The Night Angel Trilogy is a book series I’ve had for years that I re-read every so often, and I’m struck again by Brent Weeks’ genius! The first copy I had was a 3-in-1 hardcover obtained shortly after the completed works were released. I read it several times in the first year I owned it and recommended it to anyone who would listen. Then, as often happens, my copy was lent to a friend and never returned. Ah well, I finally got another copy.
Bonus! The newer version includes an author’s note and two deleted chapters. He talks about how having almost ten years to write the series before publication was actually a luxury, and the deleted chapters are his only regret. He was able to go back, add, delete, and rewrite portions of the story to make the whole of it even better.
The story begins focused on an orphan boy born in the slums wishing for a way out. Growing up under all of the worst depravity that human nature can offer, of course he wants to learn to be kick-ass so that he will never again fear others. The boy becomes an assassin’s apprentice in a world of lies, love, danger and intrigue, and goes through a variety of personal changes – some by the machinations of others, some of his own making. In the meantime, the reader is introduced to several other key characters who also go through metamorphoses of their own. Detailing a realistic growth for characters is yet another challenge for a good writer, and Weeks pulls it off from a number of different perspectives.
Detailed political intrigue crossing several cultures is conducted with finesse, including explanations of the “current” regime based on historical changes. Politics is not my forte, but I recognize its influence in almost every aspect of life. Writing it well is just one more challenge to add to my list. Most of the characters here are brought into play with such detail they are real to the reader even when sometimes their part to play is minor. As the reader, you find yourself deeply involved in the minds and lives of the characters’, occasional conflicting emotions over some of them, and feel the loss of some who die.
I’m guessing Weeks studies history, war craft, and probably sword fighting due to the extensive detail written in some scenes. The depth is such that the “big screen” would be hard-pressed to come close to capturing it, and yet enough is left to the imagination that you’re not left feeling like you’re fighting against imposed imagery. That delicate balance between enough scenic detail yet not so much to overwhelm (and bore) the reader is another potentially daunting challenge for a writer.
We all know including religion, even in fiction, is often dangerous, controversial, and can have a negative impact on the overall story. But, Weeks even adds cultural religious controversy in this story and not in the usual, negative light. Religious beliefs are detailed just like any other aspect of a character’s disposition and just goes to further introduce the reader to who these characters really are by what they think, their connections, desire for connection, and/or lack thereof. To top it off, the different beliefs are offered with a level of respect that I suspect most people in the real world wish for their own beliefs yet rarely able to show for others. The disdain some characters have for beliefs different from their own are clearly that character’s opinion, sometimes met with equal disdain from the other characters. It’s realistic and believable.
The best of all this is the mastery with which Weeks takes the reader on this journey. At no point was I left feeling like I wanted to just strangle a character because they were being so willfully stupid until they finally grow up enough to realize how the world works. I never groaned to myself over something horribly unbelievable or cliche’. I was just swept along for the ride of an entertaining and believable story.
With an eye toward what to do and not do with my own writing, I’m simply overwhelmed by the genius of Weeks’ work. How could anything I write ever compete? Weeks includes seemingly minor details in ordinary scenes that turn out to be clues and important keys in later scenes. In fact, I remember discovering some of those things I missed during the first reading. In reading the series now, it’s hard to even believe all the incredible detail and thought that went into this story! In fact, there’s only one, small, minor thing I see as a mistake, but it’s so minor it’s really not worth detailing. Anyone less anal than I may not even catch it. Even if you do catch the mistake I did, I doubt it will take anything away from the story for you any more than it did for me.
Read it! Get lost in it! Enjoy it!
See if you don’t want to recommend this story far and wide just as I did.