Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shadow's Edge Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Brent Weeks
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Sword and Sorcery, Epic Fantasy
Series: Night Angel Book Two
Pages: 645

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(Spoilers for The Way of Shadows are below).

The sophomore slump.  This really seems to be a problem in a lot of fantasy trilogies, and sadly the Night Angel Trilogy joins the club.  Sure there are plenty of entertaining moments scattered throughout the book, but there are great number of issues, too.

Shadow’s Edge is a fun sequel to The Way of Shadows, but it falls significantly short of it’s predecessor.  By all means this book is like a superhero movie, it’s entertaining, but it’s not going to be winning an Academy Award for Best Picture.

After saving Elene and Uly, Kylar (formerly Azoth) decides to leave the wetboy business and Cenaria behind.  As Kylar tries to make a new life as an herbalist, he struggles with his urges to kill and use the power he has been given.

After the death of his son, Roth, the God King Garoth Ursuul takes his place on the throne of Cenaria.  He sends Vi to kill Jarl now head of the Sa’Kage and Kylar Stern.  Jarl seeks out Kylar, to bring him back to Cenaria, hoping to convince him with news of Logan Gyre’s survival and current whereabouts in the hole.

Like it’s predecessor, Shadow’s Edge is an extremely dark and bleak story.  Where as The Way of Shadows scarred it’s readers with the horrible physical and sexual abuse inflicted upon Azoth, Jarl, and Elene, Weeks scars readers in the sequel with the horrible treatment of the people living in the hole.  There is starvation, cannibalism, and plenty of human defecation which will certainly have readers’ stomachs turning.

The biggest thing that brings this book down are the intrusive narrations by characters that are secondary to the plot. Dorian, Solon, Feir, Ariel, Khaldrosa, and Lantano are the worst of the pointless narrators and they take up about 40% of the books narration.  Many of these characters are one dimensional – Feir wants to get Curoch, Solon wants to return home, Lantano is an excellent swordsman, Khaldrosa wants to reunite with her husband, and Ariel wants to make a name for herself.   Not only are these characters one dimensional, but their single dimensions are either incredibly boring (Dorian and Ariel) or incredibly worn out cliches (Feir, Lantano, and Khaldrosa).

A lot of these secondary characters have a single set of scenes or a certain purpose in the plot where they are actually interesting. Solon’s tutelage of Logan to the time he saves Regnus’ life in The Way of Shadows are a perfect example of this.  In Shadow’s Edge he’s still narrator, and his time spent defending a wall in Cenaria turns out to not only be boring, but it’s distracting.  Important events during Solon’s time at this wall could have been paraphrased, but instead readers must go through the entire ordeal of Solon defending this wall. Similar issues arise with the other narrators. Dorian just walks around the entire book looking for his wife, while Khaldrosa seems to only be a narrator for the first half of the book so that Weeks can make an impassioned plea to society to stop bullying whores at the stories conclusion.  It’s a scene that ends up being really ridiculous instead of creating the tender heartfelt moment I’m sure he was going for.

Speaking of female characters in this trilogy, there are lot more of them in this sequel.  Unfortunately there seem to be two types of females: sinners and saints … or as Weeks would say virgins and whores.  There are no major adult female characters in this series that can’t be lumped into one of those two categories … especially if you extend on the word virgin and incorporate the word prude. Elene, Ariel, and Jenine – virgins (or prudes). Vi, Khaldrosa, Mamma K, Serah, Terah, and Lily – whores. I know I’m reading a fantasy book, but really?  This is a depressing display of developing roles for female characters.

Vi might be able to redeem this trend as her character is given the task of filling the hole created by the absence of Durzo Blint. She easily becomes the most likeable of all Weeks’ women, as readers get acquainted with her backstory.  She becomes increasingly sympathetic as the plot roles on – and less whore like – and the ending of her plot in this book is probably the single biggest factor that convinced me to see this trilogy to the end.

Despite some significant issues, Weeks still manages to largely produce a page turner, when the crappy narrators aren’t telling their portions of the story.  Logan’s time in the hole is dark and disturbing – it should satisfy fans of the morbid. Once Kylar starts getting into assassin-mode again, the plot starts to pick up, and the story becomes a lot more fun to read.  I can’t say I was a fan of how everything resolved itself at the end. A lot of the major threads are resolved, leaving you wondering where the story could go next … or better asked should it even go on? There are still a few nagging questions that I’m interested in seeing resolutions to… so onward I shall go.

Score: 6.1

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