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Mistakes that Shatter the Illusion

The trick to fantastic storytelling is to let the characters make mistakes that are meaningful and significant to the arc, not merely stupidity elements to advance the plot.  The latter shatters the illusion.

It’s like when Zorro fell off Toronado in the first Antonio Banderas version.  Or when the Batcave was so easily destroyed by Jim Carrey’s Enigma.  Or was it Penguin?  I can’t remember (I blocked it from my memory.)  Or Lord help me, when Scarlett turned her back on Tara IMMEDIATELY in that horrible sequel to Gone With the Wind.  It’s those moments that make you scratch your head and roll your eyes.  No one with true understanding of the character would ever allow that to happen.  Right?  Surely Batman would have had SOME security on the Batcave!  RIGHT?

What does this have to do with the Night Angels trilogy I devoured this week?

I finished up book 3 tonight and in my most humble opinion, it was the weakest of the trilogy.  Instead of finishing at a crashing crescendo, it shattered the illusion.  Kylar did something really dumb and it bugged the hell out of me.  His great weapon/gift, the black ka’kari that made him the immortal Night Angel, failed him.  Or he failed it, I’m not sure.  Surely this incredibly powerful artifact that enabled the previous Night Angel to live nearly 700 years would have a few security alarms in it.  Surely the great wetboy I’ve come to admire after well over 1000 pages would notice if someone stole his SWORD?  (while he was wearing it, no less) And replaced it with a fake?  And by the way, his sword was another incredibly powerful artifact. 

It had to happen for the plot, but it shattered the awe-inspiring illusion the story had carried up to that point.  Until then, I would have said this trilogy ranked as one of my all-time favorite reads.  After that stupidity element, the magic was broken for me.  I finished the book and was pleased, but it wasn’t the same.  The veil had been pulled aside, ever so briefly, and I couldn’t forget.

I know.  I’m not a very forgiving reader.  I can’t help it.  Except for this one thing, it was a fantastic series.  Thereafter, a few other tricks/surprises were stretched too thinly.  Because my trust in the illusion had already been shaken?  Very likely.  The surprises just didn’t have that same oomph.  They weren’t as well supported and hinted at, more like TADAH! moments that I didn’t quite buy.

Still, a great trilogy.  I would definitely read more by this author.  But I ended the trilogy not as emotionally invested in the end as I hoped.  Guy Gavriel Kay’s Finovar Tapestry’s final book had me SOBBING.  I read that book at least a decade ago and still love it.  Just thinking about it can make me tear up, my heart aching with all the wonder and magic, agony and suffering, love and victory.  

Beyond the Shadows left me muttering if only…if only… if only.

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Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks

Beware, I have entered the Reading Twilight Zone.  I will not come out until I’m finished.  Hence, the perils of letting myself read when I’m supposed to be writing.

I finished book 2 of the Night Angels trilogy last night and it was as good as the first book.  Third book is well underway already this morning.

I’ve always loved assassins (e.g. Gregar), and Kylar doesn’t disappoint.  In this world, assassins are something to be sneered at, and he’s much, much more than even the standard “killer for hire,” aka wetboy.  He struggles, he dies, only to return to life, and only now has he learned the cost of those lives.  The characters aren’t strictly white or black, but a blend of mistakes, honor, morals, beliefs, and confusion.  People die (although this isn’t as bad as a George R.R. Martin wedding, snicker), and there’s a cost for everything.

I think the third book is suffering just a bit because of the demise of the Godking at the end of book 2.  There’s more inter-character conflict than any single antagonist to fight, and characters are trying to work out some of their mistakes.  It’s still good, just not as bam slam thank you ma’am action and surprises as the first two books.  The surprises were excellent.  I mean, when a character isn’t afraid to die, the surprises have to be intense.  Now, Kylar knows the cost he has to pay if he dies and comes back, and now, he’s going to have to face that fear.

I should finish book 3 today and I’ll post my final thoughts.

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The Best Read of 2009

As for reading pleasure, 2009 is starting off with a bang.  I just finished The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.  Note the time of this post.  No, I don’t have the day off tomorrow.  So I’ll be dragging myself up in a matter of hours for the Evil Day Job, but it was totally worth it.

The dang book was so good I had to read the bit of book 2 at the end even though it’s so late.

I’m too tired to wax poetic about the book’s qualities.  The book is dark.  It opens with children suffering, abusing each other in dismal poverty.  But Azoth took my heart and wouldn’t let me stop reading, and Logan, Jarl, Elene, Uly, Mamma K, and yes, even Master Durzo Blint, took another piece of me.  Azoth’s training as a wetboy was engrossing.  No blow was spared.  Even the terrifying Godking is an incredibly interesting character.

So if this is a sign of all the great stories I’ll be reading in 2009, my giddy reader’s heart shouts bring it on!  Book 2 in this series is next, and I have Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl winging its way to me, too.

Meanwhile, my writer’s heart is feeling rather guilty because all I finished today was a single chapter in the Mayan story.  But I did touch it, and I made some hard cuts.  I need to focus the story better and concentrate on the original concept that’s more unique than what seems to have become rather run of the mill. 

Now it’s an Advil for my eyestrain headache, and off to bed, with visions of lots of hot coffee in the morning while I plug away on my big project at work and steal lustful looks of longing at my stack of books and my waiting story.