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Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks

Posted by travizzt on September 27, 2011

Kylar Stern’s world finally seems “safe”, but the consequences of what he has become may be too much for him to bear.

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks

Beyond the Shadows is the third book in The Night Angel Trilogy. The first book is The Way of Shadows and the second book is Shadow’s Edge. After writing this trilogy, Brent Weeks has gone on to start a new series titled Lightbringer, which includes The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife, due out in the Fall of 2012. He as also written a short story that ties into The Night Angel Trilogy titled “Perfect Shadow”, dealing with a main character in The Night Angel Trilogy. Beyond the Shadows is published by Orbit and released December 2008.

After successfully repelling the Khalidor invaders, Terah Graesin assumes the role of Queen of Cenaria, with the rightful king, Logan Gyre swearing his fealty to his new queen. However, the people of Cenaria seem to want Logan as king, so much so that Kylar Stern decides that he has to do something about the queen. But first he has a job to do for the Wolf, who promised Kylar a new arm if he is able to throw Curoch into Ezra’s Woods to be lost forever. The Khalidor army is in shambles as the news of the Godking’s death travels back to Khalidor. Dorian Ursuul is on his way to Khalidor in order to save Jenine Gyre, Logan’s believed to be dead wife, who he believes he is meant to love. But as the mad scramble for a new Godking occurs, Dorian comes out on top, much to his dismay. Elsewhere, the Vürdmeisters’ who aren’t swearing fealty to the new Godking are planning something that could change the face of the world and it’s up to Kylar Stern to stop that as well.

Criticisms:
1) Rushed Middle. There seemed to be almost too much going on in Beyond the Shadows that the middle of the novel felt rushed. Everything that was going on seemed to happen in the blink of an eye in order to get to the conclusion. It was disappointing to not see Solon reclaim his kingdom, so to speak. It was disappointing to not see more of Dorian’s reign as Godking, mostly in hopes that it could have changed my personal feelings towards him. There were so many things that happened without the reader actually seeing them and enjoying them happening. Almost every subplot felt rushed during the middle. Just having things happen so fast was quite disorienting and awkward. This didn’t allow you to really immerse yourself into the story like you were able to in the previous books. This almost takes you out of the story. What’s worse is that when these things all wrap up, it comes off as sudden and disappointing because of the rushed feeling.
2) Dorian. This is a very personal complaint, but a complaint nonetheless. Dorian is unbearable in Beyond the Shadows. In the previous two novels, Dorian generally felt like an interesting character who seemed to have a lot going for him. He was strangely likable in his personality. Even at the start of Beyond the Shadows, he was likable and felt like he had a purpose. But as the story went on, he does so many things that are out of character and down-right dumb, that you just couldn’t get behind him anymore. It is explained why he ‘turns’, but it never felt right to me. He always came off as this noble, good character and to see him become what he becomes felt like a betrayal. Like I said, this is a more personal issue, but still is an issue. Every time that his scenes came up, I had to fight the urge to skip them altogether. I just couldn’t understand and get behind Dorian’s thinking and hypocritical ways and because of this, he brought down my overall enjoyment of Beyond the Shadows.

Praises:
1) Characters. Once again, the characters are the real stand-outs. Like the first two books, the characters were engaging, interesting, and felt very real. While, almost all the characters were great, there were a few that really stood out. Viridiana, Logan, Jenine, Kylar, and Elene were these stand-outs. Each of these characters went above and beyond what they were meant to do and really enrich the story. Kylar, Logan, and Viridiana have a more direct and noticeable impact, while Elene and Jenine shine in their own way. Elene and Jenine weren’t as noticeable as the other three, but really came off as memorable as them. They may play a more supportive role, but it was just as important. Elene really is Kylar’s conscious and she is everything that Kylar wishes he could be. Without Elene in this book, and in the entire series for that matter, Kylar would have been lacking something crucial. In Beyond the Shadows, Elene has a bigger role and she fits perfectly into it. Unfortunately, to talk about her in great lengths would spoil the novel, but by the end, you do feel like you were glad to know her. Jenine came off as a surprise. You don’t know that much about her and because of that she felt like the wildcard, could she be good or could she a waste? Thankfully she is good. She felt surprisingly developed and interesting for a character who has had very little to say for the past two novels. She’s the sole reason I could bear reading Dorian’s scenes in the novel. The other three; Vi, Logan, and Kylar, really came into their own. Logan feels like a king. He begins to make the hard choices and starts to think outside the box. You actually can see him as a king. Kylar becomes more ‘human’. His struggles with immortality and what it all means really lend a lot of depth to his character and by the end, he seems like a totally new person. Vi, once again, stole the show. I’m going to be honest, I loved Vi. She’s the most complex character in this series and to see her become something more, it brings a tear to your eye. With everything that she goes through, you’re glad to see how far she comes. When it comes down to it, the characters are what makes The Night Angel Trilogy that good, and with Beyond the Shadows, it is no exception.
2) Beginning and Ending. Beyond the Shadows begins strong and ends strong. The beginning immersed you fast and didn’t let you go. While it did lead to a rushed middle, the beginning was an action-packed, fun experience. It threw you into it in such a way that it didn’t come off as awkward or sudden. The ending is no different. It’s just as action-packed and fun as the beginning. Everything is wrapped up nicely and it almost makes up for the rushed middle of the novel. It does make for a satisfying conclusion to The Night Angel Trilogy.
3) Subplots. There are quite a few subplots in Beyond the Shadows that bring more life into the story. While some of these subplots felt rushed, they still were good on their own. In fact, some of these subplots and stories could have been short stories in their own right. They add a whole new level of realism to the world and how things work there. The subplots really just add more depth to an already deep story.

Side Notes:
1) The Hunter. In Ezra’s Woods, there is a creature called “the Hunter”. The reader doesn’t know what this creature could be and is only given certain information about what the Hunter is and the whole myth of Ezra’s Woods. It’s nice that the reader the superstition, but it felt lacking. It turns out to be very important in the novel, but doesn’t feel like it should have. It felt like a form of deus ex machina.
2) Powers. I did like how Kylar seems to finally have some grasp of his abilities with the ka’kari. They are neat and I really did like how it took Kylar this long to really grasp them, and only still really grasping the surface of them.
3) Cover Art. I complained about the previous two covers. They were not that interesting, visually. Beyond the Shadows finally has a good cover. While it looks similar to the previous covers, it does so much more with what is given. This is due mostly to Kylar’s pose. His pose has a lot of personality to it. This is what the other covers were missing, personality. It’s still simplistic, but it works a lot better.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Beyond the Shadows is a good book, but is the weaker novel in The Night Angel Trilogy. The weakness stems from the rushed middle portion of the novel. While the past two books felt more balanced in the three acts, the middle of Beyond the Shadows felt like it was trying to hurry up and end things. It would have been nice to see things happen, but instead we are just given little snippets of what all occurred. It really felt wrong that way. On a personal level, I could not bear Dorian. I did not like what he became while still believing he can do good. I understand why, but it felt like a betrayal. Thankfully, the other characters were still fantastic. Everyone was enjoyable to read, except Dorian. But once again, there were stand-outs and they were the usual bunch. Viridiana, Logan, and Kylar really did carry the story and make it that much better. They grew into great characters and I will miss them. Others, like Elene and Jenine, made this story, and those three characters, that much better. Both of them went beyond what they needed to do and in Jenine’s case, made Dorian’s parts bearable. Beyond the Shadows started strong and ended strong. The beginning tossed you into the action and the ending felt satisfying and nicely wrapped up the series. The subplots that were introduced throughout the story really made the world feel alive, it’s just too bad that most of them were rushed through. All in all, Beyond the Shadows was a good way to end the series, but at the same time didn’t push it far enough. That said, The Night Angel Trilogy is wonderful and it deserves to be read. It’s a great series and now one of my favorite fantasy trilogies of all time. So why haven’t you read it yet?

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