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"The Night Angel is the spirit of retribution. No one orders me to do anything."
Night Angel: Beyond the Shadows - Brent Weeks
Member Name: CrazyJamie
Night Angel: Beyond the Shadows - Brent Weeks
Date: 26/03/09, updated on 27/03/09 (368 review reads)
Advantages: Develops the same classic writing style as the previous two books
Disadvantages: Nothing that you won't forgive when you've finished the book
Beyond The Shadows by Brent Weeks is the third and final book in the Night Angel Trilogy, following on from The Way Of Shadows and Shadow's Edge. I have reviewed the first two books already, and awarded them five and four stars respectively. If you've read those two reviews, you'll know that the this series stands out as being easy to read, yet action packed with a gritty and compelling plot. Once again I will have to give a few plot aspects away in this review, but as with the previous reviews I will not be revealing spoilers in any way, shape or form. As a trilogy this is one of the best in the fantasy genre that I have ever read, and certainly not an experience that I'm going to spoil for those wanting to pick these books up.
"THAT WAS THE NIGHT ANGEL, PERHAPS THE ONLY MAN IN THE WORLD THAT YOU NEED TO FEAR."
The final book in the trilogy picks up directly from where Shadow's Edge finished. The attempt at rebellion against the Khalidorian rule in Cenaria has been successful, and the Cenarians are left to pick up the pieces. Logan Gyre allows Terah Graesin to assume the throne, but her lust for power threatens to leave Cenaria defenceless against those who would now try to succeed where Khalidor failed.
In the north in Khalidor, civil war has broken out following the death of the Godking. Rival factions will battle for control over the land's most brutal culture and ruthless army. Yet one of these factions attempts to go one step further, and raise a creature so powerful and volatile that it threatens to destroy far more than Khalidor. Conflict is triggered on a vast scale, with huge armies converging to decide the fate of a continent. Kylar is now faced with making sacrifices and impossible choices on a grand scale to save his homeland. Yet success could cost him everything that he has ever loved.
In my previous review I noted that Weeks had expanded the scope of the second book to include new towns and locations. In Beyond The Shadows he continues this trend by including entire lands that have been previously mentioned but never explored in depth. This doesn't just give the final book a sense of progression, but also gives it a sense of scale far above anything that the previous books provided. In expanding beyond simple towns and bringing in new countries, with new cultures and characteristics, Weeks puts something in front of the reader that is new, original and refreshing compared to the first two books. His knack for vivid descriptions is retained, and whilst with the last book I complained that some locations were uninspiring, I have no such complaints to make with this offering. Each new area is original, vibrant and interesting, and really helps to hold the reader's attention through the different lands.
"ASSASSIN'S HAVE TARGETS. WETBOYS HAVE DEADERS. I AM A WETBOY."
One of the standout features of this series is the sheer number of characters in it, and throughout the first two books Weeks had created a cast filled with imagination. In this third book he bucks his own trend and introduces no new major characters. Instead he develops bit part characters into major players within the plot, doing so in a seemless yet effective manner.
He also continues with character development, yet doesn't attempt to flog a dead horse in developing Kylar and Logan (the characters focused on most for development in the second book) beyond what is necessary. Instead he concentrates primarily on the characters of Dorian, the noble mage of Khalidorian descent, and Vi, the female wetboy attempting to escape from her torturous past and find direction in her life. The development of Dorion in particular shows parallels with the way that Logan was dealt with in the first book. Like Logan he endures experiences that challenge his moral fibre in ways that heroes rarely are challenged in books. And as in the second book, this makes reading about his journey all the more gripping for the reader. The development of Vi is not as compelling, but painting it as a substandard aspect of the book would be wrong. Both aspects are superb examples of compelling character development.
For me personally one of the most welcoming yet surprising aspects of this book is just how engaged the reader becomes with the characters. Those meant to be heroic and noble are instantly liked by the reader, whereas villains of all shapes and sizes are despised or feared. No major character in the book makes it through to the end without the reader engaging with them. In practice this means that the reader is always interested in the various story strands and never feels like they are reading about characters that they couldn't care less about. It makes a welcome change, even more so considering the number of characters, and this is a credit to Weeks' ability as a fantasy writer.
The only complaint that I can level at the character development in this book is that the two main villains, Mobaru (the son of the now dead Godking) and Neph Dada (a powerful yet evil mage called a Vurdmeister) are not developed as well as they perhaps could have been. Mobaru in particular suffers as a villain from a lack of development. Ultimately though these count as two relatively small opportunities missed. The source of fear emanating from these villains is more to do with their actions rather than their personality (unlike the Godking in the previous novel, where the fear came from both), and as such they still effectively add to the plot and the book as a whole does not suffer.
"THE NIGHT ANGEL IS THE SPIRIT OF RETRIBUTION. NO ONE ORDERS ME TO DO ANYTHING. YOUR HIGHNESS, NOT EVEN YOU."
The fast moving yet intricately and effectively described action sequences are present and correct in this book as they were in the others, yet in this offering Weeks tries his hand at large scale battles with vast armies. And the results are spectacular. He succeeds in this because he not only describes the action in the same superb detail as in previous books, but also because he gives the armies fighting real personality before doing so. The Sa'Ceurai are noble warriors with unmatched speed and technical skill, and are not unlike samurai. The Krul are dead corpses inhabited by mysterious and evil spirits, who fight on until physically stopped as they feel no pain. And so on. Reading about these armies clashing in large scale battles is a highlight of the entire series, and I couldn't help put feel that if this book were ever to be turned into a movie it would produce battles between armies that would blow the Lord of the Rings movies out of the water. It really is that good.
The conclusion of the plot itself is clever and satisfying. There aren't quite as many plot twists in this book as with the others, but those that do exist invariably surprise the reader and are very well thought out. By the end of the book Weeks has created a vast and impressive world filled with vibrant descriptions, compelling characters, and a rich history. Bringing all of those elements together is no mean feat, but it is pulled off nearly flawlessly. Loose ends are tied up seamlessly, and the ending to the book does not in any way feel rushed or tacked together. It is as epic as it is imaginative, and almost leaves the reader breathless.
All in all, Beyond The Shadows is a fitting end to a classic fantasy trilogy. Weeks writes this novel with the same attractive qualities that he showed in the previous books, and the result is a trilogy that I simply cannot recommend highly enough as a fantasy reading experience. The writing style makes for easy reading. The characters are engaging and interesting. The fight scenes are breathtaking. The plot is gripping and compelling. The world is imaginative and vibrant.
All in all Beyond The Shadows cements the Night Angel trilogy as a fantastic experience. Rarely have I been gripped so hard by a book but moved through it so effortlessly and with such constant interest and enjoyment. It is a compelling read, and one that I would recommend to all who are looking for something new in their fantasy reading.
Summary: Brings the Night Angel Trilogy to a stunning conclusion