Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Shadow’s Edge, the second book in Brent Week’s The Night Angel Trilogy, suffers from some problems related to being the middle book of a trilogy. Parts of Shadow’s Edge feel like places we’ve been before or like set-up for the final book. For a completed trilogy, like the Night Angel Trilogy, this is less of a problem because the reader can easily move on to the next book. I enjoyed this book a lot, but it does feel like a lull between the introduction of the The Way of Shadows and the conclusion of Beyond the Shadows.
Kylar Stern has fled Cenaria to live a normal life, renouncing the way of shadows. Kylar has sworn to give up killing in order to live with Elene. Kylar and Elene are pretending to be married, but both wish their pretend arrangement was true. The Godking of Khalidor has recently conquered Cenaria. (Confusingly, the Godking’s ascension to power in Cenaria is repeatedly referred to as a coup. I’m not sure how the assassination of Cenaria’s king timed to coincide with a raid by the Godking’s army can be considered “the sudden, illegal deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment to replace the deposed government with another body,” but, in Cenaria at least, the Godking’s method of taking power is considered to be a coup.) Viridiana Sovari is magically beholden to the Godking and has been ordered to bring Kylar to the Godking, or failing that, kill him. Logan Gyre, the king-who-should be, is trapped in the Hole, the lowest level of Cenaria’s dungeons, with rapers, cannibals, the worst-of-the-worst. Logan struggles to hold onto his honor, sense of self, and belief in the goodness of others in a place where mere survival is the only seemingly attainable goal.
Weeks’ characterization remains top-notch. His characters act believably, often frustratingly so. Characters make decisions that will be aggravating to the reader, but true to who the character is. Kylar and Elene act like a young couple in love for the first time. They are hesitant and silent when they should speak up. They assume things that they should make clear. They both try to be the person they think the other wants them to be. It all feels very believable-even the awkward love scenes. I can’t tell if Weeks makes the love scenes feel awkward on purpose (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt), but doing so gives the reader a feeling of the awkwardness that Kylar and Elene are themselves experiencing.
Kylar takes a backseat in Shadow’s Edge as compared to The Way of Shadows. This is unavoidable because Kylar and The Way of Shadows were the reader’s entry into Weeks’ world. In order to expand within that world, we need to move away from Kylar. More than being a continuation of Kylar’s story, Shadow’s Edge is about the changes experienced and decisions made by several of the trilogies secondary characters and sets the stage for the final volume of the trilogy, Shadow’s Edge.