Quick Reads: The Way of Shadows ch. 6 – 7

The-Way-of-Shadows

Okay let’s have one more post of Aquaman The Moist And Azoth The Adorable Urchin In Grimdark Land before we move on.

Oh also: trigger warning. Again.

Sigh

Chapter 6

The darkness was as close and cold as the dead’s embrace.

I don’t know how anyone writes sentences like this without immediately deleting them.

Azoth is in an alleyway full of bad cliches, waiting for Aquaman to stroll past so he can jump out and threaten him with a shiv. This isn’t a terribly sound plan, and it goes about as well as you’d expect.

When he rolled over, Aquaman was standing over him. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you,” Aquaman said.

Doll Girl. She wasn’t only the answer to Aquaman’s question, she was Azoth’s weakness. She was where Rat would strike.

So…leave? Get out of the gang and take Doll Girl with you, so Rat can’t possibly see you as a threat? I get that they’d have no support network at all, but surely that’s better than living in the shadow of someone who has basically stated he’s going to kill you and everyone you care about.

You’re the best wetboy in the city, but you’re not the only one. And if you won’t apprentice me and you don’t kill me, I’ll train under Hu Gibbet or Scarred Wrable. I’ll spend my life training just for the moment I have my chance at you. I’ll wait until you think I’ve forgotten today. I’ll wait until you think it was just a dumb guild rat’s threat. After I’m a master, you’ll jump at shadows for a while. But after you jump a dozen times and I’m not there, you won’t jump just once, and that’s when I’ll be there.

I was going to do this joke here where I’d get a clip of that scene from The Simpsons episode where Homer and Ned Flanders go to Vegas, where Homer is like “someday soon the game will begin”, you know the scene I’m talking about. But I couldn’t find one, so just imagine there’s a Youtube embed here and that it’s very funny.

I’m having a hard time getting a read on Azoth. Is this supposed to be empty bluster? Is it meant to indicate that he’s got True Grit underneath the weak exterior? We’ve already seen that the older gang members are starting to follow him and he has the potential to be a Leader Of Men (all fantasy heroes secretly have the potential to be Leaders Of Men), so maybe it’s the latter. If so, I’m just not buying it. Azoth doesn’t have any character depth for hidden badassitude to hide in.

But Azoth didn’t even see them through the tears brimming in his own eyes. He only saw the vacant look that had come into Jarl’s eyes and imagined seeing it in Doll Girl’s. He imagined her screams if Rat came and took her every night.

What in the holy fuck is this? There’s been absolutely zero indication that Rat is planning on raping Doll Girl. If he wanted to strike at Azoth, couldn’t he just kill her?

This bit actually goes on for a while, talking about the hypothetical rape scenario some more, but it does it in such a revolting way that I don’t feel comfortable quoting or even describing it here. This goes beyond grimdark into territory that feels mean-spirited and outright misanthropic. I’m sure there are douche-wagons who champion this shit as LIKE, REAL MAN, but I call it juvenile and tasteless.

“Is your life so empty, boy?”

It will be if you say no. “I want to be like you.”

“No one wants to be like me.”

Shut the fuck up, you stupid wish-fulfillment cliche.

After some talk about how the city is both beautiful and ugly at the same time (no, I don’t know why Aquaman brings it up) he gives Azoth a challenge: kill Rat by himself, within a week, and he’ll take Azoth as an apprentice.

Chapter 7

Who wants to read more about the Gyre family and politics? Well too bad.

A dude named Solon arrives from overseas and goes to meet the recently-departed Lord Gyre.

Many of the houses were less than a decade old. Others were older but had been recently remodeled. The buildings along this one street were qualitatively different from all the rest of Cenarian architecture.

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This isn’t world-building. Having characters wander around scrutinizing the architecture isn’t world building. There are some salient details here, like the difference in wealth between districts and the fact that much of the city was built on the back of cruel slavery; focus on those elements, not how a domed Floopity pleasure-house differs from a terraced Gvethorian duck-farming plantation.

Not good. For the life of him, Solon couldn’t remember if Dorian had said Duke Gyre or Lord Gyre. Solon hadn’t even considered that there might be two heads of House Gyre. If the prophecy was about Duke Gyre,

Oh my god just fucking kill me.

Logan Gyre tore off his helmet and laughed, helping the guard to his feet. Solon’s heart sank. This was Lord Gyre? He was a child in a giant’s body, baby fat still on his face. He couldn’t have been more than fourteen, probably younger.

Wait, what? Last time we saw Logan he was a crying twelve year old, and now he’s all hulked out and sparring with guards twice his age. We obviously didn’t skip ahead at all, because on his way into the house Solon is told that the elder Gyre just left that morning.

I… guess Logan is just this huge badass of a child? He didn’t come across that way at all in his previous appearance though. It seems as if the book is trying to do some sort of surprise switcheroo here, but it just ends up being confusing. I seriously thought that this was a different character, or that we had suddenly jumped forward like six years. It doesn’t help that before he removes his helmet Solon mistakes him for a fully grown man. I know a lot of kids look far older than their age, but this seems like it’s pushing it a bit.

Solon looked at the Ceuran, who gave him a self- satisfied smile. His name is Marcus? Even the names in this country were a mess. With little regard for people’s origins, Alitaeran names like Marcus or Lucienne mixed freely with Lodricari names like Rodo or

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Ceuran names like Hideo or Shizumi

…those are just real Japanese names.

I mean, I know we’ve also seen Logan, Marcus and other real names, so perhaps this shouldn’t be so jarring to me. Maybe it’s just because the names are coming from outside the usual grab-bag of vague Europeland elements books like these are typically stitched together from. Whatever the reason, the effect isn’t to conjure up another fantasy nation that’s Japan with the serial numbers filed off; instead it makes me think that the actual real-life country of Japan exists in this setting.

“I can hold my own, Lord Gyre. But it is words I wish to exchange with you, not blows.” If I go now, my old mare and I can make it to the garrison in six, maybe seven days.

“We will speak then—after we spar. Marcus, get him some practice armor.”

….okay, no, seriously. How is this the same twelve year old boy we saw a few chapters ago? I went back and checked, his name was definitely Logan Gyre. Is this some kind of huge continuity error?

I have no idea what the fuck Brent Weeks was going for with this character, but whatever it was it didn’t work.

Anyway Solon swiftly kicks Logan’s ass, and Logan admits he was being rash and full of himself. Wheee.

“You know they’ve been losing on purpose, don’t you?”

SICK BURN

(No, this doesn’t make Hulk-Logan any less baffling)

And this is where our time with The Way of Shadows ends for the moment, although I feel I can’t in good conscience move on without informing you that the next chapter begins with Rat meeting yet another veiwpoint character, who is apparently a “Vurdmeister”, whatever that is.

This book is terrible. It’s poorly written, the characterisation is thin and inconcistent, it’s full of ham-fisted worldbuilding even though the world isn’t interesting at all, and after seven chapters I don’t think I could possibly care less about these characters.

And all of that is on top of the fact that that the book dives head-first into some of the most repellant “edgy” grimdark bullshit I’ve ever seen.

Avoid this book. Do not read it. I hope it doesn’t win the poll.

On happier news, we’re moving onto something else! I’m going to be very busy until the middle of December so posts may be slow, but there will be lots of blog content. In addition to our Let’s Read material, I’m planning something to go up by the end of the year. It’s going to be a very long and exhaustive dissection (both positive and negative) of a very popular book series that I’ve been meaning to talk about for ages. Please feverishly speculate among yourselves about what it could be, and also take a guess at this cryptic teaser image for the next Quick Read:

2014-USFA-Winter

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21 thoughts on “Quick Reads: The Way of Shadows ch. 6 – 7

  1. braak

    The darkness was as close and cold as the dead’s embrace.

    Wait. Not as cold and dark as DEATH’s embrace — i.e., as close and cold as the state of being dead?

    The darkness was as close and cold as…as what, as a hug from a dead person? Is he making an analogy to being grappled by zombies?

    Isn’t there a person whose job it is to read a book by an author and then take out the weird lines that don’t make any sense? I felt sure that there is a person who had that job.

    Reply
  2. reveen

    The thing about this book is that it’s really weirdly moralizing at parts, or which Logan there is going to be the principle mouthpiece. But it’s not actually going to deconstruct the GRIMDARK shadow warrior shit in an truly meaningful way, and there’s going to be some Christian undertones, with spiced liberally with the gold old madonna-whore complex.

    Honestly, I am kinda rooting for this one. Sorry.

    But hey, if you haven’t played it yet, Undertale is totally the polar opposite of this, so take that as an endorsement for a pallet cleanser.

    Reply
  3. A. Noyd

    I can’t believe I read this whole trilogy at one point. I don’t remember any of it. Especially not how much Weeks was waving around his boner for Japan.

    Why is there a market for this kind of clumsy appropriation by white people, though? If you want a story about fantasy Japan, there’s no shortage of that sort of thing from the country itself, most of which makes its way into English translation in some form or other.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I think people want fantasy Japan, but not a version of fantasy Japan that’s actually, like, foreign and stuff. They don’t want to step outside their comfort zone at all.

      Reply
      1. ronanwills Post author

        I was looking at that in a shop last week. I came very close to buying it, but decided that a game adaptation probably isn’t going to be fantastic.

        If I had more money I’d probably have gotten it just as a collector’s item.

        Reply
  4. Archibald van Winkle

    I seriously wonder what his wife said to him while reading this stuff. I don’t get how another grown adult can give a ‘thumbs-up’ to this. Especially educated adults, which they both are.

    Maybe it is a case of really enjoying the characters or something, so the rest of the trifle is overlooked? Kinda in the same vein as watching DBZ and overlooking the terrible dialogue and shoddy pacing to get to the Super-Saiyans! (This extreme tolerance to shit-writing wore out in me when I turned about 22. It’s the same reason I have a bitch of a time enjoying television or movies; the writing is usually shoddy.)

    I hope it wins, too. So if anyone Googles ‘The Way Of Shadows,” this blog will crop-up and the eyes have a chance of seeing what’s actually up.

    I also want to guess Game Of Thrones coming up. That map is too conveniently divided into Seven King….Areas.

    Reply
    1. Gabriel

      In the closing credits or whatever, I believe Weeks gives a shout-out to his wife for supporting him while he was writing it and believing in him, blah blah blah…

      To which I was BAFFLED, seriously, because this man writes women as if he’s never met one. It baffled me the way it does when Butcher and Bakker mention their wives, because every time I think, What the hell kind of woman would marry a man like that? It is blindingly obvious from their writing that these men’s conception of women is completely divorced from reality, a hodgepodge of the cliches that straight dudes pass around among themselves and straight-up wank fantasies. That they can’t fathom women having an inner life that doesn’t revolve around men and sex, or recognize that women are rational actors, even when their motivations are a mystery to straight men.

      It almost makes you wonder if they’ve ever actually talked with a woman; but since they clearly have, the only conclusion is that they didn’t listen to a thing she had to say. =/

      Reply
      1. reveen

        Wheel of Time was apparently edited by Robert Jordan’s wife, funnily enough. So we’ll be coming back to that same point no matter which of the two wins.

        The thing I don’t understand is how some fantasy writers are still so bloody retrograde. This book came out in 2008, representation of women wasn’t the best back then and it still isn’t, but by then Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kill Bill, or Xena have melded into the pop culture hive mind, so it’s not like women who aren’t props or defined purely by their vaginas isn’t a novel concept to them. Not even mentioning the longer history of female characters in fantasy. Even fucking GRR Martin is better about this. It’s like writers like Brent Weeks and Mark Lawrence exist in some kind of cultural bubble that only male-centric pulp fiction and power-fantasy video games can penetrate.

        Shit, atleast Joe Abercrombie publicly acknowledged his problems writing women and tried to do better. With 90% of grimdark authors there’s hardly an acknowledgment that such a problem could possibly exist.

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          I think it’s just deep-rooted hang-ups about women and women’s sexuality coming to the surface. In genres where the author gets to create the world from scratch or which take place in heightened settings that aren’t meant to come across as entirely realistic (like some types of thriller and crime fiction) male authors can get away with crafting fictional situations that conform to their inner psychology, similar to how so many fantasy authors make settings that just happen to include their personal fetishes.

          Reply
      2. Andrea Harris

        I assure you all the viewpoint in this and most other grimdark was retrograde in the deep, dark primitive 1960s and 70s, when I was a kid. But white male privilege (most grimdark authors are white, middle-class cis heterosexual males) keeps views like this preserves like a dead piglet in formaldehyde.

        Reply
  5. Qwerty

    This right about where I gave up reading this book. The very first chapter is cliche, trite, and cheesy, but entertaining enough to promise an okay quick read. I really need to stop making promises with books that can’t keep it.

    “There are some salient details here, like the difference in wealth between districts and the fact that much of the city was built on the back of cruel slavery; focus on those elements, not how a domed Floopity pleasure-house differs from a terraced Gvethorian duck-farming plantation.”

    Hahahahaha! I would so read a fantasy about duck-farming plantations.

    “How is this the same twelve year old boy we saw a few chapters ago?”

    If this were a better novel, I’d take that to be a sign that it’s an imposter posing as the boy or some such thing like that. But since this isn’t a better novel . . .

    A guess towards the next book: Winterspell or Game of Thrones.

    Reply
    1. Qwerty

      Also . . .

      “Avoid this book. Do not read it. I hope it doesn’t win the poll.”

      I’m sorry, but I hope it does win the poll. This awesomely terrible trainwreck needs to be recorded for the Internet archives.

      Reply
  6. Elspeth Grey

    You say “True Grit” and I just want Mattie Ross to shoot all these guys.

    The name thing sticks out to me too. I think maybe it’s because we as readers know that Marcus and Logan and such come from different linguistic backgrounds and have spread around, so together they just add up to vague “European” setting. Japanese names, though, are ONLY from Japan, so they just equal…Japan itself.

    Reply
  7. anomie

    “Even the names in this country were a mess”

    Ah ha ha do you see he’s lampshading the fantasy trope of two characters from the same village and ethnic background being named Will and Draz’kg’wschygkt, how clever actually I don’t care

    The writing style reminds me of very bad stories I used to write when I was, like, 13. Not the child rape and ~edgy~ stuff, but the utterly cliché phrases and random drops of useless “the army that was charging at us had 24,572 soldiers in it” information

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

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