Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: The Way of Shadows

3227063Title: The Way of Shadows
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
From New York Times Bestselling author Brent Weeks...
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.

When me friend lent me this book, it was with multiple warnings.

It's really dark. It's brutal - don't expect any sugar-coating.

It's a very patriarchal society. Just saying.

I'm not really sure why the first warning was necessary, because I do read quite a few dark books, just not very often.

That second was in response to my numerous feminist rants about fantasy books having either not enough women characters or women being objectified/solely present for the males to feel better about themselves.

I'm glad I was warned, because it lowered my expectations considerably. I was actually pleasantly surprised on both fronts. Yes, this book is dark and ugly and brutal, and there were many scenes that made me nauseous. I had to take so many breaks because I needed time to digest and dilute some of the darker scenes. Yet, there were a few scenes that had me grinning like an idiot as well - there is light, just not much of it! As for the women, yes, the majority of them are either idealized or complete caricatures, and they mostly are just there for the men to feel better about themselves, but I was pleasantly surprised by Momma K's complex characterization and agency. We're not going to talk about Elena. Let's just leave it at that.

The novel is tightly plotted, with very twisted and shades-of-gray characters. At least, the two (three including Momma K) main characters are very flawed. The rest of the characters were pretty flat and not particularly interesting, so it got tedious reading about them and their conspiracies/tortured hearts/what have you.

I also felt like the world-building was a bit less than stellar. As annoyed as I was with Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind (Kvothe, you arrogant bastard. And we don't talk about Denna, either), I respect and love the world and magic system he has created. It was complex, well thought out, and it was just really cool! Here, it's not so much a magic system as much as it is a "we're magical assassins and here's why we're cool" system. The assassins are called "wetboys" (cue eyerolls) and what makes them special is that they have the capability for magic, which ensures that they are better/faster/stronger than anyone else. It also means that they never miss their targets. There really isn't much magic other than that, which was disappointing. There was some subplot involving prophecies and things but again, not fully fleshed out or interesting enough to make me care.

This is enjoyable the way a hollywood action movie is enjoyable. It's a fast read, and you shouldn't think too much about it while you read. It's fun in the brainless action-fest way. I probably won't be continuing this series, but the first book was worth a shot.

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3 comments:

  1. Yup, same here basically. I loved Durzo but Kylar not so much and don't even get me started on Doll. Could not stand her at all.

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  2. ugh doll-girl. Why are all love interests these unattainable angst-inducing perfect creatures?
    I thought Durzo's backstory was really cool but it came so late that I didn't care enough at that point.

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  3. Agreed. And the blurb for the second book was not helping at either.

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