I’ve just finished reading this series of books and thought I might write a brief review of it. I’m going to try to review all the books I read and movies I see from now on, with a view to sharing stories with you all.

The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks is a set of three (obviously) quite hefty books: The Way Of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge and Beyond The Shadows.

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This is the first fantasy series that I’ve read in a long time and it was something I picked up completely on a whim. I was in a mall with my wife, waiting while she did some shopping. I wandered into a book shop and decided I might get something new to read and was attracted by the ninja-like figure on the front cover. The blurb talked about assassins and a quick thumb through convinced me to give the book a go.

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned the hard way to judge people quickly — and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics — and cultivate a flair for death.

I was a bit put off by the names, but I looked past that and bought the book. Classic bookstore browser activity.

The books are, initially, a classic high fantasy adventure. There’s the world, there’s the map in the front of each book so you can check where places are, there’s the usual intrigue of courtly politics, war, magic and desire. But there’s something different about these books. They’re fantasy for grown ups. There’s swearing, there’s gore, there’s rape and murder. It’s not gratuitous and it’s not always brilliantly written, but it does spin an excellent yarn. It’s quite dark and that appealed to me greatly.

While the story is told largely from the point of view of Azoth, there’s an astonishing array of characters and Weeks has managed to wrangle them all brilliantly. The scope of the plot, the scale of the events, is quite breathtaking and the story remains exciting and interesting throughout the nearly 2,100 pages.

Many of the events in the story that this book tells are brushed over in such a way that they seem almost insignificant. They are, however, absolutely pivotal things. There are three characters in particular that are doing remarkable things, truly heroic quests, but the story is never told in detail. Weeks handles this really well and it adds an incredible depth to the saga as a whole.

There were places where an editor’s knife could have trimmed those twenty one hundred pages down quite significantly and I was surprised at the number of typos and errors in the books. It’s becoming more common these days that mainstream published books are carrying more and more errors to publication – perhaps it’s the result of mass production or staff cuts. But I don’t let that bother me unless it’s really atrocious. A handful of small errors in each book is forgiveable and makes me feel better about the handful of small errors in my books.

Overall this was a gritty, solid story. It was entertaining, it was a page turner and it was filled with some really clever ideas and some extremely talented worldbuilding. I’ll be looking forward to anything else Brent Weeks produces in the future. Check out his website here.

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