The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1), by Brent Weeks
Brent Weeks is a great writer, but all his stories so far seem to suffer from the same flaw: nothing of importance that happens in them does so in any relation to what had happened before. If someone is desperate and without choices, they become rich people with connections to nobility. If they plan things in great detail, some new character of great power comes and changes everything. Everyone in indeed connected to everybody else, but not in the way you thought. And if you thought something was in a certain way, don't fret, new information will appear that changes everything. Yes, the characters are captivating, the world building amazing, but the flow of the stories is more suited to movie than book as it's either a thoroughly passive experience or a very frustrating one. It was true for Lightbringer and so far it seems true for the Night Angel trilogy.
In The Way of Shadows, the lead character is a street urchin that becomes a magical assassin's apprentice, finds noble friends, influences the fates of kingdoms, loves and is loved, loses his soul then finds it again and so on. A lot of people die, but not really by his hand. I mean, he becomes a lean mean killing machine, but we don't learn about his 10 year career, only about his skills. Thus he has the opportunity to make all kinds of moral judgements in the end. He has immense power, but he can't reach it unless he finds a special artefact that allows him to draw on it. Of course he finds one, but only when it's too late to properly train with it, so whenever he does things they are very random and somehow further the plot along. And, as if this weren't enough, there are prophecies and people that can see possible futures and influence it, so that the fates of the characters are even more unpredictable.
As you have guessed, for me the experience has been as much a positive one as well as a really really frustrating one. How can I possibly invest in a story that changes radically like maddenning rat mazes in science experiments?! I really hope against hope that the ending of the trilogy is going to be satisfactory, but considering Night Angel comes before Lightbringer and that ended as randomly as possible, too, what are really the odds?
Bottom line: Weeks is a sadist who writes beautiful stories, but forbids you any investment in the fate of his characters. There is only one god and his name is Brent.
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