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The Way of Shadows is a good example of the "new" fantasy series (think The Lies of Locke Lamora, etc.). It is gritty, light on magic, focuses on relatively ordinary good characters who do bad things for a living, and concentrates more on politics than some coming Dark Lord. As a representative of this genre, the Way of Shadows is a decent entrant with some interesting characters, moral musings, and a few terrific action sequences.
A few things hold it back, however. First, the tone is notably uneven - there are some scenes of horrific violence, including violence against children, followed soon afterwards by scenes with witty banter. Mr. Weeks is a decent writer, but not strong enough to pull off these sorts of tonal shifts. In addition, the writing is generally fine, but an occasional metaphor or sentence comes across as incredibly awkward. (The reader, incidentally, stumbles occasionally as well, saying "prisoner" instead of "poisoner" repeatedly during one chase scene, creating a lot of confusion)
The other issue is that the plot occasionally lurches as well. Sometimes the book seems to assume certain, unexplained knowledge, or characters come to sudden realizations without any ability for the reader to understand where those came from.
Generally, however, the lapses above are rare, and the book is generally solidly entertaining and well-written. There are better "new" fantasy series out there -- The Name of the Wind and the Well of Souls come to mind -- but this is a good, fast-paced novel of assassins and beggars that is not at all a waste of your time.
71 of 82 people found this review helpful
First, the only negative of this book is the very beginning, which seems slightly awkward at times. This fades quickly and is barely noticeable as is.
Second, the author makes astounding use of inference as a story telling device, better than any I've ever seen. He doesnt tell you things, instead letting the actions of the characters imply what must have happened, how it happened, and even when it happened. The unimportant (to the plot) elements are typically left unconfirmed, just evident, but if your perceptive you'll be able to see the truth behind a great many things before they are actually revealed as characters imply them with their words and deeds. Despite that this is the story of a young assassin learning his trade, there is actually only one "training" scene in the entire book - the rest is almost entirely left to your imagination with brief recollections by the main character to confirm suspicions and give details on pertinent aspects of his skill-set. The effect of this is allowing the author to write a book that spans a decade, has the content of about 3 regular books, and never has a slow moment. This also makes for a lot of transitions, temporal and spacial, and if your not a fan of multiple plot lines you may not like it. However, I'm not kidding when I say this book has the content of 3 normal novels - you will occasionally be shocked when you realize its not even close to over yet, so if you want more for your money you cant go wrong with this one.
Third, the story itself is fascinating, while listening to this I nearly had 3 traffic accidents I became so absorbed. Mr. Weeks is nearly as hard on his characters as George R. R. Martin - but only nearly. This is not a sad story, and its not a happy story, its a good story. If you like darkish fantasy with an undercurrent of redemption, political and personal intrigue, and magic which is both common and powerful (but not all-powerful) - then this is a book for you.
95 of 111 people found this review helpful