I seriously enjoyed this book and read it in a couple of days. I am pretty picky and hold my epic fantasy up to an extremely bright light. I’m happy to say that Weeks was able to present a compelling story that kept the Aesthetic-Distance just about right, so there were only a few moments wherein my Suspension-of-Disbelief was challenged. Weeks maintained great tone and a mood throughout that kept me in the story. That being said, I’d like to have had a bit more information and, for example, have accompanied Kylar on one or two more pivotal “deader” assignments so as to compare an assassination to a wet-op so that the differences between the two could be made plainer.
His characters were well realized. I could so picture Gary Oldman as Blint; Sigorney Weaver as Momma K; Bradley James (from BBC One “Merlin” fame) as Logan. Strangely enough no one stepped into the Azoth/Kylar role, but that didn’t stop me from picturing him in my imagination. Doll-Girl kinda creeped me out. Not because of the way Weeks presented her, but because just before the school year ended one of my students showed me a pic of Dakota Rose–some sort of Internet personality and the image just sorta stuck in my head. I need to do a memory purge or something.
What an odd place Cenaria City must be to live with its juxtaposition of architectural styles over a foundation of rot and the outwardly hard lines between the nobility and the destitute countered by the supremacy of an underworld over that of respectable government. For the most part, Weeks’ descriptions of his world were excellent. I have to admit however, that there were moments when at some serious juncture of climactic stress, it felt like he was trying to describe too much, like his thoughts were getting ahead of his pen, and he lost me and I had to stop, go back and carefully read what was going on to get it straight. Admittedly that happened only once or twice and the problem could have been completely on my part.
One of my tests wherein I decide if reading the rest of the series or book is a good idea or if abandoning it would be a better one is how well the magic system is explained, realized and implemented. I appreciate a carefully considered magic system. It does not have to be a particularly original system as historic precedent and past-practice make creating one rather difficult, but it MUST be consistent in its rendering! It is truly the bread and butter of well realized fantasy. Whether center stage or as background a poorly rendered magic system makes the rest of the story hard to swallow: bad Aesthetic-Distance and a tenuous Suspension-of-Disbelief.
Weeks’ magic system is simple, expository and adhered too, though it is a little vague in places. For example, I could easily comprehend the Glore Vyrden – Conduit – Absorbency/re-charge model, but was not sure how or why certain magic-classes were more powerful than others. Referred to as “Talent,” magical augmentation is what separates a wetboy from an assassin. By extension, I would imagine it would separate other arts and services into mundane and “Talented” classes as well, but I have yet to encounter this.
Culturally much is left to the reader to figure out as there is a complex sub-culture of wytches, meisters and mages grown up around the system. Weeks supplies a glossary on his website and in the back of my version of the trilogy that helps. His “rules” for artifacts are also a bit murky as well, but as the story around them and conflict concerning them develops in the next couple of books, I’m sure it will clear.
I’m into the second book now, Shadow’s Edge, and things are rolling right along picking up a week after the first book ended. It too promises to be a fun ride.