Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beyond the Shadows - Brent Weeks

Cover blurb:

Logan Gyre is king of Cenaria, a country under siege, with a threadbare army and little hope. He has one chance - a desperate gamble, but one that could destroy his kingdom.

In the north, the new Godking has a plan. If it comes to fruition, no one will have the power to stop him.

Kylar Stern has no choice. To save his friends-and perhaps his enemies-he must accomplish the impossible: assassinate a goddess.

Beyond the Shadows
is the action-packed conclusion to the Night Angel Trilogy.

Before I even start to review this book, I have to make an admission. I may suffer from a mild psychosis when I read. If I read a series I really, really enjoy, I will almost never finish the last book. I will usually leave off at the last hundred pages because finishing, saying goodbye to the characters that have somehow imbedded themselves into my psyche sucks. I kind of took that mild psychosis to a new level when I read this trilogy. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book. It was a solid, four-star book in my eyes but I have issues with reading from a child’s perspective (chalk it up to me being weird). The ending was much better than the beginning (Kylar also wasn't a child anymore). So I decided to give book two a shot, which was far and away about two million times better than the first book (in my opinion). It was so good that I left the third book sitting on my bookshelf for four months because finishing the series, saying goodbye to Kylar and Vi and all the rest sucked. I didn’t want the story to end.

I wouldn’t have read the book if I wasn’t on this binge to read all the books I’ve been procuring over the past few months. It would have sat there and looked at me, teasing me and reminding me of my weird problem with finishing books I really, really enjoy. Don’t ask why I’m like that. I don’t get it, either. And even though I was determined to actually read this book, I still (despite everything) had the HARDEST time finishing off those last hundred pages. I just did not want it to be over.

And that, my friends, is the highest compliment I can pay any author.

I don’t think this trilogy is on the same level as George R. R. Martin, but I don’t think it should be, either and trying to compare the two is unfair to both as they are both different animals completely. Weeks astounds me with his simple, yet poignant writing. He does a wonderful job at answering all the questions he left open and dangling in previous books, and answering questions I didn’t even know I had. He adds layer upon layer to his world, pushing the plots at an unrelenting pace which left me breathless to keep up.

His characters continue to grow, develop and become. Old friends come back for new reunions and new friends go their own directions. It seems that this book’s crux hinges on change. Everyone is changing and the changes are realistic and done nicely. This book seems to be incredibly action oriented. There are quite a few moments that range on a scale of epic proportions. However, Weeks never seems to loose touch with the basis of what his world was founded on; the very gutters the readers were first introduced to in the very first entry of this trilogy. He adds layers and color to his world, bringing it to a new depth, adding heroic and gut-wrenching action scenes and dragging his characters through amazing changes all the while never once loosing sight of the very foundations that had begun them on this twisted road of events.

This, in all, was a strong, mind-blowing ending to a very powerful trilogy. Weeks is an author who chooses each word with care and it’s obvious. His writing is simple, but powerful. He doesn't use needless, flowery descriptions that last pages and pages. He is direct and to the point while somehow managing to bring his world to life for the reader. The plot is complex and layered yet never looses sight of its dirty base. He is a true master who has managed to somehow attain what many other authors have never quite been able to master by packing his books full of contrasting shades of blacks and whites from the writing, to the characterization to the plot. His writing brought his characters to life, his plot was riveting, the answered questions left me feeling satisfied and the ending was, in my opinion, perfect for the tale being told. Weeks seems hell-bent on telling an entertaining story and it pays off. This is an exciting conclusion to a great trilogy.

It does seem as though Weeks leaves a lot unexplained, as well as ends dangling just enough to leave the reader wondering about a few things, while solidifying the history and plot in other areas of this novel. It makes me wonder if Weeks is setting himself up to revisit the Night Angel world sometime in the future? I would be interested, if he did. I do, however, think that three books was a perfect number for his story. Any less would have been too few for his complex world and any more would have made at least one book seem overly watered down and events a little too strained and lingering for my taste.

This series is so deservedly popular I feel as though everything that has needed to be said has already been said so this review is rather paltry in comparison with my others. Needless to say, it took me months, literally, to push myself to finishing this book and polishing off the last hundred pages was even harder. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a good friend.

Readers who enjoy "nothing to something" stories and/or thieves and assassins will love this trilogy. I'll also mirror what a few other reviewers say by saying if you enjoy Scott Lynch, you might want to stray a little and check out Brent Weeks. I will drop a caution (as I have seen this complaint several times online): Don't let his simple writing fool you. There is vulgarity and explicit scenes.

4/5 stars

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