Rosie Thinks: I don't even really know how to start the review for this story. Maybe some history, first: I read it 5 years ago and flew threw the entire trilogy. This book introduced me to the author that has become one of my favourites of all time, and I've just been dying to read it again. Two days ago was the time, and I polished off this not-very-short-at-all epic in two sittings. In an interview, Weeks says "I've dreamed of keeping people up late reading my books since I started my first novel at age thirteen" - and yes, he most definitely has achieved that!
This story starts off with Azoth, a guild rat with one true dream: to be as fearless and powerful as the infamous assassin, Durzo Blint. Blint offers Azoth a way to get out of the abuse, hunger and desperation of the slums, but has to leave his old life, including his two best friends and name, behind. Azoth becomes Kylar Stern, masquerading as a baron and learning the art of poison, weapons and death in secret as Blint's apprentice.
This book, like many epic fantasies, switches POV a lot, with several consistent perspectives and a few random ones. As per usual, I had my favourite (Kylar's) and would get cranky when it switched, but my annoyance never lasted long - each POV was incredibly interesting and uncovered yet another twist in the plot. Weeks doesn't believe in wasted words - the action is fast-paced and no scene or plot point is gone over again and again until it becomes boring. Having read this twice, I could see some of the hints Weeks left throughout the novel, but there was a huge amount that I completely missed.
Weeks truly shined in the plot of this novel. The worldbuilding and characters were fantastic, but the plot took my breath away. The twists were incredible, the plot bouncing back and forth between things you thought you knew that you were actually wrong, but then you were right the first time, but then, no, that's wrong, it's all actually not true -- you get the idea? It was insane and had me hooked to the words on the page and ignoring those annoying real things, like doing work and actually getting some sleep.
The true story, for me, revolved around Durzo and Kylar: their interactions and the betrayals and secrets between them, and how they subtly formed such a strong bond, was just plain incredible. Durzo, though we barely got to see much of his POV, was such a fantastic character. You truly had to read between the lines to understand him. According to him, he's a terrible person without a conscience, who kills without mercy because "life is empty". But slowly, subtly, his actions prove otherwise. He loves Kylar like a son, and will sacrifice everything for those he holds dear. He is irreverent and fiercely smart with a strong moral conscience that he likes to pretend doesn't exist. Kylar, on the other hand, spends the book battling against expectations and trying to find a balance between being Blint's apprentice and his own ideas of right and wrong. His discoveries about himself and his struggles were well-thought-out and real.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite lines from the book: “Dying well is easy, it only takes a moment of courage. It’s living well that I couldn’t do. What’s death compared to that.”