The Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks is an exceptional debut novel. Normally, I would expect a debut to be slightly lacking in a few areas and while excelling in others. Then, as an author hones his/her talent, the books become tighter and more rounded. Some new writers nail characterization but need to work on pace or their worldbuilding is awesome but the plot has a few holes. After reading the Way of Shadows however, I am impressed. If Brent Weeks gets any better he will become a major voice in the fantasy genre.
The Characters. Azoth is a street kid just trying to survive. Sounds cliche at first but Azoth, even though he does not yet realize it, is more then he first appears. Durzo Blint is the best of the best when it comes to assassination. Dark, mysterious, deadly, Blint's motto is that life is empty, life is meaningless and to take a life is not taking anything of value. Logan Gyre, aristocrat, consummate fighter, loyal friend, he will get caught up in deadly politics and stands to lose everything he loves. King Aleine IX, cruel, inept, not quite sane, he is the worse possible type of king, a complete raving lunatic.
The Story. Azoth wants nothing more then to never be afraid again. The best way to do this, as he sees it, is to apprentice himself to the most fearless man he knows, Durzo Blint. Leaving behind his life in the Warrens, with its cruel gang lords and rampant child abuse, Azoth becomes Kyler Stern, assassin's apprentice and sometimes noble but poor Baronet. This book follows Azoth's transformation from street urchin into a "wetboy" or trained assassin. It is a coming of age story, often skipping years at a time as Kyler develops his skills and hopes for a way to awaken his "Talent", without which he can never fully become a wetboy.
My Impressions. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Tia's first impression when she showcased this is correct, it is very dark. Child rape, child abuse, copious amounts of profanity, death and mayhem fill these pages. Brent Weeks does not hold back when it comes to making this a very dark, but fascinating world. He is also not afraid to kill off important characters, which is great, nothing in this story is sacred so you are always kept guessing. The pace is fast, the secondary characters, of which there are many, are as well written as the mains, the plot twists are delightful, the magic system is a bit vague, but hopefully we will learn more about it later. An impressive first effort and one that has left me looking forward to more.
The Way of Shadows (Amazon: US - Canada - UK)
Brent Weeks: (Website - Interview)
Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
Orbit (October 1, 2008)
Unbound's Interview with Brent Weeks