By Rebecca Manuel
In my past two book recommendations (read them here if you haven’t already), I wrote about light-hearted, quirky, essentially happy books. The Way of Shadows is as different in mood from those two books as possible. As dark as its name, The Way of Shadows is the first book of the Night Trilogy, published by author Brent Weeks in 2008. My father read the books when they first came out. In his youth, my father was a great lover of fantasy and science fiction novels, but after so many years of reading the same types of books and seeing the same clichés played out over and over again, he had mostly transitioned to reading things like news articles and non-fiction. For some reason, this book caught his interest, and after reading just the first chapter he was hooked. After reading the entire trilogy, he passed it on to my mother to read, and then even my best friend, both of whom loved the books. I was a bit of a latecomer to the series. I didn’t end up reading the first book until college. But just like my parents and friend, I was hooked within the first few pages.
Read the first chapter of this book and tell me you don’t want to read more. This author somehow manages to convey such suspense, such rich and dirty imagery, that I felt like I was there with the characters even when the things that were happening were totally unreal. The novel starts out with Azoth, the main character, as a boy, crawling through the filth in the cramped space underneath a tavern to collect the coins that fell through the floorboards. Reading the descriptions of Azoth pulling himself through the tiny space by his elbows, turning his head sideways just to fit under a low floorboard, I felt almost claustrophobic, as though I were there with him. It was fantastic.
The entire book is like this, the descriptions so accurate and so visceral that you can practically feel the story breathe with life. And it’s not just the descriptions that captivated me. The complexity of the plot, the fast pacing, the way Weeks just throws you into the story, the depth of the characters that Weeks manages to convey not through long character descriptions but through their actions, words, and thoughts – I just can’t even begin to explain how amazing this book is.
Azoth, the wonderfully realized main character of the story, grows from an orphan boy scrounging in the mud for coins to bring back to his Guild – an organization that exploits orphaned children for money (think Slumdog Millionaire) – to become the world’s most skilled wetboy (better than an assassin), known as the Night Angel. But while Azoth’s slow transformation plays out through the course of the book, he is not the only character that the story follows. There’s the seemingly heartless Durzo Blint, the world’s most skilled wetboy before Azoth, who takes Azoth in; Jarl and Doll Girl, Azoth’s childhood friends, who grow and change and suffer just as much as Azoth; Logan Gyre, the son of a high-ranking noble, who becomes much more than that by the end of the book; Rat, the enforcer of the Guild that Azoth belongs to; Momma K, Solon, Dorian, and a whole host of other characters that have time and often whole chapters devoted to them and their perspectives. All these characters give the story a wider scope, allowing us to see this world that Weeks has created from many different angles so that we better understand the consequences of the characters’ actions.
And yet, despite the host of perspectives, Weeks still manages to surprise his readers, because no one character can see the whole story. So while we see this fictional world through the many filters of the many characters, we are still only getting access to the world through many limited narrators. So it is in the shadows, appropriately – the parts that we do not see – that the surprises lie.
If you’re looking for a light read, a quick read, an easy read, then this book (and the subsequent books in the trilogy) are not it. If you’re looking for a dark, fantastical, almost political story full of characters with depth and a plot that will have you forsaking all other tasks to continue reading (my grades on a few college assignments may or may not have suffered as a result), then check out this book.
To buy the book for Kindle, go here: Amazon.
To check out other books by Brent Weeks, go here: Brent Weeks.
If you read The Way of Shadows, or if you have a different book that you’d like to recommend, please send your thoughts/review to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Rebecca signing off. Over and out!