Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Way of Shadows -- Brent Weeks

Every year or so I feel moved to read a Big Fat Fantasy novel. This year it was The Way of Shadows. Some of the BFFs I've read in the past have been a problem because the authors are very slow to deliver the sequels, even though I might want to read them. In this case, the three novels in Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy were published in consecutive months, and they must have become monster hits because my copy of the first volume is the 13th printing. A rave review of the books on The SF Site encouraged me to give them a try, so I picked up the trilogy and started to read.

My first complaint is that there's nothing new at all here. A guttersnipe named Azoth wants to apprentice himself to a "wetboy" (an assassin who uses magic) named Durzo Blint. There's a magical sword. Azoth is more than he knows he is. There are shifting loyalties and political machinations. And 660 pages or so later, there's a lot of story left to tell. I doubt that I'll carry on. The writing is undistinguished, and the book could have used some severe pruning. For example: "It looked entirely normal, except that the sheath was made entirely of lead, and it covered the sword entirely, . . ." And then there are sentences that make an old retired English teacher blanch: "But with fire in one hand and a gleaming knife in the other, the horse was hardly calmed." There were times in the story when I wasn't quite sure what was going on.

Things like that don't bother anybody but me, I'm told. People today read for story, not for grammatical niceties or stylistic touches, and I figure they're amply rewarded with this book. It's filled with action, with violence and mayhem, with plot twists, and the overarching feeling that anyone can die at any time. Maybe after a year goes by I'll give the second book in the trilogy a try. Or not. Hard to say right now.


Gerard said...

There are two things I dislike about SciFi and fantasy novels : bloated books and stories without end.

I would read more from both genres but for 600 page door stops and no resolution.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Gerard, there's a Lot of sf (not sci-fi) and fantasy awaiting you that has nothing to do with any of that.

Um, Bill? When did people NOT read for story and to hell with graceful prose? There are a WHOLE lot of writers who've been making that claim for a lot of decades, perhaps centuries...and you should let Dave Langford know about this one...