Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beyond The Shadows Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Brent Weeks
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Sword and Sorcery, Epic Fantasy
Series: Night Angel Book Three
Pages: 699

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Spoilers for the previous two books in the Night Angel Trilogy are below).

In The Way of Shadows Brent Weeks told an entertaining story – I would equate it to being a summer blockbuster, but in book form. It had its flaws, but it was entertainment first, literary merits second.  It’s sequel Shadow’s Edge struggled greatly, especially with Kylar’s time outside of Cenaria and by introducing a number of secondary characters that added almost nothing to the story.  Bringing back Durzo Blint at the end was criminal, but the resolution of a few of the plot points like Vi’s ringing of Kylar made things interesting enough to warrant reading the final installment of the trilogy.

Beyond the Shadows goes completely off the rails.  The first two thirds of this novel are amongst some of the worst fantasy I’ve read – especially in regards to the secondary characters and the romantic pairings.  The final third starts to pull things together – at least from an entertainment perspective – but it ends by force feeding some imagery to the reader in a feeble attempt to shove some ideas about love and redemption that had been casually thrown around the series.

Logan Gyre’s victory against Garoth Ursuul and his army has won him support and power, but enemies of Cenaria are still everywhere, none a bigger threat to Logan than the current Queen of Cenaria, Terah Graeson.

After ringing Kylar, Vi heads to the Chantry to learn how to become a battle mage.  Kylar is divided between figuring out how he’s going to get Curoch for the Wolf, how he’s going to tell Elene that he’s married to someone else, and how he’s going to help Logan deal with Cenaria’s mounting enemies.

I really had my doubts about reading this book when I read the final portion of Shadow’s Edge. Weeks’ decision to resurrect Durzo Blint had been one of the single worst decisions I had seen made by the author.  Durzo’s role in this final book is relatively small, which I was grateful for, but he appears to conveniently bail characters out of difficult situations or he points them morally in the right direction, which is annoying. Durzo was one of the few good characters in this story, resurrecting him only to have him save characters that should be self-sufficient by this point in the story makes his protagonists look inept. It also makes use of one of the worst fantasy cliches: bringing a for-sure dead character back to life. Durzo’s reappearance though is far from the worst part of the book – that specifically belongs to a number of the secondary characters and their romantic relationship pairings.

Dorian Ursuul was not much of a character in the first two books, and personally I found him to be an incredibly unsympathetic character.  His prophecies were annoying and there was nothing human to relate to him other than he had a difficult relationship with his father.  Well his father’s dead now, and he gave up his ability for prophecy.  You would think Weeks might consider dropping the character or at least reducing his role … but no.  Dorian Ursuul takes up most of the narration space in the first half of the novel as he attempts to rescue Jenine Gyre.

Spoilers for Beyond the Shadows

Weeks tries to turn this into a love story, and instead crafts a story that’s so contrived and offensive that all the people who are calling Robert Jordan a sexist should stop and read this book. The reasons for Jenine falling in love with Dorian are ridiculous: he rescued her, her husband is believed to be dead, and she has no family … so apparently this means that this poor woman must need a husband in order to compensate for her losses.  And lets not exclude the fact that Dorian is the son of the man that engineered the slaughter of Jenine’s family, but they manage to get married within a short period of time of meeting each other.  Not only does this relationship insult women, it insults logic.

Another terrible relationship is the reunification of Solon and Kaede.  Written terribly, a complete bore, and even worse … completely pointless, this relationship serves no purpose in the greater plot. These characters haven’t seen each other in over a decade … and they’re still in love and ready to get married right away. People change.  A reader can’t buy into this romance, it’s not even close to being believable. The author literally drops it two thirds of the way through the book and does it even bother to follow up with it by the end.  Why is this even here?

What makes this even more frustrating is that author drops other story arcs completely.  Uly – one of the few likeable major characters from the last book – is barely even in the story.  Logan’s arm develops a mysterious glow – Weeks never even bothers to attach any significance or explanation for this phenomenon.

The final third of the book starts to pick up steam as Weeks prepares an entertaining and epic final battle.  However the climax of this battle, and the climax that the series has been building towards hits the reader with the God awful “power of love conquers all,” cliche. Elene out of the blue decides she can defeat Khali by allowing Khali to take possession of her body.  Readers are told it’s because of love that she’s able to successfully fight for control over her body.


The confrontation between Vi, Kylar, and Elene/Khali contains dialogue on the subject of love that would make terrible romantic comedies dialogue on the subject look meaningful.  After Khali’s contained, all of the major characters summon the monster from Ezra’s Wood and released it on the overwhelming army of krul in a scene that resembles the deus ex machina Tolkien used at the end of Lord of the Rings with his summoning of the Eagles.  Even worse is the song used to summon the monster.  All of the major characters summon the monster from Ezra’s wood by touching the sword Curoch and by singing a song, which apparently all of the major characters know how to sing despite having no prior musical experience. Any emotional impact the author is going for is lost by the readers attempt to even try and process the stupidity of the situation.

No more spoilers for Beyond the Shadows

Continuing with the movie metaphor, Brent Weeks begins this series like he’s the fantasy novelist equivalent of film director J.J. Abrams. Abrams is a newer director that’s frequently described as Spielberg’s heir apparent. He can make entertaining movies – or to say the least movies that can overcome their flaws and still be fun to watch. By the third book he’s digressed into Michael Bay – the director responsible for the Transformer movies, and whose work is so flawed that it becomes nearly impossible for any lover of stories to look past them and enjoy what they’re seeing.

Score: 3.8

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