Josh's Reviews > Beyond the Shadows

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
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's review
Aug 22, 2010

it was ok

This last title of the Night Angel trilogy left me dissapointed and partially conflicted. I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the first one quite a bit and was hoping the final chapter would be back on track to what I liked about it. The second book was good, but deterred a lot from what I thought made the first one great. Shadow's Edge seemed to lose focus and jump around too much, but second books in trilogies often do that. Unfortunately, I found Beyond the Shadows to be more of the same and the worst in the trilogy.

It's hard to judge a series as a whole when some parts I like and some I do no not. I didn't want to review books one and two because I wanted to wait until I was done with the third and review the trilogy as a whole. But now that almost seems unfair. It's as if a different author wrote the first book and partially into writing the next, got bored with the whole thing and passed it onto someone else who had a whole new idea for how the story should go. If I say I dislike the whole trilogy, it'd be unfair to the first book. But enough about telling you that I was dissapointed, I'll explain why.

Book one hooked me instantly as all truly good fantasy novels do. A compelling world, a sympathetic main character, lots of plot twists, no clear line between good and evil. These, along with some fun violence and gritty storyline are the things I love about fantasy, at least "dark fantasy" or "gritty fantasy" as it were. Now even with book one I wouldn't say Brent Weeks compares to the likes of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch, but it's better than a lot of fantasy I've read. What I loved about it was Kylar's story and the focus being almost solely on him. I know it's not a first person novel, but to me it read like one. It was like a grittier version of Assassin's Apprentice. I wanted to know what happened to Kylar next and it's what kept me reading.

With book 2 and continuing in this one, the story just explodes and goes all over the place. Is this a bad thing? Some might not think so. They might consider the second two books more exciting for this, but for me it just made me lose interest. I found the more the author expanded the storylines and started throwing more and more character viewpoints in, the less interesting it became, like a radio signal attenuating as it grows and expands farther out. The story was less about Kylar and more about all of the events in the world, all of the different factions and their goings on. I just don't think the world here was quite rich or interesting enough to keep me excited on its own. It was the characters that drew me in.

Without giving too much away for those who haven't read the trilogy (although if you haven't read the first two, you shouldn't be reading too many reviews on book three anyways), another reason I started losing interest with book three was the main plotline itself, or the lack thereof. The largest focus of the trilogy was resolved at the end of book two, and I would've been much more satisfied if the author had found a way to just end it there. Beyond the Shadows seems to be more about everyone picking up the pieces in the aftermath of Shadow's Edge than anything else. The new villains and worries in this last book just couldn't hold my interest.

Another thing that grated on me was the occasional cheesy moments of humor that didn't seem to fit the style at all, an element I didn't notice until after book one. One notable example was the black ka'kari. Not only was it a sentient being but it often gives Kylar advice and makes bad jokes, such as forming a smiley face on Kylar's skin and winking at him when it was being sarcastic. Moments like that were way too out of place and really kill the mood of the story for me.

As you can see, I still gave the book 3 stars. Brent Weeks is not a bad writer. While his prose may not be especially sophisticated, it has a nice flow to it and is very easily readable. And even with the characters becoming less and less interesting, I still found myself caring about them (well, some of them.) Logan Gyre, while predictably noble, has some interesting sides to him. Vi is the best female character in the trilogy and one of my favorite female characters in fantasy. Dorian comes to his own in this book and his storyline is particularly brutal. The Wolf: mysterious and very interesting, one of the sole reasons I decided to read keep on reading and finish book three. Kylar is still an okay character but unfortunately becomes more of a god than the assassin boy I liked in book one and loses empathy from me.

So would I recommend this trilogy to others based on my opinion of this book? It's hard to say and that's where I find myself conflicted. It's hard to tell someone to just stop at book one or two when there will be still so many stories and plotlined unresolved. So I won't recommend either way. Just read what I have to say and form your own opinion about it. I will say that this book hasn't deterred me from Weeks altogether and I might be picking up his new book when it's out in paperback. But if you want an author who's a bit more focused and never loses track of his characters, (even if they are all murderers, mercenaries and scoundrels) read Joe Abercrombie. I'm almost done with Best Served Cold. Now that is some truly amazing gritty fantasy.

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