Night Angel #3: Beyond the Shadows

Beyond the Shadows Book Cover Beyond the Shadows
Night Angel
Brent Weeks
Fantasy
Orbit
December 1, 2008
Paperback
689

Logan Gyre is king of Cenaria, a country under siege, with a threadbare army and little hope. He has one chance — a desperate gamble, but one that could destroy his kingdom.

In the north, the new Godking has a plan. If it comes to fruition, no one will have the power to stop him.

Kylar Stern has no choice. To save his friends-and perhaps his enemies-he must accomplish the impossible: assassinate a goddess.

 

Note: This review will assume you have already read The Way of the Shadows and Shadow’s Edge, the first two books of the Night Angel trilogy.

Beyond the Shadows is somewhat lacking in the strong start that kicked off the Night Angel trilogy. It may be something of a stretch to say that the third and final book is bad, but the series definitely wanes as readers get further along. The Way of the Shadows was good because it was dark and edgy. The characters were mostly individuals who were from the dregs of society or people who ended up there due to the war and political scheming. Characters were killed off semi-regularly in a fairly large number, giving the sense that no one was really safe, as Kylar slowly learned to become a badass like Durzo. This went downhill a bit in Shadow’s Edge as Kylar had to sit on the sidelines for half the book so other characters could actually do things, but the other characters were interesting enough to keep that going.

By the end of book two, things are set up so that the story could have ended up being very strong or very weak. Unfortunately, it landed more on the “very weak” end of that spectrum. One thing that seems to be bad, although some readers may actually enjoy this aspect, is Brent Weeks’ aspect of “fill in the blank” storytelling. Skipping around a bit is fine in some instances, like when a character is just riding a horse or a boat to get from Point A to Point B. But there are portions throughout the trilogy where a character will be doing something, some kind of nigh impossible “you need to be Superman to pull this off” task, and readers do not actually see it. It can be neat to fill in the blank yourself and be asserted that the characters are badass enough to pull these things off, but this frequent lack of content made it feel like Brent Weeks either did not know what to do or was forced to trim the books down to a certain page limit.

The magic system was also somewhat irksome in Beyond the Shadows. Our first book made magic feel like it was mostly a subtle thing that was fairly difficult to do well. That sense ebbed away a fair bit in Shadow’s Edge and the finale Brent Weeks more or less threw that out the window. By the end of the massive fight scenes towards the end of this book, if you do not have either magic and/or the plot armor given to main characters your name is “cannon fodder”. This diminished the value of many non-magical characters and there are multiple sequences where the rules of magic are outright broken because none of the characters seem to have a full grasp on how magic works.

Lastly, of course, is the ending. Not every character survives to the end of Night Angel trilogy, but almost everyone that does ends up with a happy ending. It seemed…bad. Plain and simple, it was just bad. The Way of the Shadows had such a hook to draw readers in because it was dark and gritty and characters could just die. In Beyond the Shadows, main characters seem to constantly cheat death for no other reason than they are main characters. And by the end, everything just happens to work out for almost everyone and there is basically world peace among all the countries that were forced to unite in the face of this massive threat. If you are a fantasy lover and need something to read the Night Angel trilogy is worth your time but it may not be worth putting at the top of your To-Read list.

June 12, 2016

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