Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

I've been reading some really good books from the fantasy genre lately.  The whole fantasy genre- epic, urban, dark, and more- is my absolute favorite genre to read.  Over the years I've read hundreds of fantasy books: the original Dragonlance Trilogy (which I reread every 10 years or so) as well as many others by Weiss/Hickman, Shannara, Drizz't (I'm going to see R.A. Salvatore in September at a local book store!!!!), and so many others.

Back in the winter I had gotten a gift card to Amazon and decided to buy some books with it (now that I know more about Amazon's book selling policy, this may be changing...but that rant is another day/post).  I was looking under the 'Epic Fantasy' section for something new, something that I'd never heard of that sounded like it would be awesome...

Enter The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks and the main character Azoth...

Who could resist a trilogy about a nobody, a guild rat, wanting to become an assassin?  When I played Dungeons and Dragons (and I played a lot) I was almost always an assassin.

The first book, The Way of Shadows, is about Azoth's horrific upbringing, to meeting Durzo Blint and into the beginning of his training as a wetboy. The book describes the difference between a wetboy and an assassin: an assassin has a target, and might fail.  A wetboy had deaders and never failed.  Azoth, who is now known as Kylar Stern, makes it through his apprenticeship with Durzo and learns some interesting twists along the way (I'm leaving this vague to avoid spoilers).  Kylar ends up in the middle of the politics of the city and into a huge coup/ coup attempt (no spoiler here!) by the Godking, the evil ruler.  The main twist, though, is something Kylar finds out about Durzo, and his many, many pasts, that Kylar inherits from him.

The second book, Shadow's Edge, begins with Kylar with a love interest and an adopted daughter of sorts (part of the twists from book one), running an honest business in a safe city.  But, his safe life goes downhill from there.  Things happen that cause Kylar to end up him chasing an assassin back to his home city, back to his old life.  It also leads to the beginnings of a continental war.  But I'll stop there...no spoilers again.

The third book, Beyond the Shadows, continues the war of countries.  Kylar has helped to plant the new king of his country, which is under attack and very, very vulnerable.  It's up to Kylar to take out a goddess to help right things, and to help his country, Cenaria.  In the background of Kylar's journey is the wars that are raging, and not always going so well for Cenaria.

So, I know those are vague outlines, but I didn't want to spoil anything.  The trilogy has so many twists and turns, and interesting twists and turns, that I had trouble putting the books down to get to sleep.  There is a ton of action- both one on one battles and all out wars- that Brent Weeks weaves so well.  It's not all action, though.  But, Weeks is an excellent wordsmith and keeps you interested through the political intrigue, training and traveling of all the characters in the series.  I love how Weeks is able to smoothly transition from one story plot to the next and throw in twists along the way.

One thing that might keep you from reading this series is the graphic nature of the books.  Now, if you've read fantasy books (or horror, sci-fi, etc...) you might be thinking, 'I can handle it!' but I'm not talking about fighting violence.  The book goes into some details involving the darker aspects of Kylar's childhood and the childhood of many of the young guild rats.  The book discusses how they are taken by older kids and raped.  The book also gets into the rape of women by the Godking and others in the books.  He does talk about this in an interview at the end of the first book.  He goes into detail about why he put in the dark and gritty, as he called it, in his books (the children being molested is basically just in the beginning parts of the first book).

Overall, I really loved The Night Angel trilogy and I'd highly recommend it to any fan of the fantasy genre.  Now I just have to finish the books on my 'to read' list and get to his next trilogy :)

Have you read The Night Angel Trilogy?  Or any other books by Brent Weeks?  What did you think?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Writer's (Un)Retreat!

I've been wanting to go away to write.  I checked cabins at state parks here in PA, but I'd have to rent for the whole week and it was more than I wanted to spend.  I toyed with the idea of tent camping, which I've done in the past for 4-6 day long hiking trips, but not what I want for writing.

Then, I found the Highlights Foundation UnWorkshop.  Why the 'Un'?  Well, there are no classes, seminars or any sort of structure what so ever.  This is just perfect for what I want.  The only problem was wondering what the cost was.  What I read about first made me think 'No way, too much'.  Here's what you get.  You get to choose any dates you want to stay during a 10 day period.  A modern cabin with all the modern conveniences (electric, heat, stove, bed, desk, kitchen, coffee pot, full bathroom, etc) to yourself.  I read someones review of their stay last summer (with pics) and it looked awesome!  They also cook 3 meals a day for you, you get use of the main building that has wifi, extra computers and printers.  They also mention that an editor may stop in as well.  You can eat with others or by yourself.  The meals are included in the cost.  Get the picture?  I'm figuring it's a lot per night.  But, it's not!  You get all that for $99 a night!

I signed up for 4 days/ three nights the week before school starts.  My main focus is going to be working on a fantasy novel I started in the late winter/ early spring (I forget exactly when).  The Highlights Foundation has these Unworkshops in August, October, November and December.  You'd have to check their site for the exact dates.  

If you're looking for more structure, they do have many other retreats available for a variety of topics.

Have you ever gone on a Writer's Retreat?  How was it?