Tag Archives: Brent Weeks

Review of Shadow’s Edge – Book 2 of The Night Angel series by Brent Weeks

Standard

I read the first of this series a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it – and what with one thing and another, lost track of it. I’m so glad that I picked up the second one – it’s been a blast.

shadow's edgeKylar has rejected the assassin’s life. In the wake of the Godking’s violent coup, both his master and his closest friend are dead. His friend was Logan Gyre, heir to Cenaria’s throne, but few of the ruling class survive to mourn his loss. So Kylar is starting over: new city, new companions, and new profession. But when he learns that Logan might be alive, trapped and in hiding, Kylar faces an impossible choice. He could give up the way of shadows forever, and find peace with his young family. Or Kylar could succumb to his flair for destruction, the years of training, to save his friend and his country – and lose all he holds precious.

Kylar is fascinating – a young man with awesome powers and a strong motivation not to use them, who faces a horrible choice. And, yes, I did really care about the decision he makes, which – given this is just one storyline in this epic doorstopper, teeming with a significant cast of characters, several of them plain horrible – is a feat. My personal taste is intense, first person narratives set in a confined space with often nuanced, subtle threats in amongst the big bad stuff. Though Weeks isn’t completely opposite in writing style to my ideal book, it’s getting close. Nevertheless, I loved this read from the first action-packed page, right through to the climactic ending.

And if you are addicted to adrenaline-fuelled, full-on action from the outset with BIG STUFF happening in every single chapter, then this is the book for you. Granted, the worldbuilding isn’t the last thing in originality – in fact we’re right back in the very familiar late-Medieval/early modern hundred-years-war mid-European unpleasantness so often depicted with this sub-genre. But I’ll give Weeks a free pass on that one – he has saved his creativity for the tightly-knit narrative and enjoyable cast of characters. While there is much that is cosily familiar – the young hero cast into a role he’d rather not fulfil versus the power-mad mage, there are also a lot more well drawn, sympathetic protagonists who leap off the page with such power and immediacy, I was quickly drawn right back into Weeks’ world.

It was also refreshing to read epic fantasy by a male author with a wide cast of women and girls. While there are a sprinkling of helpless virginal pawns and evil bitches – the majority are nuanced and every bit as complicated as their male counterparts. What keeps the tension level high, is that Weeks isn’t averse to killing off a fair proportion of his main characters and the battle scene near the end is a fitting high point to this full-tilt adventure.

If you’re sick of books where self absorbed characters spend pages obsessing about their feelings and the pace moves forward with all the urgency of a dozing snail – go and track down the first book The Way of Shadows. It’s well-plotted, action-packed fun.
8/10

Advertisements

Fantasycon 2012 – My Highlights

Standard

It’s a whole year since I first dipped my big toe into the Conference scene – starting with last year’s Fantasycon held at the Royal royal_albion_1Albion Hotel in Brighton. It turned out to be my favourite – both Bristolcon and Eastercon were wonderful, but for my money Fantasycon is the one for a bibliophile, with its heavy emphasis on books, writing and authors. So, a year later would I still feel the same way?

This year I brought my husband along. John is also a speculative fiction fan, so I knew he wouldn’t be moodily mooching along at my side, wishing he were elsewhere. Have to say, the Royal Albion Hotel is also a firm favourite. Yes… I know the checking in procedure is a long-winded nightmare; that the subterranean rooms make a sauna feel chilly; that the whole place – frankly – has seen better days. But on a sunny day, the light streams through the huge sash windows in the Regency lounge and the view out to the pier and the sea is just fab. And while it isn’t the last word in efficiency, the staff are invariably friendly.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
Meeting up with friends I only get to see at conventions – like Mhairi Simpson, Justin Newland, Roy Gray and Susan Bartholomew is one of the main joys of coming to these events – as well as meeting new folks like Lynne Stephens, who managed to combine Fantasycon with a business trip from the US. Talking about science fiction and fantasy books to people who actually know the authors you’re on about is very empowering.

alchemistofsoulsI’d already started reading Janet Edward’s science fiction YA book, Earthgirl, before arriving at the hotel, but found it absolutely compelling – so found the time to finish it AND discuss it with Janet, which was great… I’ll be writing a full review of it in due course.

Another book I picked up while at the Con that I managed to complete, was Kim Curran’s Shift – another enjoyable read. And then started in on Anne Lyle’s historical fantasy The Alchemist of Souls, another thoroughly quality book, which I acquired while here. And one I will also be reviewing…

I bumped into Jaine Fenn (literally!) while bopping in the disco, author of the wonderful Hidden Empire series – and she asked me to do a review of Downside Girls, her new short fiction book where the stories are all related to the characters in Principles of Angels. Of course, I said YES PLEASE.downsidegirls

The Open Mic Poetry Event – I went along to support Susan – and had a really enjoyable time. The poems covered a wide range of subjects and were generally of an impressively high standard. Roy Gray actually allowed me to read one his poems – though I was kicking my stupidity in not bringing some of my own stuff. My highlight was the wonderful Tina Rath, who actually knew her work well enough to perform it – and her poetry is a superbly creepy and funny.

I attended a fair number of panels – although the heat in the Fitzherbert Room was something else – and I think it’s a testament to the endurance and professionalism of all the panel members that by the end of a sweltering hour, they were still speaking and thinking coherently, while I was just plain melting…

220px-Juliet_E_McKennaKeeping It Real – This, for me, was the outstanding panel of those I managed to attend. Juliet McKenna is always excellent – intelligent and amusing. Brent Weeks proved to be a confident and adroit Moderator, while Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jasper Kent both were able to speak with the authority of experienced, established authors and although Benedict Jacka was clearly nervous, he also had some interesting insights. I could have happily sat and listened to these five authors speak for the rest of the morning.

The Quiz – Just like last year, this was insanely difficult. And I contributed absolutely nothing to my team, which actually did well, thanks to the likes of Amanda Rutter and Anne Lyle… However, watching Sarah Pinborough and Joe Abercrombie try and keep control of the proceedings was hilarious.

 

Brent Weeks’ Reading – He not only endured the heat of Room 132, he overcame it to perform his reading in a tour de force that brent-weeks-credit-travis-johnson-photographyhad his fans all groaning aloud by the end of the session, as his protagonist died in a hail of bullets. It was on the edge of the seat stuff – before he confessed that particular scene wouldn’t be making it into his latest book. Probably…

The Editorial Process – This Masterclass by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz was excellent. She discussed the common faults authors make and how we can correct them, before moving onto to explaining how she approaches an author’s work, and the stages a manuscript goes through when being edited by a publishing house.

willhillHow To Write and Sell a YA Novel – Another high point. Will Hill was informative and very generous with his wealth of experience without being remotely patronising. As someone who is working on my first YA book, I found his advice invaluable – I think the Conference was worth it just for this particular session…

The Disco – This was a blast – I missed last year’s effort. Everyone was bopping around for all they were worth. And then, of course, there was that dance-off…

It’s always sad when feelings get trampled (actually, it was a minor miracle that no one ended up being squished underfoot when Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock went head to head…) Have to say, it was THE highlight of my Conference. Did the right man win? Anyone who has visited Joe’s blog recently will know his feelings on the subject. I bought him a drink the bar the following morning, when his devastation was apparent.  All I can say, is that if there was any kind of fix, I wasn’t aware of it. No doubt the inevitable Enquiry into the matter will produce a Report in Due Course. In the meantime – keep dancing, Joe…

My book addiction kicked in bigtime. John and I staggered onto the train home with 28 additional books in our luggage – which added to the 31 already stacked by my bedside means that my 2 year old grandson is now in imminent danger of being buried by a bookslide every time he scrambles off our bed.

And now that I’ve been back from Fantasycon 2012 for almost a week, my memories of the whole conference are backlit with the warm friendliness of everyone I encountered. A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible – it was great!

Review of The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks – Book 1 of The Night Angel trilogy

Standard

It seems that 2008 was a cracking good year for quality fantasy novels. Over the last couple of years I’ve found myself knee-deep in the critters – and Weeks’ debut book certainly joins the list.

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

This is classical stuff – if you enjoy Greg Keyes and Kate Elliott, then don’t pass up on the opportunity to read it. Told in third person POV, the main characters are compellingly complex and the plot is suitably twisting with a handful of shock-surprises near the end to persuade you to immediately turn to the second book and read on. Without doubt, though the book
sizzles with action from start to finish, for me Weeks’ strongest achievement is his characters – particularly his depiction of Durzo Blint. Weeks continues peeling away the layers surrounding his master assassin with the same slow relish that I feel on unwrapping a box of Turkish Delight…

If I have a niggle, it is that the narrative strand containing Durzo and Azorth is by far the most engrossing, particularly in the first two-thirds of the book. And I’m prepared to bet that Weeks found it the most interesting to write. I think it’s revealing that the blurb on the back cover of the book doesn’t mention the rest of the storylines, despite their importance to the overall plot. And if you skim these other plotlines, you will lose the sense of the narrative and eventually have to stop and go back and reread them. (I know this, because that’s what I did…)

Eventually, I did engage with the other characters and their stories, which although eclipsed by the glowing three-dimensional glory of Blint and Azorth, helped to whip the story along at a smart clip. The world-building is well-crafted and Weeks’ descriptions of a flawed society where the gulf between the haves and have-nots is nearly as grittily portrayed as Joe Abercrombie’s filthy stews in his First Law series. All in all, The Way of Shadows is a worthwhile addition to the latest tranche of classic fantasy and marks Brent Weeks as an author to follow.

8/10