Monday, February 1, 2010

The Way of Shadows

The second novel I completed during my trip last week was Brent Week's The Way of Shadows.  I'd been looking forward to this one for almost a year having read many good things about it and the entire "Night Angels" trilogy.  If I had simply seen this one in the book store I might only have picked it up for my teenage son based on the cover art; it looks like one step away from a comic book cover and very similar to the myriads of teen vampire romancy things that have taken over the book stores lately (not that I'm judging; I dislike those who pass judgement on something they haven't read).  But this trilogy, the first to be published by Mr Weeks, is often mentioned among the top of lists shared by people whose tastes best match mine.  He has earned a reputation among the best of the "new" fantasy writers and I will do nothing here to alter that prestigious notoriety.

The story begins with some very dark scenes concerning street urchins and the horrible conditions in which they live in this fantasy world.  The main character, Azoth, only a child at this point, witnesses brutal muggings, rape, sodomy, etc. and is forced to follow the law of the local bully, named "Rat".  But our hero is made of stern stuff and consciously decides he won't stand for such a life; he needs to be in control and never let such bullies dominate him again.  So he apprentices himself to the one man he regards as the most in-control person he has ever known, a master assassin, known as a "wetboy" in this universe.  The rest of the novel depicts his training and beyond, examining how his background leads him to his fateful decisions.  Just as Azoth's training progresses and he transforms into Kylar Stern so does our understanding of just what is really happening here. 

So far, reading what I've described, you would probably conclude this is a rather typical formula-driven fantasy novel.  But the way the intrigue unfolds here is utterly amazing.  Nobody seems to be who you think they are; I found this story to be completely unpredictable and yet very well constructed.  Loyalties are interchangeable and questions of good and evil are plentiful.  It's no small task for a writer to develop his main character as an assassin, have innocents perish, and yet expect the reader to maintain a positive attitude towards him.  But Mr Weeks pulls it off brilliantly.  It doesn't hurt that Mr Weeks is one of the best writers of fight scenes out there, well choreographed and exciting and yet not overdone.  All of the writing for that matter was crisp and clean and served to drive the story forward at a healthy pace.  Truly an outstanding result for a first novel, the best fantasy I've read in a year since Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, my all time favorite.

As always between novels, I've completed another short story, the next in Jeffrey Archer's Cat O'Nine Tales collection.  "The Wisdom of Solomon" is another good one, and one of the best twist endings I've read in a long time by any author.  It concerns a young man who marries a woman who has had three previous marriages (and divorces).  Predictably, after a year she wants her fourth divorce and through good lawyers, a sympathetic judge, and an incredible display of how to wear down your opponant, is poised to gain virtually all of her soon-to-be ex-husband's wealth.  It is hard not to divulge the twist at the end but I will say she gets what she deserves.  This is one of the three tales in the collection that was not told to the author during his incarceration but rather after his release.  Doesn't matter though, it's still done in an "as told to" style.

Next up, the novel I bought at the airport when I had run out of reading material on my trip: Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you seeking your information.


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire