The Way of Shadows (The Night Angel Trilogy #1)

Read:  2018

Author:  Brent Weeks

Published:  2008

Genre:  Fantasy

Pages:  645 (paperback)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s Score:  Scoring Great Book

“For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art – and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

“For Azoth, survival is precarious.  Something you never take for granted.  As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks.  Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

“But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name.  As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.”

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Lady Esbe’s Review

In my head, I recognized the name Brent Weeks.  I could have sworn we read something of his during the course of the past two years.  Unfortunate, we have not and then I was kicking myself for not saving this for a monthly selected read.  I’ll cut to the chase.  I’m already invested to complete the series, because my curiosity is up.

In the realm of the fantasy it’s not the best that I’ve read, but it definitely surpasses others.  Weeks does an excellent job in building the world, the conflicts and leaves you wanting more at the end of the novel.  I can honestly say that the only reason that it did not achieve a full 5 cups from me is that the drama was laid on a little too thick.  However, the human condition was very much the theme of this novel.

One of our main characters, Azoth/Kylar/Kage/Night Angel, is followed through his evolution throughout the novel.  We find Azoth as a preteen orphan who is living amongst other orphans in a guild attempting to survive by any means necessary, which is usually scavenging.  No matter the identity assumed, Azoth/Kylar is smart, but not smart enough to understand the ramifications of his action or inaction.  Hesitation is his downfall or more to the point, the point of pain for those who are closest to him at any given time.  As a member of the guild, Doll Girl and Jarl both suffered at the hands of their guild sadist, Rat, because Azoth refused to yield, but let complacence or uncertainty guide his inaction and thus others suffered.  While he is uncertain, he is certain in his humanity, providing for Doll Girl while they lived in the guild and after.  His compassion is only rivaled by his tenacity.

Azoth doesn’t take no easily.  This is apparent in his dealings with Rat, but more poignantly with his pursuit of an apprenticeship with the renowned Wet Boy of Durzo Blint.  Durzo has never taken an apprentice prior to Azoth, but no matter the test he faces, no matter how distasteful and how much it stretches his moral compass, Azoth won’t be dissuaded in his pursuit to become a Wet Boy himself.  He may not understand all that Master Blint put him through, he performed to the best of his ability.  Even though his magic is “broken”,  Azoth pushes forward as he assumes the new identity that Blint bestows upon him of Kylar.

Master Blint is more than meets the eye, despite his gruff nature.  While Kylar believes that Blint is complex, he cannot begin to understand just how complex his master is.  Blint’s motto is that life is meaningless, you do not love because it is a hinderance.  While on the surface, Blint embodies it, by the end of the novel, you will have a very different view of what his true motivations are and who and what he cares about becomes very apparent.  Blint is the ever consummate professional as an assassin.  He expects perfection and will not accept anything less than that of Kylar.  He’s a relentless mentor/instructor and with such a high standard, there is no reason that Kylar should be anything less than exemplary, even if he falls short of the high standards.  I enjoyed Blint because in all his harshness, he only wanted the best for Kylar.  He even attempted to sway him to lead a simpler, nobler life than that of an assassin before finally accepting Kylar as an apprentice.

Blint was ever thoughtful, ever plotting and planned for the long game.  He positioned Kylar to become friends with a strapping, intelligent young man by the name of Logan Gyre.  Logan represents all that could be good in a noble family.  He’s well-liked by those in his class and below, he’s kind and has a strong belief that there is goodness and kindness in everyone.  However, he will fight when necessary. His young arrogance was a bit annoying, but to be expected as a young noble.  His progression through the novel is that of a young man who must take over his family’s estate without much guidance, but he navigates the best he can and growing into a kind, and loyal friend. ****Spoiler Alert***  I especially appreciated the horror he felt at his new bride’s expense when her father, the king, went into a tantrum demanding they consummate the marriage immediately and crudely.  His kindness only shined through more when she lay dying in his arms as he soothed her despite the circumstance of their nuptials and her demise.

 There are a host of supporting characters that add to the novel.  However, there are too many with similar traits and trials, that I rather you just read the book.  However, the common thread throughout is, that if you bear through the bad times, either someone will pull you up by your bootstraps or you will find a way to make a life for yourself.  From Doll Girl to Jarl, to Kylar himself, this thread is strong. 

The narrator did an excellent job on this.  The angst, triumph and even trials were etched in the delivery of the dialogue.  So yes, I ran to the library as soon as I could to pick up the next installment. . . same narrator.

Lady Esbe listened to the Tantor Audio CD version (narrated by Paul Boehmer) of this selection.

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