Thursday, 3 July 2014

Shadows Edge - Brent Weeks

After The Way of Shadows, I had high hopes for this novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. Weeks builds on the first installment, weaving events and characters deftly together in a way that, for the most part, is subtle enough to go unnoticed, but all culminates at the end. There were a few points at which a character does something without thinking and I thought “This seems important”, but I had no idea why it would be important, so if anything that increased the sense of anticipation.

We begin with Kylar, the main character, attempting to renounce his career as an assassin and settle down with his childhood sweetheart Elene and their adopted daughter, Uly. However, events pull him inexorably back to his invaded hometown, and he is forced to accept the fact that he is meant for greater things than living quietly as an apothecary in a foreign country.

This novel introduces some new point of view characters, and also gives us some surprising changes of loyalty for characters from the first novel. One of the most outstanding things about The Night Angel Trilogy for me is the moral complexity it creates – both good and bad characters do things that could be construed as either good or evil, and Weeks rejects the idea that anyone can be all unadulterated good or evil. A particularly poignant example is the close friendships the rightful king Logan makes in the dungeon with some of the murderers, cannibals and prostitutes, who are still human beings despite their pasts and their horrific surroundings.

There are many point of view characters, and I did occasionally find it hard to remember exactly who they all were and who was allied with whom, but everything inexorably led to the climax of the novel, where it all came together with a momentum that just makes you keep reading.

One minor gripe I have with the trilogy is the artwork on the covers. I know it’s a minor thing, but it is easy to look at the cover of a book and decide then and there whether you want to buy and read it. I get the impression that they were aiming for a similar effect to the style of Brandon Sanderson’s novels – a plain white background, with a figure and abstract colour swirls. What makes Sanderson’s covers beautiful, however, is the artwork, whereas for Weeks’ trilogy we have a slightly blurred
photoshoot with some guy in a black costume. Because it’s a photograph rather than artwork it just looks strange with the overlayed swirl of colour. The complete trilogy has a black cover with a simple sword across it, which to my taste is much more effective.

Anyway, the cover makes no difference to the contents – I just feel that with such a great story inside, this trilogy deserves better presentation outside. It’s definitely well worth reading, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the third book leads.

Next up: An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

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