I Twittered the other day (follow me at Twitter.com/JoshSHill/) that I had just realized people don’t actually want good writing, they just want to be entertained. This might seem like a realization I should have made earlier, but there it is. And while some may think that that is obvious, I think it’s just plain sad. Books should be a combination of entertainment and good writing.
That leads me to The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks. My girlfriend leant me the book and I was tasked with reading it as soon as possible. And while the intent of the author was laudable, the actual telling of the story was ... amateurish.
First let me praise the book though, so that any of my grievances will not necessarily dissuade you from reading The Way of Shadows.
The first in a trilogy of books, Weeks introduces us to a master assassin and his new apprentice. The world is intriguing, and any book that looks into the dark and shadowy world of assassins is immediately interesting to me.
Sticking with my desire not to summarize the entirety of the book for you, and negate any need to actually read the book (looking at you SFFWorld), here’s what I can say. Coming up from the gutters where life is less than cheap, Azoth, aka, Kylar, is apprenticed to the cities best wetboy (better than an assassin).
Over the course of a decade and more Kylar is trained in the arts of death. But at the same time the city in which he trains is itself coming closer to its own death. Political intrigue, the life and times of the noble court and lots of death make up what was a brilliant concept.
Apparently though, I am doomed to continually read books by authors who have conceived of a novel and, at times, brilliant idea, but failed to complete even a basic introductory writing course.
The Way of Shadows was poorly written. From basic grammar and spelling mistakes and whole words missing from sentences leaving the reader baffled, to a structuring that seems to only be suitable to a rare type of schizophrenic, this book was a very tough read.
Any character that sees their name written more than once in the book was eventually given their own perspective, leaving the storytelling muddy and confused. I was often left spellbound, only to be unexpectedly dragged away to some irrelevant and boring passage. I’m all for cliffhangers, but they have to be done well, and Weeks hasn’t the writing know-how to pull this off.
Often characters or descriptions would stray so far into the obscure, uninformed or downright confusing that the story would halt and leave you scratching your head. Whole pieces of information were left by the wayside and dragged the reader down with it.
Should you read this book? I am not going to be giving this to people for presents anytime soon, but maybe lack of serious writing talent is not a hindrance to an enjoyable book for you. It’s your choice. Either way, Weeks had serious potential, and one can only hope that it gets better in the books to come.
Review by Joshua S Hill
26 positive reader review(s) for The Way of Shadows
by Brent Weeks
The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets. For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from al [...]
Series: The Night Angel Trilogy: Book 1
Our rating: 8.7 | positive reader reviews
by Brent Weeks
"My way is hard, but I serve unbroken. In ignobility, nobility. In shame, honor. In darkness, light. I will do justice and love mercy." So speaks the Night Angel, [...]
Series: A Night Angel Novella
Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews
by Brent Weeks
Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. His strength, wit and charm are all that preserve a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exac [...]
Series: Lightbringer: Book 1
Our rating: 9.0 | 4 positive reader reviews
by Brent Weeks
GAVIN GUILE IS DYING. He'd thought he had five years left - now he's got less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son and an ex-fiancée who may [...]
Series: Lightbringer: Book 2
Our rating: 9.1 | 2 positive reader reviews
by Brent Weeks
As the White King springs his great trap, and the Chromeria itself is threatened by treason and siege, Kip Guile and his companions will scramble to return for one impossib [...]
Series: Lightbringer: Book 5
Our rating: 6.8 | 1 positive reader reviews
Camden from America
I think that the book was really good, but there was some of those typos that left me baffled. But as I kept reading the book, the typos didn't madder any more, it was addicting to read so I read the first book in a day. S o I recommend this book to read and I think that you will most definitely enjoy this book alot.
Phil from UK
I wanted to like this book. And in some ways, I did. The plot was pacy and intriguing. The characters were well-developed and likable. The magic, although not fully explored in this book, had promise of being developed later into something fairly original. However, I found the book very hard to read as a whole. As a reader, there are things that "throw you out" of the narrative. For some people, it is bad writing & clunky narration. For others it is long passages of description or overly flowery language. Basically, I mean things that make you notice the telling rather than the story, that interrupt your immersion in the world of the story and make you think "Oh. The author just did *that*". One of the things that really does this for me is graphic scenes of sex, violence or torture. Pretty much anything that, if it was on-screen, would make me look away in disgust. I know this kind of thing is very popular in fantasy (and other) fiction these days (see comments below about it being "dark" and "gritty"), but I find it is almost guaranteed to ruin my enjoyment of reading. It's not that I mind these things happening in a story - it's just that some authors seem to be obsessed with it and enjoy it way too much, and I find that turns me off a story really fast. Having said that, it wasn't as depressing a read as I thought it might be. There were some good moments of light and catharsis later on, and things didn't end uniformly badly for everyone you cared about (I'm looking at you, GRRM!). And the world concept really was quite good. Final verdict: A promising story, and an excellent debut from an author who I'm sure will only improve in future books, but not an enjoyable read...so I guess I'll never find out?
Me from US
To be fair... we all want to be entertained more than anything while reading books. If your paying attention more to grammar and spelling errors than to the story itself you should probably pick up a dictionary instead. The overall story of the entire series is very good. Leaves just enough to the imagination that you want to pick up the next book and continue the story.
Nick Davison from England
I had no problems following the storyline and have to say that the Night Angel trilogy as a whole, is one of the richest, most engrossing, creative, and entertaining fantasy works I have ever read. Perhaps there are editorial mistakes in this book, I can't remember having read it a few years ago, but don't let that put you off. As a trilogy, Night Angel is one of the very best out there.
Aniek from Netherlands
I thought this was one of the most amazing books I´ve ever read. The action is awesome and I loved how mysterious everything was. Maybe not always correct spelling, but that´s only relative with the awesomeness of this book.
Raven from United States of America
The most awesome book I have ever read.
Eric from Canada
My favorite book of all time!!!!! Great characters, plot, and action scenes. I could not put it down!
Joe Davies from England
Easy to read, fast paced and keeps you guessing. Read this for quick, action packed scenes with quite a complex plot. However, don't expect literary perfection. Suitable for mature teens and over.
Bella from England
Not such a bad book, but not a great one either. The writing isn't necessarily poor, as some people point out, but there's nothing original at all. There's sometimes paragraphs of lore that you have absolutely no interest in. I completely zoned out on the explanations of the ka'kari, and of Durzo's true past (a lot later on in the book). The book was gritty, but not the kind of gritty that I personally like. Gritty things happened, but there was no sense of truly hardened and badass characters. No grey, really, just black and white. I mean that as in, you always know if a character is on Kylar's side or not. The romance was downright ridiculous, and there was no realism to it, just cliches. I had no sympathy for the protagonist, and would not care in the slightest if he died. In fact, I might have looked upon his death fondly, if it meant the possible introduction of a more interesting main character! On the other hand, Durzo Blint is awesome. Really interesting to read. His past is believable, and he doesn't care about morality like Kylar does. Doesn't care if what he's doing is right or wrong, just gets it done. But I will not read the next one.
Ana from Croatia
A promising book that shows good writing style and talent, enough unexpected twists to keep the reader interested, but there are some serious faults that made the book not enjoyable enough for me. First, too many cliches and very improbable "accidents". Second, overuse of brutal "grittiness", that I understand is popular lately, but in this book was just tedious. Third, the parts related to romance (or women in general) were so full of cliches, prejudice, teenage values and 19th century expectations that it was truly painful to read.
John from Smith
Despite loving assassins and their world, I completly agree with this assessment. After the first two chapters, everything when down hill for me. I found the story confusing and in most places uninteresting. Characters that were introduced in a chapter and then mentioned again seven chapters later rendered the story confusing and boring. For a book of assassins and only one assassination that had been made so far, again, left the story a bit boring. However, I feel Weeks has done a brilliant job in the creation of Durzo Blint - hence why I gave this book two stars.
Anthony from Sydney
Great book, a must read.
Tarje from Norway
This is, without doubt. The best book i have ever read, and i have read a lot of books. But the world Weeks have made in this books is simply amasing, and with both lovable, and hateable characters and a great complex storry that would make anyone proud. It has great language and is writen so well i never put it away once i start reading it, i have read all his books many times and never grow tired og the amazing storyline.
Slip from The Slipstream's Concscious
Decent?!? Being a fan of fantasy I have read both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. I forgot to pack a book when traveling recently and could only grab a book by cover art due to the limited time restraints of my flight departure. I chose this unfortunately. The book has the framework to be developed into an incredible and almost original story. Its copywrite is 2008 and I'm pretty sure Assassin's Creed came out before or during that period. Regardless, all forms of pop-culture and media feed off each other and we are forced to swallow this. I enjoyed the charcter development...when they were being developed. Years went missing in this story when all of a sudden childhood friends have ascended to an influential part of society. Weeks attempts to persuade the reader in a short few sentences that this is ok, and I suppose it is b/c it is mainly about Kylar/Azoth's acceptance of his role and the struggle he has to let go of his past. It insists on the reader to assume the happenings in the gaps of time...then BOOM! Kylar/Azoth is face to face with Doll Girl/Elene after his first kill(s)...then BOOM! Durzo has a daughter...then BOOM! It goes on and on and on. Worth a read, shit I gave it an 7 out of 10 but this could have easily been a 9 or 10 with proper patience and development of environment and character/story arcs. Descripitive and at times brutal, it has enough of the superficial to overlook the lack of profound writing. Cheap and rewarding.
Sarah from West Midlands
Loved it! Couldn't put it down and finished the 2nd and 3rd in short order to. And I think a few foibles in the writing (not that I noticed enough to get hung up on it) only make it more real!
Nancy from Minnesota, USA
The cover was a serious turn off, I wasn't expecting much, but started reading because my husband couldn't put the book down. I finished the book in one day, I couldn't put it down. You know so many books get high reviews because of their so-called great writing, and I can barely finish them, they are so boring, almost feels like the authors are in love with their own writing. This book is not about great writing, this book is about a GREAT STORY, told in an exciting, well edited way, without boring paragraphs describing what the hero is wearing or what the town looks like.
Graeme from Newcastle
I honestly thought when I first started reading The Way of Shadows that it was going to be a winner, but unfortunatley I was left dissapointed. It seemed that Kylars ageing happened to quickly, throw some random bad language in and you've generally got a book that had great potential but went off the boil. The plus side is Durzo Blint is a cool character.
Dave from Melbourne
Best Book ever! I read a book to be entertained and that is exactly what it did.
Torak from Somewhere
I thought the characters were realistic, the world was well developed and it didn't try and be nice. More still, when you read the other books you realize it is more complex and clever than just an Assassin Creed type bloodbath.
Tom from Ohio
Great characters and a little on the dark side.
Stephen King from Portland
I 'm in a state of utter disbelief to find that it was possible for a few select people to label this novel, and its author as anything short of genius. Brent Weeks created a world with the capability to challenge Tolkein and his Middle Earth. The genuine characters were backed with incredible depth in such a way so as cultivate an incredible journey, which is at the heart of any good fiction novel. His co-linear storyline would hook me instantly, leave me at a climax and then real me in with a new chapter. All in all a masterfully addictive piece of writing in which the world and characters unravel before you; only to be re-strung by the many twists and turns, leaving the reader with an uplifting sense of catharsis. 10/10 I couldn't put it down.
Josh from Yorkshire
I don't think it's the writing, I think it's the love for the characters and the place and the culture that makes it a good book; one that builds up the history and surroundings so that it becomes a real world instead of just some people in a book. I was moved by The Way of Shadows because I wanted him to succeed and because I felt sorry for Azoth. I think that the passion for the characters is enough to beat good writing for this time.
Leanne from East Anglia
I disagree with many of the points about the writing, I didn't find it confusing, in fact I found it well written because it suited the characters themselves. Personally I couldn't put it down and had to order the next in the trilogy as soon as possible!
Shawn from West Virginia
I found this book to be very good. It is true that there are some confusing moments. However, if you slow down a moment and read on through, the story will grab you and take off. It's a great story, definitely worth a read.
Jeff from Michigan
You sir must enjoy reading dictionaries. I found the book to bee thouroughly enjooable. Sorry for mi spelling and sentense structure.
Anonymous from Where?
Good writing can only be read by good readers, Literature if for writing, Fantasy is for enjoyment. Good book, I never really had a problem with reading it. I found I could never put it down :)
Kyle from New Hampshire
I loved this book. Although I agree that it can be confusing at times, and jumpy at other times, there are just some pivotal points and areas of the book that grabbed my interest so deeply that it urged me to keep reading. I'm probably a little biased, I'm not judging this by grammar, spelling, or anything like that. I'm judging it by how much I enjoyed it as a whole.
Noor from Canada
WOW this is an amazing book. I can't find anything better then this. I'm actually trying to find a book with the same story line but I can't :(
Cory from Oklahoma
The concept of this story is outstanding. The people and their stories are very enjoyable. I don't know if it is Mr Weeks's writing or his editor but it feels as if whole sections of story are missing. Like you just catch up with the characters weeks or months later. But I would recomend this series to anyone...
Bill from Birmingham, UK
Fully agree with the review, intriguing story and premise, massively let down by inflated writing that meanders and relies too much on clique and coincidence. Did finish it, finally after many times putting it down and skim reading many pages. I wanted it to be better so I could be excited about reading the next instalment. I haven't decided yet if I have the patience to read the sequel.
Jamie from Wichita, KS
I completely disagree with the review. I don't care much for trying to give an English lesson. I care about the story which was a great start to one of the most amazing series I've read. Book 2 is even better than the first, and Book 3 is even better than that. If you don't take the time and read "The Night Angel" trilogy, then that's your loss.
Jim from Chicago
I completely agree with your assessment. Finding a grammatical or spelling error in a (supposedly) proof-read novel is like listening to a (supposedly) competent speaker who says "um" or "uh" multiple times. I find myself counting the mistakes... I did, however, enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good fantasy novel.
Dan from England
Massivly disagree with the reveiw. OK, some of the writing is not brilliant but I found that with this book that I couldn't care less. The story line and range of incredible characters more than makes up for a few spelling and grammatical errors. Buy this book!
Steve from Calgary
I can hardly find words to describe how much I disagree with this review. This book was absolutely thrilling from beginning to end. If you have a hunger for proper spelling and grammar as much as the reviewer I suggest picking up the latest installment in the Merriam-Webster dictionary series. I like my fantasy gritty, bloody and absolutely no "Warrior on a quest" type garbage; needless to say this book delivered. I was not too thrilled with some of the characters right off the bat (Logan Gyre comes to mind.) but by the end of the book I knew I was going to be buying the rest of the trilogy. Buy it, read it, love it.
Kyle from Texas
I completely and utterly disagree with you on most of your points; granted there are numerous spelling and grammatical errors. The first of a trilogy (soon to be more, Brent is working on three more books in the same world) has to introduce a lot of story and character and world building. To me, Brent is already a master of his craft. He is ballsy and took a completely new approach to fantasy, which is highly admirable because he probably knew he would get people like you slamming him for it. But he did it. You must read all of the books in the series to fully understand why it was necessary for him to incorporate so many perspectives; it makes for a vast experience of a story. It is a massive achievement and I have read it through at least twice already. If you read all three and still hold that Mr. Weeks is a poor writer, I feel pity for you, my friend. Anyone reading this, get the books; you will not be disappointed.
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