The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge and Beyond the Shadows have all been selling well at the bookstore this holiday season, and it’s not just San Antonians who are snapping them up. Brent Weeks’ best-selling Night Angel trilogy has been translated into almost a dozen languages, and the author was recently nominated for the David Gemmel Legacy Award.
The storyline is a familiar one: Azoth, a street urchin in the city of Cenaria, claws his way out of poverty and despair while suffering numerous setbacks and facing difficult moral decisions along the way. What distinguishes Weeks’ story from so many others is that Azoth’s path doesn’t follow the high road, but instead involves training under Durzo Blint, the city’s most dangerous assassin. Our hero must find ways to justify his brutal actions and deal with their consequences all while attempting to be a “better” man than his master. Along for the ride are some well-developed secondary characters, a few brushes with destiny, and some of the nastier demons I’ve seen in the genre. But there are a few minor flaws as well.
At times the dialogue felt a bit forced. The heated arguments and political discourse were fine, but those few times that the characters attempted to show any affection towards one another seemed cliché. I found myself rolling my eyes when a child proclaimed that “kissing is gross” or when a conversation between young lovers dissolved into a tickling match. Likewise, some of the talk from royal figures occasionally came off a bit stilted. These moments felt as though I had seen or read them many times before, and not just in the genre. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between. Heroic deeds and despicable atrocities keep the action rolling, and fully developed secondary characters keep the story from being too focused on just one character.
In fact, these secondary characters have such interesting backgrounds that I found myself wanting to know more about them. Weeks briefly describes several different cultures in his world, and many of his characters come from places vastly different from Cenaria. His world of Midcyru is so intriguing that one almost feels that he could have exploded this trilogy into several more books à la Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen or R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire epics. It is a sign of good world building when a reader is left imagining more of an author’s realm, and I found myself desiring more stories from some of his other kingdoms.
Thankfully, Orbit Books has offered Weeks another three-book deal, and he will be returning with more adventure from Midcyru. The next series, starting with The Black Prism, will take place twelve years after the Night Angel trilogy, and should feature some of the surviving characters from the first three books. I look forward to seeing how Weeks will flesh out his already interesting world, and to seeing how he develops as a writer in the years to come.