Review: Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks

Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

Shadows Edge
Brent Weeks
Orbit, 2008

I’m slowly making way back to the multitude of sequels I’ve neglected since starting this blog and I’m starting by reading the last two volumes of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy (partially because his new book Black Prism is due out in August).  I read and reviews The Way of Shadows more then a year ago and I was initially worried that jumping straight into Shadows Edge would leave me a little lost.  Luckily, my fears were for naught as Weeks does a great job of covering most of the previous novel’s highlights with distracting from the main plot of Shadow’s Edge.  If you’ve yet to read The Way of Shadows there are likely spoilers ahead.

Shadow’s Edge picks up almost immediately after The Way of Shadows ends.  Kyler Stern, aka Azoth, is now the bearer of the black ka’kari and the sword known as Retribution after having killed his master Durzo Blint.  Now reunited with his long lost love Elene and given charge over the daughter of Durzo and the Cernian Madame Mamma K.  Kyler has given up the assassination game and has set out with Elene and Uly to become a simple herbalist.  Or so he thinks.  Shadow’s Edge is a novel about identity, about discovering who and what you are.  This isn’t just true for Kyler but for every character that the narrative follows.

Much like in The Way of Shadows Weeks’ does an excellent job of creating fascinating and conflicted characters and injecting their lives with both horrific acts and thrilling action.  The three characters that are most central to Shadows Edge are Kyler, the female assassin Vi, and Logan Gyre.  Each faces desperate situations that test the measure of their resolve and force them to question who precisely they are.  Alongside these three main narrative threads are interwoven a number of almost equally fascinating secondary characters from the mad prophet Darien, to Mamma K, to the Godking himself.  While the stories of the three central characters play a large part in the epic events unfolding in the novel their story is much more personal then one might expect and, in truth, it is the novel’s secondary characters that serve to broaden the novel’s scope beyond these internal dilemmas.

While Kyler’s internal struggle to change, to be a good person, wars with his bond to the ka’kari and its near undeniable call for justice, embodied in his role as the Night Angel, makes for fantastic reading I found the struggles of both Vi and Logan to be slightly more interesting.  Logan has been trapped in the Hole, a prison for the worst of the worst, and is forced to confront the worst of humanity in himself as well as in those around him.  Logan’s tale is one of monsters and the undeniable light of nobility that forms the core of his own being.  I found it surprisingly appropriate that Logan’s confrontation with his own capacity for monstrosity is what solidifies his own self-assurance and begins his assent towards being a King in spirit as well as in name.

Vi is perhaps the most tragic character in the novel.  As the apprentice to the disgusting wetboy Hu Gibbet she has been debased, abused, and dehumanized.  The core of her personality seemingly reduced to her own sexual appeal, she barely seems to consider herself a person at all and has internalized her own objectification to a frightening and sickening degree.  She has been isolated from all the good parts of humanity forced to view everyone as having the self-serving and amoral views as Hu does.  Vi’s task, as compelled by the Godking himself, is what starts to crack the inhuman shell around her.  It is her interactions with other people, outside Hu’s controlling influence, that seems to help open her up.  There are some missed opportunities with Vi’s narrative particularly as the they relate to Mamma K and her complicity in turning Vi into what she is at the start of Shadow’s Edge.  It isn’t a huge misstep since the horrors of the Warrens were near infinite and one woman can only do so much, but it might have made for some great character moments and might have added some depth to both characters.

Shadow’s Edge is a novel rife with horrors and those who find themselves shying away from depictions of extreme violence and cruelty might be a bit off put by such scenes here.  From the sick “statuary” of the Godking, to the creation of the amorphous shape-changing monster towards the novels end, to the cannibalism and violence of the hole Shadow’s Edge pulls no punches in creating a dark, frightening, atmosphere of cruelty.   There was a sense of desperation and darkness to the novel that reminded me very much of The Empire Stikes Back.  Which it turned out might have been intentional and is certainly acknowledged in the novels finale by two things that I won’t reveal since one had me laugh out loud and the other is important to the last novel.

I’m glad I decided to continue reading the Night Angel TrilogyShadow’s Edge is a slightly more action packed novel then its predecessor particularly towards is middle and end.  It goes a long way to flesh out the world that Weeks’ has created by introducing new threats, new factions, and delving into the world’s past to some degree.   If you’ve read The Way of Shadows you should definitely jump into reading Shadow’s Edge instead of being and idiot and waiting like I did.  Even more so then before I’m excited to see what Brent Weeks has in store for the future.  In the meantime check back later this week when I take a look at Beyond the Shadows, the final volume of the Night Angel Trilogy.

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