©2008 Brent Weeks; (P)2009 Tantor
Audible listener since the late 1990s. I mostly listen to science fiction, fantasy, history, and science.
The Way of Shadows is a good example of the "new" fantasy series (think The Lies of Locke Lamora, etc.). It is gritty, light on magic, focuses on relatively ordinary good characters who do bad things for a living, and concentrates more on politics than some coming Dark Lord. As a representative of this genre, the Way of Shadows is a decent entrant with some interesting characters, moral musings, and a few terrific action sequences.
A few things hold it back, however. First, the tone is notably uneven - there are some scenes of horrific violence, including violence against children, followed soon afterwards by scenes with witty banter. Mr. Weeks is a decent writer, but not strong enough to pull off these sorts of tonal shifts. In addition, the writing is generally fine, but an occasional metaphor or sentence comes across as incredibly awkward. (The reader, incidentally, stumbles occasionally as well, saying "prisoner" instead of "poisoner" repeatedly during one chase scene, creating a lot of confusion)
The other issue is that the plot occasionally lurches as well. Sometimes the book seems to assume certain, unexplained knowledge, or characters come to sudden realizations without any ability for the reader to understand where those came from.
Generally, however, the lapses above are rare, and the book is generally solidly entertaining and well-written. There are better "new" fantasy series out there -- The Name of the Wind and the Well of Souls come to mind -- but this is a good, fast-paced novel of assassins and beggars that is not at all a waste of your time.
I average three books a week, but as I cannot afford to purchase that many books I frequently re-read those I already have. If you are here looking for reviews, I typically only review those books I feel particularly strongly about or have some insight that hasn't yet been posted in a review.
First, the only negative of this book is the very beginning, which seems slightly awkward at times. This fades quickly and is barely noticeable as is.
Second, the author makes astounding use of inference as a story telling device, better than any I've ever seen. He doesnt tell you things, instead letting the actions of the characters imply what must have happened, how it happened, and even when it happened. The unimportant (to the plot) elements are typically left unconfirmed, just evident, but if your perceptive you'll be able to see the truth behind a great many things before they are actually revealed as characters imply them with their words and deeds. Despite that this is the story of a young assassin learning his trade, there is actually only one "training" scene in the entire book - the rest is almost entirely left to your imagination with brief recollections by the main character to confirm suspicions and give details on pertinent aspects of his skill-set. The effect of this is allowing the author to write a book that spans a decade, has the content of about 3 regular books, and never has a slow moment. This also makes for a lot of transitions, temporal and spacial, and if your not a fan of multiple plot lines you may not like it. However, I'm not kidding when I say this book has the content of 3 normal novels - you will occasionally be shocked when you realize its not even close to over yet, so if you want more for your money you cant go wrong with this one.
Third, the story itself is fascinating, while listening to this I nearly had 3 traffic accidents I became so absorbed. Mr. Weeks is nearly as hard on his characters as George R. R. Martin - but only nearly. This is not a sad story, and its not a happy story, its a good story. If you like darkish fantasy with an undercurrent of redemption, political and personal intrigue, and magic which is both common and powerful (but not all-powerful) - then this is a book for you.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I've had this book for nearly a year but never got around to reading it because, well, to be honest, I had some idea that it was young adult and I just wasn't in the mood for some adolescent reading. Turns out I was pleasantly incorrect. This book is not meant for young adult readers even though many of the main characters are young adult (at least in this first book).
It's not particularly gory, and doesn't have particularly foul language (though there is some)... but there are lots of violent scenes, and life in this world does not mean anything to most of the characters. It's a hard, violent and angry setting... which makes the story gritty and dark.
It's an interesting world (reminiscent of the Medieval era) with an interesting magic system (which is blended easily into the story - men with swords fighting mages with fireballs does not come across as strained or odd).
There is quite a bit of character development, and some scenes seem to be present only to develop the characters, not to move the story forward... fortunately it does not occur all that often so it does not become annoying. The immediate story is sort of wrapped up in this book but... the main characters are not "resolved" nor is the over-arching scenario concluded so you will probably want to pick up the next book in the series or you might feel that you were left hanging.
The narration was good. I have to say that there were moments I wished the story moved a bit faster, but as soon as I was done, I started the next book in the series because I really want to know what happens with the characters, and in this world.
I can see why some people give this very low ratings. I think it may be a taste issue, and there are definately some bumps in the road. The story can be hard to follow and there are some very confusing scenes. However, I really appreciate that the author tried for some plot twists and revelations, and I really enjoyed the story, regardless of some confusion and yes it can be difficult to hear some of the dark side of humanity that is featured in the story.
I wanted to like the book, honest I did. I liked the concept and the plot, but I just could not get through it. I'm trying to decide if it was because the author took each idea and beat it to death by repeating the same scenario over and over and over and over.... again. He used different words (sometimes), but it was the same scene. And just in case you didn't get the picture he was trying to paint, he waited a little longer and repeated it again as a memory, a nightmare or some other prop to repeat the idea. Or, was it the narrator who's manner of emphasizing every single sentence as if it was an epiphany moment in the story. Well, I finally reached the point where I didn't care any more whether it was the story or the narration, I just couldn't take any more.
I give this three stars because the story itself is excellent, but the recording is miserable. They balance out, mostly. I might go a bit lower. Maybe 2.5 stars, instead.
Paul Boehmer never has been a particularly moving speaker, and this audio recording is no exception. The timing is off, the voices are all similar, and the dramatic pauses are in all the wrong places. I found that throughout this recording, I was constantly distracted by Boehmer's mistakes and poor choices of intonation. Yet despite all of this, I listened to it from beginning to end. Brent Weeks does a wonderful job making his characters both infallible and flawed. Everything they do makes sense, even though the reader, and sometimes even the character, knows it's wrong. They are multi-faceted, there are some superb plot twists, and he throws in some dark and come crude humor in there for effect, but tactfully, so it never distracts the reader (or listener) from the story itself. His literary voice is very strong, but I wish there was somebody who could convey that in an audio recording. It certainly isn't Paul Boehmer.
First, what for me, detracted from the story..
1.) A couple of instances between Azoth/Kylar and Master Blint where our story-teller re-hashed the underlying motives of both characters as to why each was feeling or reacting as they did.
2.) Maybe a little more cultural history, and flat out geography, (maybe I wasn't paying attention - for those of us who actually are ADD ;-), as to the layout of this kingdom would of fixed this world a little better in my mind.
Other than that ... I was dropped into this wonderful, terrifying world and loved it.
Why I liked it ...
1.) With the mix of cultures, the story-teller's use of names hinted at and/or delineated the characters and made them real for me.
2.) His weaving and mixing of the Old World, Yakuza, and maybe even a nod at the Tongs to create a world where a "Durzo Blint" and a "Kylar Stern" could exist. (Before rabid perfectionist jump on the word Tong, it isn't PinYin, Wade-Giles or Yale.)
3.) As an ex-Grunt, there wasn't an MOS that didn't have it's own special vocabulary e.g. 05H, ditty-chasers, 98G, dingy-lingy, so it wasn't so hard for me to jump from "wet-work" to "wet-boy" without any difficulty or sexual insecurities on my part....
What made it funny ....
"Humping the bridge"....
Hope this helps, Q
Although this series does not rank among my favorites of all time, I did enjoy it. This first book starts with main characters for the trilogy in their adolescence in a world where they find themselves unknowingly interacting with figures of legend. Durzo Blint in his world of shadows and assassins is even more than he seems to be and Azoth's entrance into that world certainly keeps you interested.
Almost everything is more than it seems to be and I like the way Weeks is able to shed more light on the events we have already witnessed as the trilogy goes on. I often found myself thinking back on prior events as I learned something new about the characters or the reasons behind what had already occurred.
Paul Boehmer does a decent job on the narration and overall I found the trilogy entertaining.
I was worried. I am a known sucker for any sort of 'assassin' book, especially fantasy ones. This one started out and I worried even more. It seemed flat and stale at first, like I had heard it all before. But slowly, slowly the book got its hooks in me. The story is there but it is not told in a straight forward manner and I wondered if there was more to it. There is, just keep going. It turned out to be a pretty great character piece, more akin to, well...
The comparisons are there to be made. Not that it doesn't have a unique voice, but they are there:
Pick out any of the really good 'gritty fantasy' authors out there and the comparisons come pretty easily.
I expected this to be a guilty pleasure, and it is but now I feel more like its a guilty 'treasure'.
Bought the second one, and will review it, too. If you like some dark, dark fantasy then give it a try.
I'd rather listen to a good fantasy over again than waste time with bad fantasy.
The first book started off great, I had high hopes for rest of series. The end of the first book was not bad but the whole style and pace of the fantasy changed. The second book I wanted to stick a nail in my eye when the author talked about love (perhaps due to my cold heart). He had creative plots ideas but really needed to just slow the pace down and focus on the quality of the writing. I loved some of his characters, Vye (or however its spelled) must be among my favorite women in fantasies, but like every character in this book she is unrecognizable by the end. Truth is I am very angry about this series, it had such potential by the third book a new plot twist was revealed every chapter like any bargain bin fantasy. I might give the author another shot but I have many more worthy authors to spend my money on before then.
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