Brief Synopsis: THE WAY OF SHADOWS starts out following a young boy by the name of Azoth and the reader is immediately introduced to the troubled life of guild rats in the slums of the Warrens. Life is hard, and is especially hard for Azoth who takes it upon himself to look after the other guild rats.
Azoth's luck changes when the most accomplished and deadly assassin (wetboy), DurzoBlint, agrees to take Azoth in as his apprentice, providing Azoth with the opportunity to leave his old life behind and learn the trade of hiding in the shadows, all sorts of medicinal poisons, and the art of weaponry and killing. The price to be allowed to be Durzo's apprentice? Killing the corrupt and brutal leader of Azoth's current guild.
Thus begins the compelling transformation of Azoth into Kylar Stern, a killing machine in his own right. He is cleverly placed in with a family so he can learn the art of politics and nobility and further establish his new persona.
On top of following the master and the apprentice through countless training exercises the reader sees a city in turmoil and under siege.
Overall Impressions: THE WAY OF SHADOWS is one of the best recent fantasy books I have read, if not one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. There are many strengths to this engaging book; but, one of the strongest is definitely the characters and their moral/ethical dilemmas. THE WAY OF SHADOWS is an emotional ride of vengeance, mercy, justice, terror, and humor.
While learning the ways of being an accomplished wetboy, Kylar has a continuous dialogue about his purpose and him wondering when his master, Durzo, will actually kill him at a moment's notice. Kylar and Durzo's dialogues are in top form, and masterfully written. They are believable characters, with believable motivations and interests.
The political nature of this book adds a certain element which is only enhanced by the political power of the wetboys, used as tools for the bigger picture. There is so much development throughout the book that it could almost be overwhelming; but, Weeks does a masterful job of stringing the reader along and introducing only as much information as is necessary to further the plot and satisfy the reader without overwhelming the reader with pages and pages of history, lore, and development.
Finally, the book shines in the raw portrayal of an assassin's life, putting the assassins against others and themselves as they struggle to follow the "wetboy code" that is counter intuitive to their moral fiber.
Overall, I would not miss this book if you are a fan of the fantasy genre or like political intrigue and assassin books. I would certainly recommend keeping Brent Weeks on your radar as he has the potential to become one of the next great fantasy writers.