The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets.
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.
Although I had read Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy quite a while ago, a series I picked up "judging a book by its cover" when I wanted to find a good action adventure story one day and the very Assassin's Creed-like covers and blurb sold me. It quickly made me a Brent Weeks fan and now that the trilogy is available in an omnibus collection of one big novel, I thought it time for a re-read and a review since Reading Realms didn't exist back then. As always, I will attempt to be as spoiler-free as possible, so plot details will be vague.
The first book, Way of the Shadows, follows a young boy, Azoth, living on the streets and trying to survive a gang-life he doesn't desire. The way out he charts is to become the apprentice to infamous assassin Durzo Blint. Even though you know he will succeed and become Durzo's apprentice, Weeks does a good job creating a tense time period of a sad and tortured young life and makes Azoth work for the role he desires. Once he does, he leaves his old self behind and takes up the name Kylar Stern and begins training to become an assassin, or wetboy as they are called in Weeks' world. His training consists not only of the skills involved for the wetwork, but learning to use his magical ability, or Talent, and eventually become the Night Angel.
Though the trilogy definitely feels like Kylar's story, Weeks shifts focus throughout the story to a character that is the flip-side of Kylar: Logan Gyre. Where Kylar comes from the gutters, Logan is of noble birth, where Kylar is fast and wiry, Logan is strong and brutish. As they mature, their paths cross and they become fast friends. Logan plays a key role to the overall plot, as he is in line to rule, but at times it feels like not enough time is given to Logan's story and is simply given the parts he has simply to support Kylar's story.
Despite Kylar becoming an assassin, Weeks keeps him somewhat morally centered. The killer with a heart of gold, so-to-speak. In book two, Shadow's Edge, Kylar has made the attempt to settle down into a normal life, but it's not something he's content with in his heart, often finding himself out scouring the city for reasons to be the Night Angel again. Between his own ambitions and events in the city, Kylar isn't allowed to settle down. As book two wraps, Kylar discovers more about his one-time master Durzo and his own abilities. By book three, Beyond the Shadows, Kylar is backed into a corner and his direction is essentially laid out for him. But Weeks does a good job throughout the trilogy of slowly layering on the magic and larger world events to Kylar's point-of-view, to never leave the reader lost.
The world of The Night Angel trilogy feels very fleshed out, even though focus is kept fairly tight on Kylar. The story is very much an action adventure style fantasy, more than epic fantasy, but Weeks still offers a well developed society of religion, politics, and history. Talent (magic) plays an important role in the story and Weeks does an excellent job defining how the Talent works. By the end, I wanted to know more about the world Kylar lived in, even if Kylar's own story had wrapped up.
The Night Angel trilogy is not without its flaws as there are a few cliche characters or secondary characters not fleshed out well, but the focus is clearly on Kylar and Weeks does a great job developing him as a character. Whether or not you find yourself liking Kylar, will decide whether you do or do not enjoy this story. Anyone looking for a sword-and-sorcery style adventure, with plenty of action should give it a try. If you are coming from Brent Weeks' newer Lightbringer work, you may find the focus quite a bit more narrow, but still the same great storytelling talent behind it.
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