November 2008, Orbit Books
Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy continues in Shadows Edge, with Kylar attempting to reject who he is and what he is. Although the first installment (The Way of Shadows) had some closure, hints were left that Kylar’s story was far from over. Weeks plays on those hints, and continues to explore many of the themes he ignited in the first volume.
Beware of possible spoilers for the first in the trilogy because it is quite difficult to discuss the second with out revealing some elements of the first.
Kylar’s life was pretty much settled at the end of The Way of Shadows, or so he thought. His life of killing behind him, he is settling down with his love Elene and his master’s daughter Uly. At first, I got the sense that this was a cobbled together family for Kylar, but I soon realized that was just the effect Weeks was attempting to convey. As time passed for Kylar, he found it more difficult to completely cut himself of from his former ways. He would hop along rooftops at night just to keep his skills intact (which at times reminded me of Batman or Spider-Man), but he inevitably came across people in trouble. He can’t help but save the day, his persona as the Night Angel can’t be shunned forever.
In his attempt to further shed the skin of killer, Kylar sells the sword that is his symbol as the Night Angel after much deliberation (and encouragement) from Elene. Of course, as soon as Kylar gives up this last symbolic element of his past is when his past comes back looking for some help. It turns out events he thought to have transpired in The Way of Shadows turned out differently.
Much of Shadow’s Edge concerns itself with Kylar's identity - finding who he really is after he thought he got what he wanted. He yearns for a life of normalcy with Elene, the woman he loves. He hates the killer/assassin aspect of himself but can’t fight it either. His conflict spills over quite a bit of the novel and he vacillates between fighting his instincts and being the good man he thinks Elene wants. Of course, Elene doesn’t help matters. Their relationship was a frustrating aspect of the novel only in that Elene came across as a two-dimensional nag for a good portion of the novel. She and Kylar shared the same bed, but never really in the carnal sense. Their thoughts about consummating their love for each other was often at odds. Elene wanted to wait until they were married, but when she was finally ready to share the experience with Kylar, he felt unworthy of it and went on one of his nightly patrols.
When Kylar’s past comes knocking, though in the form of his old friend Jarl, Kylar doesn’t immediately jump at the opportunity to leave his life of peace. Here again, Weeks shows the conflict Kylar is experience between who and what he thinks he should be and what he actually is. Weeks comes just short of brow-beating us with some of these expository scenes. Momma K. comes back into the fold and it is a welcome return throughout the novel. Wetboys, who were on the periphery in the first volume, also play a more prominent role here.
So how does Shadows Edge fare as the second book of a trilogy? The story in it can be seen as another episode of Kylar’s life, but it also serves to propel the greater story arc of the trilogy. One might be able to pick up this one without having read the first, but it really works better as the second installment of the trilogy. Weeks’ story is still as compelling, Kylar is still an interesting a character and I thought the tonal shift from becoming something in the first installment to questioning who he’s become was natural and played out well. The only criticism I can level at Shadows Edge is Elene – as I said, she comes across as more of set dressing – and annoying set dressing at that – than a fully realized character in her own. That criticism aside, though, I enjoyed the novel and was compelled to stay up later than normal to finish reading the book. Weeks is continuing to tell a thoroughly entertaining tale in the Night Angel Trilogy. Bring on Beyond the Shadows!
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford
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