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.
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.
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.
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
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?”
(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: