As a fan of Brent Weeks‘ Lightbringer series, I have been curious for a while whether or not I’d be much into his first fantasy stint, the Night Angel trilogy. The first book, The Way of Shadows, is a far different book thematically than any of the previous books I’ve read from him, although his style in prose is very similar. It’s darker, it’s grimmer, and it holds no bars.
Although the novel takes the perspective of a handful of characters, Azoth takes the main protagonist role. As an orphan, he works his way up to become a wetboy (an assassin) underneath Durzo Blint. He loses a lot of his humanity, and life, in the process. Little does he know, he’s totally the chosen one.
As I mentioned above, the book is grim and dark. Perhaps too much so to be enjoyable. Before you get anywhere in the plot, young boys are being raped by sadistic older boys, kids idolize assassins, and a little girl’s face gets beaten so badly its near indistinguishable. As the plot continues, you realize much of the writing revolves around a “divine currency” – the idea that to give life, you must also take it. So most of the novel is people dying for the sake of people living. The entirety of the book also points to the fact that all life is meaningless and that it’s totally okay to be cruel.
And sometimes I felt sick reading this. Not because the events shocked me, or I felt for the characters, but because I just didn’t know why the heck I was still reading it. And it’s not as if it were a poorly written book. It just brought me little to no enjoyment.
By the halfway point I had to ask myself, “as a reader, am I supposed to like this?” None of the characters they focus on are likable, except perhaps Logan Gyre. And the ones you kind of start liking? They do something to make you hate them again.
But it is a well-knit story. Sometimes too well-knit. Sometimes it got to points where the story was so conveniently relevant to everything that came before it wasn’t even a shock to read or discover.
So no, I guess I really didn’t enjoy this book. Way too dark for me. But then again, it is the Way of Shadows. (Also the foreign language covers are far better, what the heck!)