Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

This isn't terrible, it's just not great. (Yes, I'm back to my whining about generic fantasy. But there's so much of it out there, guys! It's so much rarer to find the really good stuff. The recurring moaning is mostly a function of how much more fantasy I've been reading recently, thanks to the continuing loan of a friend's Kindle. Have I mentioned that while I much prefer to read actual books, there's something delightful in being loaned a friend's entire library and getting to browse through it at my leisure?)

But mostly, I don't think this book knows what it is. It keeps wanting to be dark. Very dark. Dark enough that I physically drew back a few times and considered whether or not this book was really for me. But then, and this is even more irritating, it kept pulling its punches. Think that character was just horribly murdered in front of your eyes? Probably not! A huge massacre at which everyone's supposed to die? Not the characters we have any attachment to!

You don't need to kill everybody, but if you want to write dark, write dark. Don't write DARK and then quickly run away, squeaking "light, light, light!" I might not want to read it if it is truly that dark, but have the courage of your freaking convictions. Don't undercut yourself.

The main character is a streetrat named Azoth. (I've read a lot of these streetrat books recently. Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss do it about a million times better - and Lynch, although his books are not overwhelmingly dark, carries through and does horrible things to characters I loved. And I thank him for it. Yes, I may have issues. Who's asking?) His streetrat friends have horrible things done to them. Azoth manages to get taken on as an assassin's apprentice. But not an assassin. A "wetboy," because a wetboy is way more fearsome and magical than an assassin. I was a little fuzzy on this.

And he grows up and is taught he has to forswear all human connection, and of course, discovers that he can't, and rediscovers his childhood love, and feels guilt, and anger, and it's all okay, I guess, but not really affecting. It didn't latch onto my heart and give it a good wrench at any point.

This is a story of underworld and court intrigue, and it's okay, but not great. The underworld is relatively stable, run by a council. Someone wants to change that. And a foreign empire is planning on attacking.

Also, the female characters are particularly sketchily drawn. They are mostly caricatures, running the traditional gamut (or should that be binary) from the impossibly saintly to the oversexed. 

This is fairly generic fantasy, that tries to be darker than it is. The writing style didn't grab me, and the characters weren't that appealing. It's not dire, but there is so much better out there.

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