Shadow's Edge review

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shadow's Edge is the follow-up to Brent Weeks debut novel, The Way of Shadows. The second novel of the Night Angel trilogy was released in 2008 along with the two other books of the series. A new novella called The Prefect Shadow featuring Durzo was released this month (June 2011).

Kylar is trying to retire from the wetboy life. In order to do so, he will travel to the city of Caernarvon, away from the Cenarian Capital, now occupied by the tyrannical Godking Garoth Ursuul. Along with Elene and Uly, he will try to become a simple herbalist. Meanwhile, in Cenaria, Logan Gyre, the rightful king is wasting away in Hell's asshole. When news of his survival reach the ears of Momma K and Kylar's friend Jarl, their plan to rebel against the Godking change dramatically. The dire situation will reach Kylar's ear in a bloody way, making him drop his promises and act against the new nature he was trying to force on himself.

The review may contain some minor spoilers if you haven't read The Way of Shadows.

The coming of age story is done and the table is mostly set for a confrontation between Kylar and the Godking. However, Shadow's Edge doesn't feel like a conventional bridging novel from a trilogy where they bring the opposite sides slowly together for an ultimate challenge in the final book. The impression it left for me, was similar to a part of a longer series, as if it was the fourth novel in a series of ten books. Fear not, there's a clear ending, and a fittingly bitter one at that, and from about the middle of the book a story arc that didn't seem to be of much importance becomes a springboard for the next novel. So it's not a classic way of writing a trilogy but it's probably what Brent wanted.

So, Kylar became the night angel at the end of the first book. I would have thought that he would continue to hone his skills. But then, by trying to throw away the assassin lifestyle, he seems to remain a clumsy boy. The perfect killer? Not quite yet but still amazing nonetheless thanks to the ka'kari. The wetboy is now more apt in using his talent but he still has to thrust his pure instincts and luck. As the story unfolds, we get glimpses of interesting new skills like his personification of other human beings and learn more about his 'resurrections'. There's a whole bunch of nice elements surrounding the wetboys, vurdmeister and witches and since the whole magic system doesn't need explanations anymore, the author really gets to business. There's still some kick ass magically enhanced assassins fights and feats but they only wander about the tale from time to time. I would have taken more.

His counterpart however is not trying to find balance in his life. Garoth Ursuul is quite simply an evil bastard with two goals in life, conquer the world and become more powerful by finding the ka'kari. Violating women for him is a simple pastime, he will never hesitate to kill someone and enjoy almost every suffering imaginable... For my taste, that kind of character is to uni-dimensional in contrast with the other characters created by Weeks. Toward the end there's seems to be an opening toward a more complex explanation of his motivations but it falls flat... it's too thin. At least, the story is diverging from his path.

Two aspects of the second part of Weeks' story stands out when put alongside the first book. First, there's a whole reflection and exploration of a young man first relationship with a girl and it's an arduous one. The whole development of Elene and Kylar's love life is really dragging the book to a slow pace. I couldn't connect with their difficult liaison. As much as I praised Brent in his first novel for his skill in writing human characters with believable flaws, in this case, even though I understood that their situation wasn't easy for a new couple, I would have preferred less emphasis on it. It felt awkward... and sub-par when judging the writing skills of the author.

Secondly, and personally I would say hopefully, the world became way broader. Not simply with the locations visited throughout Midcryu and the addition of more background history but in the factions encountered by the main protagonists and their representatives. Cenaria the city isn't anymore the complete center of attention. The universe created by the author is much more vivid, the world seems to be full of wonders. That broadening in term of scope/world building only glimpsed in The Way of Shadows and the number of characters PoV used for the narrative also brings an evolution from the first novel. Things start to go epic and not simply for Kylar.

Among that new PoV gifted cast, I really enjoyed the whole Vi storyline. She made me remember the nice pieces of reading I found in the first book when Kylar was growing up. That's the kind of protagonist Weeks is expertly writing. At least with her, Kylar 'hunger' for women is more in the humorous spectrum, which is a nice bifurcation from the seriousness of his relationship with Elene. Logan also has his moments, another compelling storyline but again maybe stretched a bit too much. And as with the first novel, never bet that someone is really dead, they could come back to steal you your profit.

Taking everything into perspective, I would say in conclusion that it's still a worthy read with a great ending. I wasn't impressed in comparison with the previous book but I think that we're going somewhere really intriguing and captivating. However, on the road to get there, the author hit some bumps...

Technically, the Orbit cover, by Calvin Chu (design by Peter Cotton) is... a continuation. Not really bad but they did way better in the various international editions (and always with the infamous hooded figure). The mass market paperback edition of the novel is 636 pages. The map is still there and a must. As for the audiobook narration, it's done by Paul Boehmer. It's the first time I listen to his narration and I wasn't impressed. His tone tended to remain the same without regard to the situation... The length of the audio version of Shadow's Edge is 20 hours and 25 minutes.

Shadow's edge review score :

Characterization............. 7 /10
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. 8.5 / 10
Story.............................. 7 / 10
Writing........................... 7 / 10

Overall (not an average) 7 / 10


Brent Weeks page
The Way of Shadows review


SunnyReads said...

Great review - I love this series!!

Phil said...


Did you enjoy the second novel as much as the first?

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