Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beyond the Shadows - Brent Weeks

I hate to leave a series unfinished if it is at all palatable and while the first two books of the Night Angel trilogy where not brilliant, I still couldn't stay away from the final book. In Beyond the Shadow Weeks continues the relentless action he has filled the first two books with. After reading Shadows Edge, which was a lot better than the first volume The Way of Shadows, I had hoped would be able to continue improving. Unfortunately Beyond the Shadows is a bit of an unfocussed book. Better than the first book, not quite as good as the second.

Cenaria is saved and while Logan may not have been able to claim the throne many things now seem possible. This general sense of optimism does not last long. Soon it becomes apparent that several parties are trying to relieve the weakened nation of it's new found independence. While Logan is willing to settle for a role in the shadow, Kylar clearly believes he should be king. He is even willing to take up his old profession for it. A major disagreement about how to save the country yet again is in the making.

In the mean time the prophet and disowned son of the late Godking Dorian has made his way to his home country. As soon as word of the Godking's demise penetrates to his capital a bloody battle between his offspring ensues. One of them must succeed him and only the strongest and most ruthless of his sons stand any chance at all. Dorian came to the capital to rescue Logan's wife Jenine but he soon becomes involved in the civil war. The only way to really change something about the brutal culture that rules Khalidor is to take charge himself.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this book really. I didn't think it was bad but it's not great either. As I mentioned in the introduction the book is a bit unfocussed. It frequently changes point of view and visits many locations in Weeks' world. No less than seven armies are on the move trying to get to the big battle at the end and getting in each other's way. The Night Angel himself is first trying to be a hero in Cenaria before running off the see Elene and Vi but despite all his powers he does not have a clue what he is supposed to do with them. In fact, it takes Kylar some 500 pages to figure it out. For the main character in the trilogy he is pretty unimportant to the overall story. That is not to say he doesn't do some pretty cool things of course but I won't spoil that for you. The whole triangle with Vi and Elene seemed a little over the top too. Even if it does get him laid finally in this book. Somehow with Kylar's backgroudn a 20 year old virgin does not seem terribly likely.

Although he can be whiny at times, the character that I thought was most interesting in this book was Dorian Ursuul. The way he has been trying to distance himself from his father's tyranny and the way he falls almost falls into the same trap of violence followed by more violence is very well done. I think Weeks could have spent a bit more time on the moment where Dorian finally realizes what he has been doing since taking his father's place and what he can do to break the cycle. It would have improved the ending, which relies heavily on an enormous outburst of magic to tie off many story threads and force some prophecies to become reality.

As with the rest of the trilogy I enjoyed reading Beyond the Shadows at some level. It is not a great book though. Like the previous books it relies on the fast pace and action scenes to carry the book and that is simply not enough for a really satisfying read. Maybe he overshot zooming out from the city of Cernaria, which is pretty much the focus of the entire first book, a bit as well. If it had not been for Orbit's unusual marketing strategy, I suspect this trilogy would not have received quite the attention it did last year. It's not bad for a d├ębut but I don't think I will rereading this trilogy.

Book Details
Title: Beyond the Shadows
Author: Brent Weeks
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 689
Year: 2009
Language: English
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-84149-742-6
First published: 2008

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