The Way of Shadows
Story by Brent Weeks
Adapted by Ivan Brandon
Art by Andy MacDonald
Review by Mara Wood
“Life is meaningless. Life is empty.”
As Durzo Blint instills these words into his young apprentice, readers are left to fear a world where death lurks around every corner. The Way of Shadows is the first installment of the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. The series follows Azoth (also known as Kyler Stern) as he pulls himself out of his unfortunate upbringing to become the apprentice of Cenaria’s most accomplished assassin, Durzo Blint.
This is certainly no easy task. Azoth learns early on that Durzo is self-centered, dangerous, and unstable. His outlook on life is grim and punitive. His position is to be expected; as an assassin, he lives close to death. No matter how good you are at killing, there is always danger. Durzo takes steps to distance himself from said danger by downplaying life itself. His motto – Life is meaningless. Life is empty. – is more than just words to teach Azoth. It is the code Durzo lives by, the only way he is able to make it from day to day.
Shutting oneself off from the rest of the world comes at a great cost. Durzo’s past haunts him. The pain he feels reminds him daily of the mistake he made letting a woman into his heart. When Azoth forces himself into Durzo’s life, Durzo takes every measure to break Azoth of the love he has for others. Azoth is an orphan with extreme loyalties to his friends. Durzo offers to take Azoth into his field, but he must first kill Rat, the child who threatens Azoth and his friends’ livelihoods. Even before Azoth’s formal training begins, Durzo instructs him on the dangers of hesitation and attachment.
It’s hard to see why Azoth is attracted to Durzo and his way of life. Sure, Azoth’s situation leaves him craving a life where he has power and control. Perhaps Durzo is the only option for gaining said power. Being with Durzo comes with the price of losing everything you have ever loved, a complete abandonment of anything that ever made you happy and human.
A running theme throughout The Way of Shadows is the longtime impact of failure. When Durzo encountered his biggest failure, he became obsessed with avoiding any type of failure. His obsession leaks through to Azoth, who is taught lesson after lesson about what it means to fail. The two constantly battle the fear of failure; Azoth fears his failures would disappoint Durzo, and Durzo fears his failures would reveal him to be more humane than he wants.
The Way of Shadows graphic novel has some great things going for it. In addition to a rich story, the graphic novel boasts incredible black-and-white line work and depth of background. MacDonald really pulls readers into Cenaria’s world with detail. The structure of the panels is clean and easy to follow without being repetitive, making the graphic novel of The Way of Shadows great for fans of the book who have yet to pick up a comic book. Where the graphic novel falls short is in transitions between settings. Often, the setting and situation changes so abruptly that it is hard understanding what is happening. Though it can be a little distracting, it never leaves the reader completely lost. What is really disjointing is the lack of mention of a sequel to the story. Without a volume number or mention of adapting the other books in the trilogy, it’s hard to know if readers of the graphic novel will see an adaptation of the rest of the trilogy.
The Way of Shadows graphic novel is published by Yen Press. It comes in a large, hardcover book with a beautiful dust jacket illustrated by MacDonald.
Definitely a buy for fantasy fans. You probably already own it if you’ve read The Way of Shadows novel.