Monday, March 07, 2011

Review: "Shadow's Edge" by Brent Weeks

I was introduced to Brent Weeks at the airport. I had brought a book on the trip with me that turned out to be a dud, and I was looking for something to read. His first book of the Night Angel Trilogy, “The Way of Shadows,” was the only one in the airport book store that was able to catch my eye, and I was immediately drawn in to his tale of an orphan turned master assassin.

It’s taken me a little more than a year to make it to the second book in the series, “Shadow’s Edge” ($7.99, Orbit), but I fell back into the story with ease.

The Khalidoran Godking Garoth Ursuul has taken brutal control of Cenaria, grinding the city under his bootheels and turning the warrens where the poor people of the city live into even more of a living hell. Kylar Stern, having found love with Elene, the orphan that he once called Doll Girl, and being charged with taking care of his former master’s child Uly, has decided to retire from the assassin’s life. He has bribed his way out of Cenaria, traveling to stay with Elene’s family while he sets up shop as an herbalist. He quickly finds, though, that the life of violence he’s known is harder than he expected to leave behind.

It gets even more difficult when another former childhood friend, Jarl, now the leader of the Cenarian underworld organization known as the Sa’Kage, shows up with news that Logan Gyre, Kylar’s friend and the rightful ruler of Cenaria, is still alive, unbeknownst to the Godking, and surving in the worst prison that Cenaria has to offer. The events that follow may destroy his relationship with Elene and the idyllic existence that Kylar has hoped for.

I found the second volume of Weeks’ trilogy just as enthralling as the first. As with the first volume, the biggest strength in “Shadow’s Edge” is characterization. Often, in these books, you’re dealing with characters of rather nefarious backgrounds – thieves, prostitutes, and yes, cold-blooded killers – but Weeks still manages to make you feel deeply for them. So much so, in fact, that I found some scenes from this book quite difficult to read. To me, that’s the mark of a great story – when I’m drawn so much into the characters’ lives that the things that happen to them have an emotional impact on me. That’s certainly the case with Weeks.

Like its predecessor, “Shadow’s Edge” is dark and gritty, and it pulls no punches. It’s not a tale for the squeamish, but neither is it gratuitous. It uses what it needs to make an impact.

I can guarantee that it won’t take a year for me to get to the third book in the series.

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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