This review is about the first two books of “The Night Angel Trilogy” by Brent Weeks – “The Way of Shadows” and “Shadow’s Edge“.
Azoth, street urchin and guild rat, has had a hard life and has quickly learned how to judge people correctly. And take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint, the city’s most accomplished assassin. With a new name Azoth – now Kylar Stern – must learn how to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death. And then, of course, there is the Godking and his invaders coming from the north and the war they bring with them.
This is a dark and gritty world that has been built up around these assassins, briefly touching upon topics of abuse and rape even at the very start of the first book in which the main character is just a young boy himself. The characters are well thought out, the world is well-built up and it comes alive while you read it. Kylar is a likable character who learns and grows. Durzo Blint is mysterious and very easy to like, and the prince Logan Gyre isn’t like most spoiled princess. With just a dash of romance to balance out the gritty reality otherwise rampant in these books. It works.
However. There are a few drawbacks. The street urchin Azoth, who hasn’t had any sort of father figure to tell him what he can and cannot do, seems surprisingly accepting of Durzo Blint’s rules. Of course, a child against a trained assassin is not a match, but there isn’t much of a protest in any way, shape or form if I remember correctly. And then there is the rape. A horrible subject and reality in this book, but when there is too much of it it loses its shock effect. Azoth was nearly raped, and a female assassin had to pay her teacher with her body. Whores play a vital role in the books and though I like that, again, they are raped to high heaven and back.
And then you have the Godking himself. Almost every scene he appears in he either: 1) kills someone, 2) orders someone killed or 3) rapes a poor young woman who then goes crazy or dies in some horrible way. No fourth alternative. It gets incredibly tiring after a while, and one just wants to skip past those scenes because they become normal. Usual. Just another page of words. Azoth’s almost-rape at the start shocked me, at the end of book two I just really couldn’t care anymore. Nor could I care about finding out about Durzo Blint’s secret.
What also annoyed me was that the second book was over six hundred pages long but with only a little more than two weeks or so (if I remember correctly) passing in-story. It was dragged out. A lot. But that might just be a pet peeve of mine.
So. Good books and a good world, but I doubt I will ever read the third book – “Beyond the Shadows” – after all this.