Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks

Beyond the Shadows
Brent Weeks
Night Angel #3

There are various ways you can wrap up a story. First, the mystery buildup. You can scatter just enough hints throughout the story that, at the grand finale, the reader thinks, "oh, I get it now" but not enough that they actually figure it out.

Second, the twist ending. This is basically the same as the mystery buildup except that most of your hints are red herrings, with just a few true clues the reader can look back on later.

Third, the sacrifice.  The main character has to give up something important to save the world (or whatever), and while most other characters may live happily ever after, there's still a question as to whether he or she will.

All of these are, when done well, excellent endings. There are other good ways to end a story (and bad ones too). However, problems arise when you try to combine all of these ways, because it doesn't really work. Especially if instead of leaving clues that are covert at the time but become clearer after the end, your clues are more of the covert-at-the-time-and-still-wtf-at-the-end. When I finished this book I was left going, "huh?" because I still don't know what was up with that thing on Logan's arm or how Khali can be...uh, never mind that one, or how Durzo came back after the ka'kari left him. It seemed like this story was supposed to be more than three books, but then the publisher decided, "Nah, let's just cram the rest of the series into the last 100 pages. That'll be good!" (It was not good.) It didn't help that, at the end of the last book, it wasn't even clear where the series was going, because the person I thought was the main bad guy was already dead. The first half at least of this book wasn't explicit on that account either; I pretty much just had to guess.

A lot of my favorite characters lost most of their interesting traits and became way, way too nice. Kylar, Vi, and Durzo used to be interesting characters until Kylar just decided that meting out justice was totally fine with him, Vi suddenly threw away her entire history to become a "good" maja, and Durzo randomly turned into a loving father figure. And I still don't like Elene, which is part of the problem I had with the ending. Finally, Dorian? What was that supposed to be? Grrr.

I still enjoyed this book, but it definitely didn't live up to the expectations of the first, and to a lesser extent second books in the series. It needed more time or less insanity to make the last hundred pages credible. There were a lot of elements that I had issues with, but I can't say this one didn't resolve the story at least. I was just frustrated with the path to resolution.

Plot: 2 cupcakes
Characters: 2 cupcakes
Style: 3 cupcakes
Overall: 3 cupcakes

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