Quick Reads: The Way Of Shadows ch. 1 – 3

The-Way-of-Shadows

Let it not be said that I don’t try to be educational on this blog. Last year we all learned about the way of kings together (until we got bored), and now here comes Brent Weeks to tell us about the way of shadows with the first book in his Night Angel trilogy.

After Wheel Of Time this is easily the most-requested book among y’all. I initially refused to cover it because I tried reading it a while ago and barely got past the first chapter, but with the new Quick Reads format anything is possible. Your imagination is the only limit, unless you’re imagining me reading more Brandon Sanderson, in which case that’s the limit.

Before we get started, let’s talk about that cover. Around the time this book came out I noticed a trend of fantasy novel covers involving badly photoshopped models in black cloaks. I’m not going to say The Way Of Shadows started it, but it was the first example I noticed and still easily the worst.

You know that old adage about not judging a book by its cover? Here’s a secret: that’s bullshit, people do in fact judge books by their covers. Publishers, put in a bit more effort instead of just getting a photo of a guy in a cheap ninja costume and sticking purple fog effects over him. And stop using that font that makes your book cover look like an ad for a country-music themed steakhouse. You know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, that one.

Anyway, the book opens with a somewhat baffling page that seems to be a brief excerpt from later in the story, followed by a blurb from someone named Dave Duncan praising the book. I’m not entirely sure why this is here. Maybe it was meant to be on the back cover and my version put it at the front for some reason.

MAP-WOS

A fantasy map! God, I love a good fantasy map. I could write an entire blog post on this one.

This is sort of a mashup of classic elements and newer trends. On the old school side we’ve got locations with names like Khalidor and Lodricar and The Dragon’s Teeth and The Summer Isles that sound like they were taken from World of Warcraft, and there’s your standard not-Japan poking in from the left over there as per usual. There’s even a maelstrom, because all fantasy worlds need a maelstrom.

But keeping up with modern fantasy tropes we’ve also got some steppes off to the east (an oddly large number of recent fantasy settings have prominent steppes in them for some reason) and the intriguingly-named X!zassu.

Also, there is a place called Skone. I badly want the characters to go to Skone.

Like nearly all fantasy maps, this feels like a haphazard jumble of vaguely-reskinned real-world locations mixed in with singlular geographic features (A Big Mountain, A Desert, The Steppes, The Cold Place, A River). It’s good to know that no matter how much changes in this crazy world of ours, some things stay the same. You can count on epic fantasy authors to still be filling their maps with volcanoes and oceans named after colours until the sun collapses.

Chapter 1

Are you excited? I’m excited.

Azoth squatted in the alley, cold mud squishing through his bare toes.

I gather from context that Azoth is our protagonist (or at least a protagonist) and not some sort of demon. He’s currently scrounging for coins in a poor district of a large city, similar to our old buddy Kvothe.

Can you guess what the district is called? Yes, it’s called The Warrens. Now we just need a location to the north called The Reach and we’ll be made up.

The guild’s bigs were too big and the littles were too scared to squeeze into the suffocating darkness shared with spiders and cockroaches and rats and the wicked half-wild tomcat the owner kept.

A guild, you say? Is it some sort of thieve’s guild? If so, will it behave like an actual criminal organization, or will it be a bunch of dudes in black leather who hang around dingy bars for no apparent reason?

Besides, Rat was collecting guild dues tomorrow, and Azoth didn’t have four coppers. He didn’t even have one, so there wasn’t much choice. Rat wasn’t understanding, and he didn’t know his own strength. Littles had died from his beatings.

The guild has an evil guy named Rat in it. This is perfect. I’m in heaven right now.

Azoth is crawling around under the floor of a tavern when he spots a dude with a sword through the cracks in the floorboards. Then someone else arrives and a Portentious Conversation ensues.

“Why Durzo Blint, you never fail to surprise,” the weight above Azoth said.

Durzo Blint. Durzo Blint. Please tell me this guy is a main character (I’ve forgotten pretty much everything from my last attempt to read this). I desperately want to follow the adventures of a guy who sounds like a brand of weed.

Azoth slowly caught up with what they’d been saying. The lanky man was the wetboy Durzo Blint. A wetboy was like an assassin—in the way a tiger is like a kitten. Among wetboys, Durzo Blint was indisputably the best.

The wetboy. The wetboy, Durzo Blint. Durzo Blint, legendary wetboy.

That phrase brings to mind several potential occupations, but I can assure you “badass assassin” isn’t one of them.

Azoth feels something crawling up his leg and somehow figures out from the weight that it’s a White Wolf Spider, which is super duper poisonous. Going to make a prediction right now: Durzo the Wetboy will fire a crossbow bolt through the floor or shove his sword through it or something and kill the spider.

Durzo and the other dude argue about someone named Vonda, a fight ensues, Durzo kills a bunch of people and the spider escapes alive. Damn, I was really sure about

He was a foot from the opening when something bright flashed in front of his nose. It was so close, it took a moment to come into focus. It was Durzo Blint’s huge sword, and it was stuck through the floor all the way into the mud, barring Azoth’s escape.

Eh, close enough.

I’m starting to remember why I never made it past this point: the writing is Not Good. It’s not egregiously, outrageously awful or anything, but it’s the kind of writing that makes me instantly toss a book aside. Even if the prose itself wasn’t stiff and unremarkable, the events it’s describing are both juvenile (cool awesome assassins with swords!!!11!!) and very rote.

Chapter 2

It’s time to get Gritty as Azoth gets shaken down for guild fees by Rat. Azoth has enough for himself, but he also has to pay for someone named “Doll Girl”.

Is the story trying to do some sort of noir-fantasy mashup? That’s the vibe I’m getting here.

Doll Girl was tiny, with huge eyes, but beneath the grime, her features were as fine and perfect as her namesake’s.

Actually, this is more like noir-parody. This character feels like she should be in a send-up of the kind of story this book is trying to be. Not that her features are “fine and perfect”– is she a future romantic interest for our boy Azoth? The protagonist’s love interest always looks perfect no matter how caked in dirt they are or how impoverished or malnourished they are.

Azoth hated Rat, hated the guild, hated himself.

You’re just going to tell me that? Instead of showing it? Yeah? Well, okay.

Azoth spits in Rat’s face and gets beaten up for his trouble.

“Hey-ho, Jay-Oh,” Azoth said.
“Hey-ho, Azo,” Jarl said, coming to join Azoth and Doll Girl.

Oh my god I hate these characters already

“He wanted me to be one of his girls,” Azoth said.

This really is like Kvothe and his oh-so-gritty life on the streets of Tarbean.

The smells of baking, though less intense this late in the day, covered at least some of the smells of sewage, rotting garbage piled on the banks of the river, and the rancid bite of the urine and brains of the tanneries.

OH SO FUCKING GRITTYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

If Ceuran architecture was all bamboo and rice fiber walls and screens, Cenarian architecture was rougher, heavier, lacking the studied simplicity of Ceuran design. If Alitaeran architecture was all granite and pine, Cenarian architecture was less formidable, lacking the deliberate durability of Alitaeran structures. If Osseini architecture was

Okay hang on, shut up for a second.

This is exactly the kind of world-building I hate, and here’s why: this is the second chapter of the first book in a trilogy. I have no idea where any of these places are, what their culture and histories are like and what it means that their architectural styles exist alongside each other, or if it means anything at all. For all I know Brent Weeks could have just made these names up on the spot.

There’s a time and a place for this sort of thing, and it’s not at the start of your novel when the terms you’re throwing around are totally incomprehensible and meaningless.

The plot abruptly happens when Jarl reveals he’s been saving money for years, and instead of using it for himself he’s going (for some reason) give it to Azoth, who’ll use it to pay for an assassin apprenticeship with Durzo Blint. Which I guess is a thing you can do.

I feel like I probably should be praising this, given all the times I’ve castigated fantasy novels for faffing around and not getting to the point, but the plot is actually moving too quickly. We haven’t been given any reason to care about any of these characters, and Jarl’s motivations for giving Azoth the money are a complete mystery. The book is also falling into a nasty habit of telling and not showing in the worst way possible, having the narration just blurt out Azoth’s feelings.

Chapter 3

IT’S DURZO TIME

I was kind of hoping we wouldn’t actually get POV chapters from Durzo– the guy seems kind of annoying– but here we are. Mr. Blint sneaks into a big house belonging to a guy named General Agon.

The yard was small, and the house not much bigger. It was built on the Ceuran design, with translucent rice paper walls.

Okay so Ceuria or wherever is fantasy Japan, got it.

The wetboy slid into the room, using his Talent to soften the sound of his footsteps on the hardwood floor.

“Wetboy” is annoying me too much. Please suggest alternate names in the comments so I can substitute it, Edema Ruh style.

Durzo’s contract is to assassinate general Agon’s wife so that his client (a prince) can play matchmaker and pair said general off with a rich noblewoman, presumably as part of some sort of zany scheme. At least, I think that’s what’s going on. The way everything is worded is kind of clunky and confusing. For example:

It was a love match. After her murder, Aleine Gunder had planned to offer the general a quick remarriage to a rich noblewoman.

At this stage I don’t know who Aleine Gunder is, as this is the first time the character is being brought up, and since Aleine isn’t a common name I don’t know whether it’s masculine or feminine. As a consequence of this, when first reading this sentence I thought Aleine was the general’s wife and she was somehow going to pair her husband up with another woman after her own murder.

Obviously that makes no sense, but keep in mind this is a fantasy story. I don’t know how this setting works yet. People getting shit done after their death could be a thing for all I know. To add an extra degree of confusion, I looked it up and apparently Aleine is an actual girl’s name in some parts of Europe. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or what.

Durzo figures out that the general married for love rather than ambition, like the prince assumed, and is therefore unlikely to be amicable to the idea of a hasty remarriage. For some reason he decides he needs to clarify this issue before going through with the assassination. I’m not sure why. Is he personally involved with whatever plan the prince has going? Being a professional assassin makes him sound like a strictly contract killer, in which case you wouldn’t even expect him to know the motivations behind his target’s murder.

The wetboy sheathed the knife and stepped into the hall

You don’t have to keep calling him “the wetboy”, just use his name.

“Dammit, man! King Davin’s dying. I’d be surprised if he’s got a week left.”

Whoever had spoken was mostly right. The wetboy had given the king his final dose of poison tonight. By dawn, he would be dead, leaving a throne in contention between one man who was strong and just, and another who was weak and corrupt. The underworld Sa’kagé was not disinterested in the outcome.

The… wait, what? Who just spoke and where are they in relation to Durzo? What’s a Sa’kage?

The voice had come from the receiving room downstairs. The wetboy hurried

STOP CALLING HIM THE WETBOY

The man across from him was Duke Regnus Gyre.

Is that some kind of a name or what

General Agon and Duke Badass O’Coolname have a convenient expository conversation while Durzo considers taking them both out to “end the Nine’s trouble’s”, whatever that means. I thought Durzo was killing Agon’s wife so the prince can pair him up with someone else though, won’t the prince get pissed if Durzo kills Agon as well?

“If we do nothing,” the general said, “Aleine Gunder will become king. He is a weak, foul, and faithless man. The Sa’kagé already owns the Warrens; the king’s patrols won’t even leave the main roads, and you know all the reasons that’s only bound to get worse. The Death Games entrenched the Sa’kagé. Aleine doesn’t have the will or the inclination to oppose the Sa’kagé now, while we can still root them out. So are we deceiving ourselves in thinking that you’d be a better king? Not at all. And the throne is yours by rights.”

Blint almost smiled. The underworld’s lords, the Sa’kagé Nine, agreed with every word—which was why Blint was making sure Regnus Gyre didn’t become king.

There’s your plot setup. It’s a pretty okay premise as far as fantasy politics goes, although I have no particular reason to actually care about any of this yet.

Durzo barely stifled an overpowering urge to throw the daggers.

The suddenness of his rage shook him. What was that about?

It was Regnus. The man reminded him of another king he’d once served. A king worthy of it.

Oh my god this is so clunky. Durzo suddenly feels an overpowering urge to kill Agon and Regnus, then he’s like “Man why did I get angry all of a sudden???” before figuring it out. This isn’t how you write emotions.

There’s some more waffling about politics (Regnus was engaged to Aliene’s current wife before the king broke off the marriage and fobbed her off on the prince instead).

If he plots rebellion, I’ll kill him now, I swear by the Night Angels. I serve only the Sa’kagé now. And myself. Always myself.

Dude he’s already heavily considering it. Kill him just to make sure, even if he has no intention of going through with it. Is there any reason not to?

Eventually Regnus decides he doesn’t want to be responsible for the deaths the coup would bring and declares that he won’t commit to Operation Kill The Total Shit Out Of The King.

The wetboy slid the daggers back into their sheaths, ignoring the twin feelings of relief and despair he felt.

It’s that damned woman. She’s ruined me. She’s ruined everything.

Male protagonists who blame all their problems on women really aren’t endearing to me.

On the way back from his aborted murder-adventure Durzo wanders into an ambush set up by Azoth’s gang. He easily kicks the guild leader’s ass and strolls off, and Azoth follows.

Durzo Blint was everything Azoth wasn’t. He was powerful, dangerous, confident, fearless. He was like a god. He’d looked at the whole guild arrayed against him—even the bigs like Roth and Ja’laliel and Rat—and he’d been amused. Amused! Someday, Azoth swore. He didn’t quite dare even think the whole thought, lest Blint sense his presumption, but his whole body yearned for it. Someday.

This book seems pretty terrible.

The writing’s bad and it’s not drawing me into the characters at all. It’s all tell and no show. Azoth wants to escape poverty and stand up to the bullies! His best friend Jarl gives him four year’s worth of money because… I don’t know, because! Now Durzo is angry because of reasons!

Added to all of that is the fact that Durzo seems like another wish-fulfilment character for nerds to identify with, and God knows we don’t need another one of those.

Next Post ————> 

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50 thoughts on “Quick Reads: The Way Of Shadows ch. 1 – 3

  1. Pingback: Quick Reads: The Way of Shadows ch. 6 – 7 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Pingback: Quick Reads: The Way Of Shadows ch. 4 – 5 | Doing In The Wizard

  3. Lissa

    “If Ceuran architecture was all bamboo and rice fiber walls and screens, Cenarian architecture was rougher, heavier, lacking the studied simplicity of Ceuran design. If Alitaeran architecture was all granite and pine, Cenarian architecture was less formidable, lacking the deliberate durability of Alitaeran structures. If Osseini architecture was”

    What the hell is this. I have no frame of reference for any of this, as the book hasn’t properly introduced the setting yet! This reminds of why I never got past the first few chapters of this book. There’s just too much word salad, and the names are ridiculous (I’ve seen lots of fantasy stories with apostrophes inserted randomly into words, but never with random exclamation marks)

    Reply
  4. Elspeth Grey

    I was going to say that the Summer Isles are literally a thing in Elder Scrolls, but apparently those are the SummerSET Isles, so it’s totally different.

    This seems like it’s headed into flat-out weeabo territory with the heroes basically being ninjas (but white, of course).

    Reply
    1. reveen

      Summer Isles seems more directly lifted from ASOIAF than Elder Scrolls. Same for Shipbreaker Bay.

      Honestly, if you’re going to left from Elder Scrolls, you should lift Morrowind. But generic fantasy authors ain’t gonna do that.

      Reply
  5. annabanana12698

    “Durzo Blint was everything Azoth wasn’t. He was powerful, dangerous, confident, fearless. He was like a god. He’d looked at the whole guild arrayed against him—even the bigs like Roth and Ja’laliel and Rat—and he’d been amused. Amused! Someday, Azoth swore. He didn’t quite dare even think the whole thought, lest Blint sense his presumption, but his whole body yearned for it. Someday.”

    Check out our Heterosexual Protagonist thinking manly heterosexual thoughts about how his whole body yearns for the wetboy.

    Reply
  6. zephyrean

    > I’m not going to say The Way Of Shadows started it, but it was the first example I noticed and still easily the worst.

    This is exactly the style of 99c self-published amazon porn with fewer dinosaurs. The way the notions of worth, luxury and good taste are intertwined, I’d have expected professional publishers to drop the sexy dino style like a hot potato.

    > A fantasy map! God, I love a good fantasy map. I could write an entire blog post on this one.

    I love a good fantasy map, too, but this is terrible. I’ve seen these names a thousand times over. STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT AAAARRRGH. Seriously, generic fantasy names are physically painful.

    > an oddly large number of recent fantasy settings have prominent steppes in them for some reason

    [A] Game of Thrones. (For what it’s worth, mine does, too, but I have an excuse in that I’m ripping off The Flight on the Dragon’s Back, which is a historical novel about Baty.)

    > And stop using that font that makes your book cover look like an ad for a country-music themed steakhouse. You know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, that one.

    No, I don’t, and I’m intrigued now. There are many terrible fonts. Please specify.

    > “It was built on the Ceuran design, with translucent rice paper walls.”

    So much for all that worldbuilding. FFS, houses are built of whatever materials are available and climate-appropriate. You can’t have a Viking longhouse, a Japanese rice paper house, a Provençal castle and a Mongolian yurt side by side.

    Reply
    1. Lissa

      I thought the “!” was for emphasis – “EX! ZASS-SUE!”

      The names on that map don’t sound linguistically related at all, even for places that are geographically close. There’s psuedo-Japanese names( Tenji and Hokkai), the Greek name of an ancient Egyptian deity (Seth), a Mesopotamian deity (Dagon), vaguely Welsh names (Llandarin, Caernar), and some vaguely South Asian-sounding names (Google tells me that “gandu” is Bengali slang for “asshole”) all jumbled together with some generic fantasy place names in English (Castle Stormfast, the Black Waters, the Broken Lands, etc.).

      Some of the names are really derivative – the Summer Islands and Shipbreaker Bay are mentioned in A Song of Ice and Fire. ASOIAF also has a perpetually frozen northern land with abandoned castles, and a great steppe in the east.

      Reply
  7. Archibald van Winkle

    I must say that I have a friend who is in love with these books(has read through the whole trilogy about ten times, now), and I couldn’t get over the cover enough to pick it up. I browsed the bookstore and found the whole collection; each cover looks like a demo for an advertisement involving a graphic-design firm. Not a great start, in my opinion. (As a side-note, I think the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover is horse-shit. If this were true, then all books would have neutral-colored covers with the title just smeared across, a la cheap-brand food products. There is something called first impressions, and it’s a concept studied heavily in social philosophy)

    That map! I wonder what the summits were like where they conducted debates on borderlines. . How would one know when a boundary is crossed? The blades of grass along the border in the open plains are colored differently? I also think that boundaries for political entities tend to follow natural landmarks like rivers or valleys or mountain ranges, whereas this map feels like someone just liked this shape or that. “Goddamn those borders look sexy! I would definitely rule this kingdom. Or that one! Oh, fuck yeah. Let’s give it an erratic border to show it’s special!”

    What’s with the naming? The pseudo-Tolkien naming fantasy authors use gets on my nerves. Tolkien had actual linguistic reasons his names came out sounding that way; since his languages were consistent, and you know, actual languages, the naming all across the board was rooted in something. It didn’t just ‘sound fantastical or cool.’ In this way, Tolkien’s names don’t sound terrible because they all are styled this way and relate to each other LINGUISTICALLY. Brent has names from every corner of the human speech spectrum, so it sounds disjointed and a bit stupid.

    The beginning premise of this book feels a bit like ‘I am going to write a standard coming-of-age-from-nothing-but-oh-wait-I’m-actually-stupidly-archaically-powerful-and-simply-the-bees-knees-at-kicking-ass, but I want to mix it up, so he’ll be a gritty street urchin.’ I am all for this premise, as the bulk of many great classic literature stories (Great Expectations, The Lord of the Flies) involves someone young learning the ways of the world. The problem, however, is fantasy authors usually handle it with the bravado of a wet fart at a funeral. It’s like the author developed as a sheltered kid buried to their nose in books and tabletop-gaming tiles, gaining no actual life experience, and then try to write characters who actually live life. The problem also involves the fact that these white, middle-class American authors skimp on the cursing and depictions of bloodshed and general skullduggery involved in REAL gritty situations because they were brought-up in a conservative household. It’s like a huge paradox. Write gritty without actually writing gritty. It kinda goes along with ‘write what you know, except, you know, the author doesn’t know. And you can’t write a book involving the characters sitting around just being quirky. (Wait, forgot ol’ Uncle Rothfuss.)

    I like to think that this extends to any depiction by the author of any emotion or situation. There is just no other way my mind can see the face-palm inducing handling of emotions that run rampant through genre fiction being considered passable; the explanation that the author has actually NEVER had any experience with ANY of these emotions or situations. Which, to be fair, who has actually experienced a fantasy setting? There are still analogues in life which can be drawn from, though.

    The worldbuilding is atrocious. ‘Don’t just use exposition to describe the world. Find another way. That is too cliché. Ah! I will just disguise this exposition as witty banter! Trope side-stepped!’ *high-fives himself*
    Weak, shoddy work in my opinion.

    Overall, I think this would be a fun read. I personally want to see the furtherance of how ‘gritty and visceral’ this book gets, especially since above mentioned friend harped on and on about how these books are so badass and mature. “Don’t read it if you don’t like grit or action or blood.’
    Shit, son, I read more gritty stuff in Sunday School. Which is ironic, considering the reason these authors are so bland when depicting grit has something to do with the watered-down, conservative outlook on life the pious of America has instilled, drawing upon the very book in which people get turned to pillars of salt just because they felt a bit of longing for their birth city that they were about to abandon forever as it burned, liquefying all her friends and family.

    I see a return to form is in order, Ronan. This read-along was hella-awesome! You served up a healthy slab of the LOLs.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      You really hit the nail on the head with the language stuff. Conlangs and naming conventions that work either take the Tolkien route of functioning like actual languages, or the other is good enough at faking it to where it has the same effect.

      Either way, you don’t get characters from the same cultural and historical background, living in the same place, with names like Ben and Kvothe.

      Reply
      1. Nerem

        I like how Warcraft handled this. It’s more of the latter, where there’s some words in each language that exist, and the rest are handled with a cypher that just makes whatever you type come out in a way that sounds like the pre-made words perfectly.

        Reply
  8. Basheer Ghouse

    The borders on that map are all sorts of fucky. Nevermind normal fantasy issues, but it’s all straight lines or regular curves, then just kinda ends at some point. It’s weird.

    Reply
    1. anomie

      In real life straight-line borders are usually formed either by treaty or are remnants of colonialism, where the occupying power just divided their territory up randomly with no care for any ethnic or linguistic divisions or whatever. It seems pretty unrealistic for the ‘natural’ borders between countries to be straight lines though, like just to have a random straight line not corresponding to any natural feature beyond which suddenly everyone speaks Bweggish and is blue-skinned with orange hair.

      What bothers me most about the map is how busy it is—like, if you have to put that much information in a fantasy map, make the scale bigger so that everything can fit, instead of this massive sea of floating placenames and lines and whatever that just run into one another. It’s just near-impossible to make sense of the Cenaria-Ossein-Waidryn area and the rest is not much better.

      On the plus side, all the rivers flow downhill in a normal manner and display normal branching patterns *cough*Eragon*cough*Redwall*cough**cough*

      Reply
      1. mariethea

        First glance, the border lines looked like train tracks…not good ones, but the idea of rail transportation was exciting for fantasy. But instead they’re astonishingly bad borders. I don’t even know how someone can be so oblivious to what countries look like.

        Reply
  9. Gabriel

    The story itself is a complete retreading of old territory, and the sexual politics are amazingly, mind-bogglingly awful. Every woman with a speaking part in the book is LITERALLY a virgin or a whore, it fails the Bechdel test on the third step (as in, women talk to each other but can’t ever talk about anything except men), and the bad guy keeps a pit of rapists around so he can utter the deathless words….

    “THROW HIM TO THE SODOMITES!”

    Sodomite here to say: fuck you, Brent Weeks. Get the hell out of my house.

    Reply
      1. Gabriel

        Upping the ante on how ~eeevil~ your villain is by making them a rapey homosexual has been done so many times before that here it’s just another instance of Weeks being derivative, but I was long out of patience with that trope by the time Way of Shadows rolled around. It’s insulting, it’s inaccurate, and worse, it’s a cliche — it is lazy fucking storytelling.

        The thing is, I don’t even think that Weeks is intentionally trying to push an anti-gay message. I think if confronted on it, he’d protest that his villains aren’t ~gay~ the way Elton John and Tim Gunn and yours truly are gay (*that* kind of gay is harmless and totally fine), they’re ~indiscriminate sadists~ which… just happens to correlate with being the only people in the book doing gay things. I think he flat-out didn’t notice the unfortunate implications of what he was doing. Or realize that, oh hey, gay people might read my book too.

        It’s obvious why he did it: all these grimdark writers are fighting to one-up each other with how much more BRUTAL and HARDCORE their book is, and the threat of gay rape is the scariest thing he can think of. (I defy you to find me a straight guy who would rather read about a male protagonist being raped than enduring torture that leaves him maimed and crippled for life.) Being murdered, being maimed, losing all that you hold dear — none of that fazes this jaded writer or his jaded readers, but being GAY SEXED? Good god, death would be a mercy!

        Which I have very little sympathy for, because 1) gay sex isn’t inherently shameful and 2) women have been living under (and recovering from) the threat of male sexual violence since forever, so get the fuck over yourselves already.

        Reply
  10. Nerem

    I actually thought this was an Assassin’s Creed novelization when I saw the cover.

    As far as Sa’kage goes, I’m pretty sure that’s just him pasting Japanese together. Not sure what he means with ‘sa’ here, but ‘Kage’ means Shadow.

    Reply
  11. sanderrp

    I actually liked this book way back when it first came out in 2008. I think I went through all three books in, like, a week. I am not proud of any of this.

    IIRC, the first book is standard Hero’s Journey wish fulfillment. Then book two faffs about a bit and escalates, and book three tries to resolve but can’t because the plot has become an indecipherable mess and the characters are completely incoherent at that point.

    So yeah. Good for skewering.

    Reply
  12. redsilkphoenix

    My main problem with ‘wetboy’ is that it’s a leeeeettle too close to the word ‘wetback’, which is a derogatory term for Hispanic/Latino people in the US. And while I can’t say there’s any racefail going on here with that word (haven’t read the book, nor am I of Hispanic descent), it’s still a little too close for comfort, in my opinion. At least not with a LOT more explaining why the term wetboy is being used and not some other word in its place.

    Reply
    1. Basheer Ghouse

      “Wetworks Boy” probably? Someone who performs Wetwork for pay. Possibly trying to play out the etymology in a setting without pseudo-Islamic Arab Sects that resulted in our use of the word Assassin.

      Well, probably actually a kinda meh author desperately trying to find a word for assassin that isn’t assassin in the name of branding. But hey.

      Reply
    2. Signatus

      I’m researching google right now and it seems that it is an slang deffinition of a hitman or a hired assassin. Apparently this is not an official sort of name (not like hitman is a career you can study at universities, though), and based on the small amount of references, might not be much extended.

      A more accepted term is wetwork or wetjob to name an assassination, so there is that.

      Even with its dark connotations, it still sounds ridiculous. I don’t know why Brent Weeks couldn’t have just used the word Assassin and be done with it. Assassin’s Creed was a thing back in the day this was published (I think, too lazy to look it up), but there are absolutely no similarities between the trilogy and the rapidly sinking franchise, and not like Ubisoft can copyright the term assassin anyways.

      Reply
      1. reveen

        I think “Wetboy” is, I dunno, kinda supposed to be gritty fantasy slang that the street urchins and such would use? So like Not-Artful Dodger see’s an assassin and says to Not-Gavroche “Oi, mate! There goes a wetboy!”.

        But it’s specifically supposed to be a specific class of murderer. So I dunno what the fuck. He makes cool sounding fantasy names for everything else like Sa’Kage, but apparently an order of super-cool master assassins doesn’t warrant one?

        Reply
  13. reveen

    I don’t really know how it works. But if it’s up to the writer to spend the money on the cover then they’d probably want to hand the job to some Photoshop monkeys if they’re on a budget. But if it’s the publisher who decides it than that’s bullshit. They’re just screwing their own authors by half-assing the marketing.

    “Wetboy” is annoying me too much. Please suggest alternate names in the comments so I can substitute it, Edema Ruh style.

    Fluffer?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I’m pretty sure in most cases the author has very little to no say in the cover design. Someone I know is getting published through a smaller company next year and they’re going to be given input on the cover design; this was presented to me as a fairly unusual situation.

      Reply
      1. reveen

        In that case, yeah. If a writer get’s saddled with a cover like that then that’s a load of crap. I’d be on the phone yelling at my agent in their shoes.

        Sad part is, you could probably make it look better just by slapping on some photoshop filters. There are lots of those computer generated model covers for self-pub books that could be improved in five seconds too.

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          I’ve heard that agents are just as powerless, and often just as disheartened when a book gets stuck with a bad cover. Which makes sense, since they’re counting on the book’s success almost as much as the author and a bad cover can kill its chances.

          Reply
  14. Pook

    So I was looking at the map–and I don’t claim to an expert on the matter–but I’m pretty certain borders don’t work that way. Also, I can’t imagine someone actually writing “The Island Empire of Seth” and expect to be taken seriously. Really? Seth? That’s the best you could come up with?

    Reply
  15. Signatus

    Well, the cover was precisely what caught my attention, although this cover is way more awesome than that one.

    “I desperately want to follow the adventures of a guy who sounds like a brand of weed.”

    The name is not the worst he has, and he’s still more interesting than our protagonist.

    “The wetboy”

    I am aware that, tecnically, it is an accepted name for assassins but… assassin is way cooler.

    “is she a future romantic interest for our boy Azoth?”

    Yes, and it gets worse. WAAAAY WORSE. If at least she had been a prostitute and had grown something close to a backbone it would have been interesting to read about her, but she is as pure as a snowflake and as annoying and bland as Bella from Twilight. As much as I dislike Rothfuss’ Denna, she makes way more interesting a character than Doll Girl.

    “The protagonist’s love interest always looks perfect no matter how caked in dirt they are or how impoverished or malnourished they are.”

    Worse. It gets even worse than that.

    “This is exactly the kind of world-building I hate”

    He does this a lot, and I don’t recall our characters ever visiting half the places he mentioned. That’s as insubstantial as if I’m writing a book about the life during the Third Reicht and toss in info about the Masai culture and how it compares to the Moais left by the Rappa Nui. Doesn’t make sense, and I don’t really give a damn about places I’ve never heard about, nor will ever be visiting at any point in the story.

    If it suits you better, in my translated copy Durzo was called an executor, instead of a wetboy. I’m unsure whether wetboy has even got translation into my mother tongue.

    Reply
  16. Hal

    I can’t get over how lame the name “wetboy” is or how terrible that introduction is. ‘Wetboys are like assassins, but COOLER and more BADASS.” “Wetboy” is so distractingly terrible I can’t even think of a good name to mock it. Water Sports Enthusiast, maybe?

    Reply

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