Ah. Here’s another novel that’s difficult to review. I don’t even know how to start. Whenever I mention it to others, I babble and gush and hardly make sense because all I’m thinking is “DURZO BLINT! DURZO BLINT! DURZO BLINT!!!” 😆
(If you were wondering who my favorite character in this book is, well, you know now.) Durzo Blint! 😀 (I don’t think he would approve of all these emoticons.)
You’re probably wondering why I decided to read this novel; or not.
Well, the Tome Topple Readathon was held last month and I decided to participate though I doubted I’d do well. My plan was to read Nicholas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, but since that novel isn’t exactly a 500+ page tome (It’s over 400 pages and reaches 500 because of the extra stuff in the back), I decided to read something on my e-reader — this, The Way of Shadows.
The novel was a total surprise. I didn’t expect to like it. It’s dark and its grittiness smacks you in the face as soon as you start reading. I could handle it, but I wasn’t in the mood for that sort of novel. Luckily the pace picks up after a few pages in, and I became so hooked that I sped through the book.
My thought upon completing the novel: “Fuuucckkk!! I need to read that shit again!”
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.
For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.
But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death. (Goodreads)
This was such an entertaining read! Despite its length (over 600 pages), it’s very fast paced and thus quick to get through. However, much as I liked the speed of the plot, it would have been great if it had slowed a bit and included more details to really flesh out some scenes and characters. For example, I’d have appreciated more details about the city and such. There were often comparisons of the city the story is set in to other cities in its world, but since I wasn’t familiar with those other cities, it became confusing to imagine.
It probably would have helped if I’d read a bit slower too to pay closer attention to the story. But after a few pages in, I was so hooked that I was speeding through the book, eager to find out what happens next. As I said above, the story is dark and gritty. There’s lots of violence, assault, and rape and since the first half focuses on kids, reading about such stuff could be uncomfortable for some readers and might turn some off the story early on.
But the violence is used to help distinguish the setting, which is a hard, unforgiving, unrelenting city, where one must know how to survive to stay alive. It’s a place overrun by crime and is not for the weak. Violence is also used to further characterize the characters and give us a sense of their morality, which for some is beyond skewed.
But I don’t want to focus on all that. I want to talk about what I love about this story and that’s friggin DURZO BLINT. He’s awesome. He’s a total badass. He’s what I imagine when I think of “assassin.” He has strong morals, but he is a flawed man, an old man, a tired man. He’s a killer, but he’s considerate and have experienced the power of love and was changed by it for the better, though he doesn’t think so.
I enjoyed reading about Durzo because of his sarcasm and especially enjoyed scenes in which he and Azoth/Kylar interact. I love the teacher-tutor, master-apprentice, father-son relationship between them. It’s obvious that Durzo cares for Azoth/Kylar, though in a grudging way, and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop.
“Stop interrupting. This story has a point, and you should know better that to expect me to give you a tutorial on the very day I’m going to have to kill you.”
It’s probably because of Durzo’s character that I enjoyed the dialogue too. I certainly prefer dialogue where Durzo or Azoth/Kylar is present, and as the story progresses, it becomes exceedingly apparent how much Azoth/Kylar is influenced by Durzo.
The dialogue is my favorite element of the story, but I also like how the story is written (despite the very fast pace) and how the characters express their thoughts. I don’t know if this is sexist to say or not, but it felt like a guy’s story. I don’t know how to explain that. It’s just that the quips and descriptions and such strongly reminded me of the conversations my older cousins and guy friends would have when hanging out with other guys. The way the story reads feels like those conversations and interactions…. I can’t explain it, but that was my impression: like a bunch of dudes hanging out and one of them is telling this story to his boyz.
Anyway, back to stuff I can clearly say.
I really like the fight scenes. Well, two scenes, actually. The first is the end of the tourney when Azoth/Kylar ended the scene by flipping the bird at all the spectators. (Well, that’s what I imagined him doing. Weeks wrote that Azoth/Kylar gave “dual one-fingered salutes. To hell with all of you. To hell with me” and I interpreted that as “Fuck all y’all!”) That was fun and I enjoyed reading the two chapters that covered the tourney so much that I just reread them. I also love the big fight between Azoth/Kylar and Roth and all his men. That was friggin badass. It was awesome. I loved it.
Emotional moments I liked: that last scene with Durzo and Azoth/Kylar when Azoth/Kylar reflected on the fight; the major fight between Durzo and Momma Kay; Momma Kay speaking to Azoth/Kylar after her fight with Durzo.
Most uncomfortable moments: how Rat treated Jarl; Doll Girl mutilated; when Regnus returned home (as bad as the Red Wedding).
Apart from Durzo, other characters I enjoyed reading about were Momma Kay (she’s a total badass and the big reveals made me go WOOOW, though I sort of expected them as I read); Viridiana (she appeared briefly, but I loved her interaction with Azoth/Kylar and I’d love to see more of her badassery because I think she’s an awesome fighter too. Well, I hope so); Count Drake (compared to who he is now, I found his backstory most interesting); Dorian, Solon, and Feir (I’d love a series about them. I want to know how they met and how they came into their powers and everything).
Though he’s the protagonist, or probably because of that, I didn’t like Azoth/Kylar much. I totally think he’s a badass, but I wasn’t much impressed by his character because for the majority of the story, he was maturing and so made a lot of stupid mistakes along the way. Plus, my focus was on Durzo ‘cause DURZO BLINT is awesome!! 😆
Totally random thought while reading: “This is the first I’ve seen fried plantains mentioned in a fantasy story. I wonder if Brent Weeks likes fried plantains. Then again, who doesn’t like fried plantains?”
I really enjoyed reading this story and am looking forward to the other books in the series. I want to learn more about Durzo, see what happened to Logan, and find out what Dorian, Solon, and Feir are up to and who exactly they are. I can’t wait!
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Buy it, of course!
I read an electronic copy because I got a deal on the e-book a while back, but as soon as I was done reading, I purchased a box-set of the trilogy. Besides, the covers look great.
Quotes from the book:
“When you know a man’s secrets, you have power over him. A man’s secrets is his weakness.”
“Hope is the lies we tell ourselves about the future.”