Brent Week seems to be a new rising star in the phantasy genre and I do not want to deny that he has potential, but there is still quite a gap between him and authors like George R.R.Martin, Robert Jordan or Patrick Rothfuss.
What stands out on the positive side is:
- somewhat new and unusual storyline, even if it is placed in the "usual" medieval environment
- gripping and exciting description of battles and fights. Readers with a taste for blood and gore will get their fill.
- the description of the miserable life of street urchins in the poor part of town at the beginning of the story is quite gripping and probably the best written part of the book.
The list of deficiencies or flaws is a little bit longer unfortunately:
- There are a lot of dead ends in this story. A character enters, gets the attention of the reader and before it is really clear, what role he plays in the major context, he gets killed.
- in general characters lack granularity. Even the main players appear doll like and unconvincing.
- Magic appears often, but mainly to the annoyance of the reader. It is hard to understand, why all this sword fighting and scuffling is needed, if a little bit of magic does the trick.
- logic is not a strong feature of this story. Very often the main players seem to forget, what they said or intended to do a couple of minutes ago.
- The author seems to have a problem with women. Most of them are whores or angels, but the whores seem to be the more intelligent ones. Positive attributes of women seem to be limited to great cleavage and shapely body.
- the authors likes to wallow in gruesome details of rape and torture. While the prose is plain in general, it gets quite fanciful and detailed in the description of violence.
The story itself starts promising and is packed with action, at least as far as the body count is concerned. Azoth, an orphan trying to survive in the slums, is hero worshipping Durzo Blint, the best professional contract killer around. He wants to become like him, not ever having fear again, but being feared by everybody. After some difficulties, Durzo finally agrees to take Azoth as his apprentice to train him in the art of killing.
Unfortunately we will never find out, what all the killing is about. This is a little bit symptomatic for the story. If you love an action packed book, placed into a medieval scenery with a lot of blood and gore and some sex, this is the book for you. If you look for enchanting prose with a complex and intricate storyline and colorful characters, you might get disappointed, when reading this book.