Okay, so they’re not actually ninjas, but come on, close enough.
The story is about a city urchin who lives in constant fear. He doesn’t want to be afraid anymore, and to remedy that, he wants to train under a legendary Wetboy (Essentially an assassin with magic), Durzo Blint. With Blint’s tutelage, Azoth the urchin becomes Kylar, a pretend noble and Wetboy in training.
The story follows Kylar into early adulthood, the completion of his training, and through trying to figure out if being an assassin is who he really wants to be, all the while trying to survive politics, love, and war.
And as much as it’s Kylar’s story, it’s Durzo Blint’s as well, but I won’t go into all of that. Just read it.
My Favorite Characters:
I loved both Momma K and Durzo Blint, and the landscape of their relationship.
Durzo’s first visit to the castle was among my favorite scenes. Despite dealing with his own inner turmoil, I loved his demeanor and response to situations. How he wouldn’t let anyone get the upper hand on him, and he wasn’t afraid to show anyone who he was and what he could do.
I also really liked Logan Gyre, and appreciated the fact that this morally upstanding character wasn’t the main focus. My girlfriend and I recently had a discussion about characters, and I commented that I tend to frown at stories where the message seems to be that everyone is morally corrupt. That’s not to say that I want stories filled with knights in shining armor either. I get that in the real world ‘good’ people commit evil acts, and ‘bad’ people occasionally do good, and that villains don’t see themselves as villains. I get all of that, but if that’s the moral of the story, it seems more of just a justification for being an asshole in the real world. ‘Well, this story shows me that everyone commits selfish, evil, greedy acts, so I guess I’m just like everyone else.’ And it’s not that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with that type of story, it just isn’t for me. I’m more inspired by stories where the characters are faced with tough consequences and make the right choice anyway. Which brings me back around to The Way of Shadows. Part of the theme of the story is Kylar struggling to determine if he really wants to be the killer he’s training to be, while his best friend Logan, is an upstanding noble. A legitimately decent guy who tends to do the right thing. I think this landscape more truly reflects our reality. As we try to make choices in life, we often think about what others would do, maybe friends or family we wish we were more like. So, with that in mind, the characters of Logan and Kylar feel more real than if they were both morally corrupt or both bastions of light.
Count Drake was also a great character for much the same reason.
My Thoughts on the Villains:
For being a boy himself, Rat was a terrifying villain. He’s a character you immediately loathe and just pray to see in ruins.
I suppose you could call Durzo Blint a villain as well as a hero, but to dive too deep into that would require giving too much of the story away.
What Did I Love? I loved the concept of the Wetboys. Looking down on regular ole assassins, they’re assassins with magic powers. They can blend into the shadows.
Very early on, I was a little taken back by some of the brutal atrocities bestowed upon the characters, however, what I realized as I stomped along was that it made the story more real. Brent Weeks wasn’t trying to humor us with gratuitous atrocity, he was creating a very realistic setting. There are people in this world who do really bad things, and often to children, but in most fantasy stories, these types of things aren’t present. Brent throws it right in your face. This is the world Azoth is born in, and this is what he wants to escape. And you’re right there with him. You want him to get out. You want him to become a killer and exact his revenge on the cruel world around him.
If you’re into fantasy stories and dig assassins, The Way of Shadows is a must read. In other words, if you always choose the ‘Rogue’ or ‘Assassin’ character in video games, this book is probably for you. Going forward, I’d say that the Way of the Shadows, for me, is probably the yard stick to measure Fantasy stories about assassins against.