier this year. And boy, am I glad I did. I may have been late to the party, but party I did!
The Way of the Shadows is one of the first in the recent spate of grittier assassin novels, such as Col Buchanan’s Farlander and Jon Sprunk’s Shadow’s Son. It’s the story of the street boy Azoth, who apprentices himself to Durzo Blint, the best assassin in Cenaria, to escape the street life. We follow him from boyhood to early manhood when he has to stand on his own.
What I liked about the story was that even though it could have been just another fantasy-form bildungsroman, it isn’t. Yes, it’s about the education and development of a boy’s character, but he doesn’t end up saving the world/kingdom/city as they usually do. In fact, at the end of the novel we’re left wondering where our protagonist will go and what he’ll do next with his life.
Another strong point for me was the gradual introduction of the overall plot of the trilogy. While the story mainly stays focused on Azoth and his story, there are a few flashes to other characters/storylines early on, which are woven into Azoth’s story slowly until at about two-thirds of the novel we start to get a glimpse of where the trilogy might be going and what will be the main challenge for our hero and his friends in the next books.
There wasn’t much I disliked in the book. The only thing that irked me was the way Azoth hankers after Doll Girl, since I dislike those kinds of pre-destined love connections (another example is Fitz’s love for Molly in the Farseer Trilogy), but as it was a central plot device to get Azoth moving, I do understand its need and I did appreciate Doll Girl’s development throughout the story.
Overall this was a fabulous debut novel and a gripping read. I can’t wait to start the last two books after I finish my current read tonight!