Epic fantasy, master assassins, intrigue and politics, the underworld, magic, prophesies and in the background a love story. I loved it - way more than anything I have read for a while. But I don't read a huge amount of fantasy...so my viewpoint is coming from that of someone who mainly reads PNR and urban fantasy. This is the first 5* I have rated a book with in some time though. I can't pinpoint exactly what I loved so much, I think perhaps the overall cleverly woven plotlines and Weeks' skill at storytelling.
Considering I went into this book not really knowing what to expect there are many, many things I love.
There are some great characters, very engaging writing, wonderful flowing plot with lots of action, intrigue, deception, murder, love and political machinations. There is also cunning and powerful magic (although we don't know a HUGE amount about it until later into the book - I think this might be purposely being delayed for later parts of the story-line, so I hope when we finally get to see some properly executed magic it will be awesome!); legends of magical artefacts; and lots of twists and turns to the plot.
I love Durzo and Azoth's characters and although Logan wasn't particularly well fleshed out, he is a fave of mine too. Durzo's character is the stereotypical gruff expert assassin with a heart, although he tries very well to hide it and he has a suitably tortured past, mainly through his own decisions, and we don't know a huge amount about his past until much later into the book, but I guess that adds to the intrigue. I also really like Momma K's character but unfortunately we haven't seen as much of her as I would have liked.
There are a load of interesting secondary characters as well, which all weave into the whole, such as Jarl and Vi and I hope we see more of them in the rest of the trilogy - perhaps because there are so many secondary characters, they suffer from the fact that none have that much depth. The world, whilst set in mainly one Kingdom is interesting and you get glimpses of other areas too, which I think we will hear more about later in the trilogy. Although you mainly hear from Azoth's POV in this book, you get to see from a great many characters' viewpoints too and it is never confusing as to who you are in the mind of...although I do sometimes wish the action would flash back to the main story during some of these secondary viewpoints, not because they are boring, but just because sometimes the main action is left on a cliffhanger (however, everything is in there for a reason and is needed for the whole plot to weave together).
We also have the gruesome, with Weeks' depiction of life as a gutter rat at the beginning and what Azoth and his friends went through in the guild at the hands of 'rat' but it is all told for a purpose, to set the scene for everyones actions to come. On the other hand, there is also a love story, all be it somewhat of a sideline, but it does influence actions throughout. Unfortunately I have to say that I am not enamoured of Doll Girl though, which is disappointing...she isn't particularly well fleshed out, but really I feel slightly cheated that I don't know her better when she appears to be central to Azoth's choices through the story. From what I can tell Elene appears to be a very 'good' and frankly quite boring girl - although now that I am nearly at the end you do see some spirit in her.
I really am enjoying this a lot though and cannot put it down. At 60% into the book I got to a point where I felt like the story was about to go down a route I hadn't expected, or maybe hadn't wished it to, and I love the story so much that I almost cannot carry on as I am worried what they will do to all my favourite characters! But I daren't stop, or I know what I am like and I might not pick it up again...I think I need to trust in the author to tell the story how it needs to be told...lets hope I'm not disappointed.
PS: I hate the term 'wetboy' for super duper magic assassins! But in fairness it is probably my only major gripe with the book...every time I read the word it irritated me as it made Durzo Blint go from being this awesome assassin with all sorts of tricks and magic at his fingertips, who could break in anywhere, who could blend with shadows and feared nothing...to sounding a bit silly when called a 'wetboy'! I think Weeks should have used another term IMO...
Update: I'm now about 90% of the way in, I had to put it down last night though as it was getting really late! So I am dying to finish it today. There is excitement, terror and heartache, a spectacular culmination to an underhand plot that has been building in the background, some great and tragic fight scenes and all the plotlines are being brought together...I get the feeling it is going to build to an awesome ending! I hope so!
Just to note that there are some definite tragic and awful moments towards the end, and whilst I desperately wished that some of the things hadn't happened, I feel the story is the better for them so I think they needed to be in there to make it as good as it is.
Update: well I have just finished The Way of Shadows, the first in the Night Angel Trilogy, and I am really impressed. Whilst I wasn't thrilled with the dialogue in the very last part of the Epilogue, it was a pretty cool ending up until this point. Each of the main characters and plotlines comes to a form of conclusion that is satisfactory, whilst setting up the journeys for our main characters to develop into the next installment. We have some real badass magic finally being used and a final showdown fight scene...all finished up with a bit of a twist at the end. I really can't wait to read the next installment in the Trilogy, Shadow's Edge.