656 pp. Orbit. $7.99
Pub. Date: 10/28/2008
Reviewed by Paul Stotts
“I shouldn’t be here. What am I doing? Happiness isn’t for murderers. I can’t change. I’m worthless. I’m nothing. An herbalist without herbs, a father who’s not a father, a husband who’s not a husband, a killer who doesn’t kill.
That sword is me. That’s why I can’t get rid of it. It’s what I am. A sheathed sword worth a fortune sitting in a bottom of a trunk. Worse than useless. A waste.” – Kylar Stern “Shadow’s Edge”
After an excellent debut with “The Way of Shadows”, author Brent Weeks has returned (a month later) with his sophomore effort “Shadow’s Edge.” The second volume of Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy continues the adventures of wetboy extraordinaire Kylar (don’t call me an assassin) Stern. Fast-paced and hugely entertaining, “Shadow’s Edge” just may have one of the best endings ever for a middle book in a trilogy. There’s no sophomore slump here. It’s a good thing that the third book “Beyond the Shadows” is being released in December, because I’d probably start a riot if I had to wait a year for the next one, especially after the bombshell Weeks drops in the final line of “Shadow’s Edge”.
As the novel starts, Kylar has decided to give up being a wetboy, finally emerging from the shadowy life he’s been living as an apprentice to Cenaria’s best wetboy Durzo Blint. Seeking some sort of redemption for his murderous past, Kylar believes that Elene’s love for him can be his salvation. Together with Elene, he just may have a chance for happiness. But it won’t be in Cenaria where the memories of his past life as a wetboy will haunt him and where the city is now under the brutal rule of the Godking after the recent Khalidoran invasion.
So looking for a fresh start, Kylar and Elene travel with their adopted daughter Uly to
Meanwhile, Kylar’s best friend and rightful king of Cenaria, Logan Gyre, is hiding in the Hole, the deepest part of the Cenarian gaol called the Maw. Surrounded by murderers and cannibals,
Jarl has recently assumed the mantle of Shinga of the Cenarian Sa’kagé. Having previously ruled city from the shadows, the Sa’kagé find themselves nearly powerless after the ascent of the Godking to the throne. Even worse, the Godking seeks to completely eliminate the Sa’kagé. So when word gets to him that Logan is still alive, Jarl sees an opportunity to enlist Kylar’s help in the Sa’kagé‘s rebellion against the Godking. If Jarl can coax Kylar into coming back to rescue
Though not as wildly entertaining as “The Way of Shadows”, “Shadow’s Edge” feels more cohesive than its predecessor. During the first half of the novel, Weeks focuses on moving his characters into place like pieces on a chessboard. There is a bit of set up to the story, but the results are definitely worth it in the end. Each of the various storylines introduced in the beginning of the book start to come together beautifully in the second half before eventually melding into a fantastic finale. Weeks displays a skillful hand in being able to seamlessly pull together so many disparate plot points into a believable and absorbing ending. There are some issues however as some of the plotting seems contrived. During a few scenes, characters seemingly wind up in the same places at the same time. Sister Ariel, for example, meets both Kylar (twice) and Vi on each of their separate journeys from
The impression in which Midcyru feels small is further compounded by the minimal amount of world-building Weeks does in the novel. Though we see more of world in “Shadow’s Edge” than in “The Way of Shadows”, there’s still not much character or personality to the setting. The towns and their inhabitants feel very generic or, even worse, derivative. In particular, Sister Ariel and the Chantry greatly reminded me of the Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Weeks overcomes this problem mainly by utilizing an incredibly fast-paced plot driven by the characters. The story moves. So much attention is focused on Kylar and others that the setting serves as nothing more than background here. Each chapter seemingly reveals some new significant event or exciting revelation. There’s really no down-time here. Even when Kylar is in the midst of an existential crisis early in the novel, the story never gets bogged down.
While both Kylar and Logan stand out as absolutely engaging characters, the wetboy Vi Sovari is probably the most interesting character in “Shadow’s Edge”. She’s a hellion in search of a heart, and her journey is filled with some surprising revelations. Her search for redemption in the novel mirrors the journey Kylar undertook in “The Way of Shadows”. Weeks does a great job making her change of heart seem believable, where it easily could have come off as sappy.
The ending is fantastic. Not only does Brent Weeks give us an unforgettable conclusion to “Shadow’s Edge”, he also provides some intriguing new directions for the next book to explore. And that was before he even got to the last line which contains a revelation that shakes the entire series down to its very foundation.
Continuing the excellence set forth by “The Way of Shadows”, “Shadow’s Edge” puts the series on very firm footing going into the final volume. Kylar Stern and Vi Sovari exude that uber-coolness that fanboys will absolutely adore. With a breakneck pace and slick plotting, “Shadow’s Edge” builds slowly before rocketing towards an unbelievable conclusion. Brent Weeks has accomplished that rare feat of creating an extremely engaging middle book in a trilogy. Absolutely good stuff here. Final Grade: 86 out of 100