Marc Aplin's Reviews > Beyond the Shadows

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
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Jan 03, 11

Read in September, 2010

It takes a special kind of author to write three books and have them sold consecutively on a monthly basis… Typically a fantasy trilogy will take between three and four years from the first through until the last book is released. This allows time for readers to finish a book, have a bit of a change and then re-visit a world about a year later…

When Brent Weeks wrote the Night Angel Trilogy his publishers weren’t prepared to make us wait a year for each book. This ‘one month’ wait between each book was almost unheard of and although it was a bold move… it paid off… why? Simple… people read the books within 30 days and wanted to have the next one in their hands instantly… It was in Brent Weeks’s own words “A huge gamble by the publisher’, but it was one that paid off.”

The first book in the series ‘The Way of the Shadows’ came out in 2008… It is a bold book that to some extent glorifies the work of assassins, justifies the work of prostitutes and paints thieves in at very least a grey fashion. There is rape, there is murder, there is pure evil and treachery – in fact it is a very, very dark series. Our main character is ‘Azoth’, an orphan who has been born into a world completely corrupt and controlled by an organised crime band known as the Sa’kagé. Azoth has survived by finding his way into a low levelled ‘guild’. These guilds are full of young children who basically work together in order to steal food, mug wealthier folk and dabble in minor profit making crime. The older children in the guild literally make the younger children’s lives hell. They demand payment, beat them, steal their food and even force themselves upon the weaker ones…

It paints a terrifying picture and as you can imagine… Azoth is willing to do anything in order to get out. He finds it whilst wading through the disgusting and dangerous gap underneath an Inn’s floorboards to retrieve a few coins that may have fallen beneath the floorboards. Although those within the Inn are unaware of Azoth’s presence – Azoth can see above through cracks in the floor. Whilst hiding underneath a man within the Inn is attacked – he subsequently massacres his attackers with very little effort (even though Azoth thinks he appears drunk) and calmly walks from the bar. Azoth realises that this was Durzo Blint – World Renowned Assassin (Known as a ‘Wetboy’).

After all he has witnessed and the lacklustre future he knows he will have unless he does ‘something’ – Azoth asks Durzo Blint to take him on as his apprentice. Durzo Blint tells him that he is a ‘sole’ individual and doesn’t do partners, apprentices, relationships or anything else – his single focus is his job and that’s why he is the best. With no other options Azoth won’t take no for an answer and Durzo Blint tells him that if he really wants to do this he has to first prove himself by killing his guild master and then walk away from his old life, his old friends and begin making himself useful. He doesn’t want a burden, he wants someone who will be able to do the less important or less-well paid jobs for him.

Azoth of course agrees and is thrust into the life of a WetBoy… Working for the Sa’kagé and getting deeper and deeper into their world. Azoth becomes ‘Kyler Stern’, but soon finds that life living in the shadow of the greatest Wetboy in existence brings about its own problems… the law want him dead, other assassins want him dead and Durzo Blint’s enemies for which there are many… want him dead. As well as constantly having to watch out for enemies, he also has to question his own reasoning for becoming a Wetboy… does he have the right to murder people? Can he cope with the constant push for perfection that Durzo commands, has he condemned his old guild friends by leaving them behind?

————

Although the story is absolutely amazing in terms of pace, twists, action and just about everything else – it is the characters that make the story. In addition to Durzo and Azoth, by the second book we have other characters that include a newly appointed king who is highly opposed, we have Vi who is a female assassin intent on killing Azoth, we have ‘Dollgirl’ who was Azoth’s fixation whilst he was in the guild, a seer named Dorian, a King who intends to take over the world… and all of these characters have their own stories and their own viewpoints… One minute we are hating them, the next we are supporting them. Through all the dark themes within this book there is a story here about love and friendship as well as the power and importance of relationships of all kinds as well. Upon reading this book you will begin questioning your own thoughts on good and bad… your ‘grey-area’ will certainly widen and you will certainly be left loving ‘villains’ and ‘despising’ heroes.

As the book progresses from the first that could be seen as ‘a standalone novel’ almost, the second begins entering ‘epic’ territory. We find out that Kyler and Durzo are part of something far bigger than we imagined during the first half of the first novel. At the start of the first novel Kyler has to make a choice… does he give up or does he fight. The Godking is ready to take over the world and Kyler needs to make a decision… does he let him or does he use the skills he has learnt to fight against him? Does he risk commit to the life of an assassin or now he has made a bit of money does he give up that way of life? Is he falling too deep into the lust for blood?

Questions, Twists, Turns, this book will keep you guessing throughout and has more than its fair share of loveable characters and even absolutely stomach turning characters… one thing is for sure… the characters you read about in this book will never be forgotten. You feel you are actually with these characters, trying for yourself to justify their actions, asking yourself what you would do and it makes for a once in a lifetime ride of suspense, action and storytelling.

Do not miss this series… It will raise your bar on fantasy literature.
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