Assassins and magic and swords, oh my! These books (Shadow's Edge is actually the second book in the Night Angel trilogy) have 'Hanna' written all over them. It's true; this book contains nearly all of my favourite things - contract killings, epic battles, magic swords and powerful mages. Throw in a pair of 6 inch stiletto heels and I'm in heaven.
Kylar has rejected the assassin's life. In the wake of the Godking's violent coup, both his master and his closest friend are dead. His friend was Logan Gyre, heir to Cenaria's throne, but few of the ruling class survive to mourn his loss. So Kylar is starting over: new city, new companions, and new profession. But when he learns that Logan might be alive, trapped and in hiding, Kylar faces an impossible choice. He could give up the way of shadows forever, and find peace with his young family. Or Kylar could succumb to his flair for destruction, the years of training, to save his friend and his country - and lose all he holds precious.
SPOILERS FOR THE WAY OF SHADOWS (BOOK #1) -
Because I read the first book (The Way of Shadows) before I started reviewing on this blog (reading books in a series within a reasonable length of time is just so passe these days...), I'll give a quick summary. Azoth is an orphaned, dirty child who is taken on as an apprentice by the most infamous wetboy of all time; Durzo Blint, and changes his name to Kylar. Eventually, he befriends Logan Gyre, a young noble of Cenaria while trying to fend off attempts on his life by Vi - the only known female wetboy. But then the Khalidoran invasion starts and all hell breaks loose - Logan and the royal family are presumed dead and Kylar was forced to kill his master to save the Kingdom.
The first book contains much more scene-setting and explanation, but it's still good. This one is much more fast-paced and action-packed, and is absolutely amazing. The story begins immediately, not wasting a whole lot of time on backstory - you're right in the thick of it and ready to fight.
Brent Weeks is clearly very gifted at character development. Every single one of his characters have complete backstories and realistic emotions - watching them grow and change through the series is a moving experience. The slow revelation of how emotionally damaged Vi is is especially touching throughout, and I'm sure it will continue in the third book.
The plot follows so many well-crafted people that it's impossible to get bored. It's a long book, but it's over before you know it. What makes it so clever is that the story isn't bogged down by long explanations - instead you're shown how they feel by their actions and words. It's takes a very talented writer to pull that off successfully.
My only gripe is Elene, Kylar's girlfriend. I've read this book before and she didn't irritate me half as much, but now I want to smack her in the head with my Grow-the-Hell-Up Stick. She acts like a prim, petulant child throughout who doesn't see why everyone else can't just agree with her and sulks when they don't. She's a little too over-the-top, I think. Given the choice, I prefer Vi and her strange hair obsession.
' "There's a reason I used human armies to conquer the highlanders and the river clans. I've solidified our rule within and expanded our borders four times - and never once used krul. Do you know how people fight when they know that if they lose their entire families will be eaten? They fight to the last man. They arm the children with bows. Their women use kitchen knives and pokers. I saw it in my youth, and it gained my father nothing." '
The descriptions and scenery are always vivid and intense, but never so much as during the battle scenes. I love me some good fightin'. When it's done well, an epic battle can make your entire book. Here, you can practically feel yourself in the middle of the battleground, fighting the Khalidorians and smelling the blood of your fallen comrades. It's just brilliant. I don't think I've ever read such an intense battle scene - I read it twice just for the way it made me feel.
It's written in an easy, light-hearted tone that makes reading it a joy. It has a kind of dark humour that's right up my street - characters muttering snide comments under their breath make some of my favourite parts in this book.
'Feir could get there in two days. But it was still two hours until dawn. Did the Khalidorans count a day from dawn or from midnight? Did two days mean two, or three?
Feir cursed. He could break an obscure cipher in another language, but he couldn't count to three. Great.'
As a word of advice - you do need to read the first one, well, first. I'd also advice having the third book lined up before you finish this one because there are a few gasp-worthy cliff-hangers to deal with at the end.
LATER: Argh! Apparently there's a prequel available in digital copy only. I'd much rather have it physically on my shelf so I can stroke it lovingly ever so often, but still - PREQUEL! :D
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