This review will assume that you have already read The Way of Shadows, the first book of the Night Angel trilogy.
Shadow’s Edge starts off very soon after the end of The Way of Shadows, leaving a minute time skip that picks up almost right where the previous book ended. The beginning of Shadow’s Edge feels more like an interlude than part of the actual story; after the grand battle that served as the first books finale things are now extremely calm. Due to all of the crazy shenanigans of his recent life, Kylar more or less says, “Screw it, I’m done,” and tries to go along his way to live a normal life. Anyone reader of fantasy books knows that bad things happen to a character who rejects their destiny, so naturally he gets sucked back into the crazy mess that is enveloping Ceneria and drawing attention from other nations.
This book is definitely layered differently from its predecessor, but some of that is out of necessity. The Way of Shadows saw Kylar start out as a filthy street urchin and work his way up to master assassin. It is not like Brent Weeks needs to do that again; the ending of the last book clearly demonstrated that Kylar is a badass and that fighting him is like trying to fight death itself. The issue is: what to do next with a character like that? Kylar claims to want a peaceful life despite having a lifetime of training and experiences that have been anything but peaceful, and readers know that is not going to happen. Had Kylar wanted to, he probably could have nipped the invasion of his homeland in the bud (or at least made things way easier for his countrymen) if he had stayed and helped the cause. If anything, his exclusion from the initial main events in Shadow’s Edge was just a way to keep the main (overpowered) character out of the way to advance the story and let other characters do things.
Speaking of other characters, the rest of the book’s ensemble was actually pretty entertaining. The other characters were actually more entertaining than Kylar himself at many times throughout the story. Particularly of note is Logan Gyre, who Brent Weeks absolutely destroyed both physically and emotionally as he learns what it takes to survive (and by extension, to be a king) and that he will need to see the world in shades of grey instead of black and white in order to rebuild himself into the man that is needed to lead Ceneria through its darkest hour. The assassin Vi also reappears in Shadow’s Edge and is moved up to the main character status. Her story is not exactly original but the way she is built up was nice and it is always neat to see a secondary character step up into a larger role (when it is well done, which it is in this book).
The events of Shadow’s Edge are also really nifty, especially the Nocta Hemata (The Night of Blood) and the mind-blowing cliffhanger at the end of the story. Overall, Shadow’s Edge was not as strong on the whole as The Way of Shadows. Brent Weeks spent time getting the ball rolling, but it was already rolling from the first book. The ball never needed to stop and take a break; it easily could have just kept going. It also felt like the dynamic on character punishment shifted in this book. The first book saw a lot of characters just killed whereas this one focuses more on characters being punished. It did not feel like a change in theme so much as Weeks just wanting to keep certain characters alive without them getting off scot free. Overall, still a good fantasy read that will leave many readers looking forward to the third and final volume.