Beyond the Shadows: Unfocussed

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy 1: The Way of Shadows, Shadow's EdgeBeyond the Shadows by 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 were not brilliant, I still couldn’t stay away from the final book. In Beyond the Shadows Weeks continues the relentless action we saw in the first two books. After reading Shadow’s Edge, which was a lot better than the first volume, The Way of Shadows, I had hoped the series would continue improving. Unfortunately, Beyond the Shadows is a bit of an unfocussed book, better than the first book but 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 sense of optimism does not last long. Soon it becomes apparent that several parties are trying to relieve the weakened nation of its newfound 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 meantime Dorian, the prophet and disowned son of the late Godking, 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 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.Night Angel (3 Book Series) by Brent Weeks

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Beyond the Shadows, 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’s world. No fewer 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 to 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 finally get him laid in this book. Somehow, with Kylar’s background, his being 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 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 Cenaria, 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. It’s not bad for a début, but I don’t think I will be rereading this trilogy.

FanLit thanks Rob Weber from Val’s Random Comments for contributing this guest review.

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ROB WEBER, a regular guest at FanLit, developed a fantasy and science fiction addiction as well as a worrying Wheel of Time obsession during his college years. While the Wheel of Time has turned, the reading habit that continues to haunt him long after acquiring his BSc in environmental science. Rob keeps a blog at Val’s Random Comments.

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  1. I never really understood the seemingly big following this series had. I barely made it through the first book.
    For me, the tone was all over the place, and the language that Mr. Weeks’ writes with, just didn’t fit. Words like a wet-boys and micro-braids, just made me cringe.

  2. I think the marketing gave the novels a big boost. Thee new novels released with only a month between them, that is not something you see every day. A lot of people liked the fact that they didn’t have to wait for the next book.

  3. I agree. And it was definitely a rush job, at least for the first publishing. Because editing missed some horrendous mistakes. Calling a character the wrong name was the worst of those. It’s been years now, but one time a character was referred to as Peter or Paul instead of the correct name, and there wasn’t even anyone by the name Paul or whatever in the book.

  4. I do not mind quitting a series (or book) that isn’t brilliant. I often quit, in fact. Life’s too short!

  5. @Greg I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if the short time between the release of the books has influenced the editing. Would be interesting to know how the publisher looks back on this.

    @Kat I’m not as bad about it as I used to be but I still am not likely to give up on an author or series after one miss. Besides, you need to read the occasion mediocre book to put things in perspective ;)

  6. I don’t know why I loved this series, but I did. I saw all the flaws while reading, especially in this book where everyone just kinda end up at the “epic final battle” with no explanation as to why. Is there a word that’s even more than convenient?

    At the same time, I forgave these flaws because the action was great, the magic was fun and assassiny, and maybe just because you could essentially substitute any of the peoples for those in the Wheel of Time. :)

  7. @Bryce — I have some series I feel that way about, too.Intellectually I can see the flaws, but I put that aside because they appeal to my sense of fun.

  8. Spot-on review…and comments. I personally have a long-held suspicion that the series’s popularity is in part due to Assassin’s Creed fans being bewitched by that rather misleading cover art…

  9. Rob, kudos for slogging on even though the rewards were not forthcoming. Whoever said the life of a reviewer was always butterflies and rainbows?!?! :)

  10. Bryce, I totally understand that!

  11. @Bryce- I totally get that too.. Sometimes you just connect to a book regardless.

  12. @Bryce: That is the reason why I still read R.E. Feist. I can’t stay away from those even is the last dozen or so were very poor.

    @Tim: you might be on to something there.

    @Jesse: The occasional free book makes up for some of it ;)

  13. Derek /

    Mark me down for not understanding any hype behind this series. Grade A+ to the marketing team behind promoting Weeks’ books as the first book of The Night Angel trilogy got a D from me at best. I don’t like stopping a trilogy but I won’t even attempt the 2nd of the series.

    I don’t stop short — isn’t that a Seinfeld reference? — too often but I can recall doing the same thing with Goodkind and Kirkpatrick.

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