As a very nerdy guy, Fantasy fiction was one niche that I never really explored. Aside from Edgar Rice Burroughs' books, and a bit of Tolkien, I was pAs a very nerdy guy, Fantasy fiction was one niche that I never really explored. Aside from Edgar Rice Burroughs' books, and a bit of Tolkien, I was pretty uninformed on fantasy.
I thought I should widen my nerdom a bit, and decided to check out an epic fantasy book. When I saw the cover of The Way of Shadows, I was instantly interested by the character design. Even though it was a hefty book for an introduction to any genre, I didn't allow the 688 pages phase me. And man, let me tell you, I'm very, very glad I didn't.
Almost instantly I was sucked into Midcyru, the land this book takes place in. Midcryu, and more specifically, the city of Cenaria, is a character in this story. What unfolds is an engaging, thrilling, and romantic story all held in this city that sees the best and worst kinds of life.
Where before I was worried about the hard fantasy the likes of Tolkien, with names I couldn't pronounce, or magic spells giving men and elves the power of Gods kept me away from fantasy fiction, author Brent Weeks has cut all of that out to deliver a simple, yet engaging story. There are no dragons, elves, trolls, or hobbits. That isn't to say this book isn't a good dose of fantasy. There are magical elements in the story, but they never define it.
Weeks' best at creating characters, though. Protagonist Azoth/Kylar is a wonderful character, and it is very easy to root for him. His supporting characters are all expertly developed, and there wasn't one I disliked. Durzo Blint, Azoth's eventual mentor, is one of the most fun characters I've ever read. One moment you'll hate the guy, and the next you'll love him. He is an excellent example of an anti-hero. Even smaller characters like Azoth's childhood friends who he is reunited with, to some of his "friends" who end up actually becoming friends, are written incredibly well. You'll feel like you know every character in this story.
The plot is paced very well. It spans about a decade or so, and never really drags. I was constantly forcing myself to close the book when I just had to stop reading. You'll always be curious and excited to see what Durzo was going to say next, or what Kylar was going to get himself into. I couldn't wait to see how the political intrigue would play out, who would be betrayed, or what secrets would be let out.
I can't praise this book any higher. It's a mature, dark, wonderful story about a small boy whose life changes in incredible ways. Sometimes it's for the best, and others it's not. Along his journey he overcomes obstacles he never thought he would, and is reunited with those who he loved, and those who he loathed.