Title: The Way of Shadows
Author: Brent Weeks
Length: 688 pages
Read: March 23-24, 2012
Summary: Great epic fantasy!
Despite the cheesy “hooded dude” cover, this was a great bit of epic fantasy. It was recommended by a twitter follower and turned out to be one of the better “classic medieval fantasy” books I’ve read in recent years. Certainly the best since I found The Name of the Wind in 2008.
Weeks borrows heavily and to good effect from 80s fantasy tropes. This is city fantasy, almost entirely set in a corrupt capital. Our protagonist is a young boy who apprentices with a deadly “wetboy” (assassin who uses magical powers). The prose is clean and workmanlike, sometimes even modern and flip. Weeks doesn’t bother to make anything sound too medieval, in fact, it’s so modern as to sometimes sound anachronistic. Still, despite the length, the novel is not overwritten and the writing doesn’t get in the way of the excellent storytelling and world building.
For fantasy fans, this book is an appealing ride. We have good characters, sordid and ambiguous underworld figures. We have a well conceived world with detailed and engaging political intrigue. We have a decent, albeit minimalist, magical system. And we have a lot — I mean a real lot — of very well written action scenes. Weeks is a great writer of physical action and he uses it to good effect. This book contains fight after fight. Plus lots of sneaking around. And it’s not overdone. Each individual skirmish is compact enough, well integrated into the intricate plot, and brilliantly executed.
Again, despite the length, this makes for a breakneck pace and near total immersion into the seedy underworld. The book is pretty dark too, with some serious abuse in the early chapters. It’s not A Song of Ice and Fire dark, but there is some good insight into the nature of meanness. Bravo. The adventures continue into two sequels.
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