The perfect killer might have no past, but master assassin Durzo Blint certainly has a long and tragic one. Perfect Shadow is author Brent Weeks’ way of exploring one of the darker points in the life of Durzo Blint, leading up to the events that precede The Way of Shadows. Too long to be considered a short story, this glimpse is explored through a novella that is carried by the storytelling craft of the novels, while walking the very fine line between story and novella. While unable to fully stand on its own (which I wholeheartedly doubt was the intention), Perfect Shadow lends itself to the invested reader who was drawn into more than just the narrative story, but into the setting, landscape, and the characters that created the larger world of the Night Angel Trilogy.
The novella brings together all the great aspects of Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, though necessarily abbreviated and truncated. Compared to the novels, readers might find themselves disappointed, if only because of their desire for more. The story is a very light read, and only whet my appetite for more of this world. While the narrative in Perfect Shadow is set before the events of the novel series, it is no prequel, and should be read as a supplement after finishing the series. It follows the events of the recent past compared to the timeline of the novels, while also giving snapshots of Durzo’s backstory. Falling into the same category is the short story “I, Night Angel,” included at the end of my copy of the book as a pseudo sequel chapter of sorts to the main series. Both fulfill the role of supplements, holding up the craft of the author and begging for further expansion.
The narrative style of Perfect Shadow incorporates short, sharp time jumps as well as in perspective, some of which are almost jarring in their usage. In a mix of first person present and third person past perspective, Weeks acknowledges the experiment into the new narrative style for his characters, which varies from that of his novels. As a reader, the style felt lost within the short novella form, and I imagine it could shine within the context of a longer novel. I don’t think it was allowed to fully showcase its significance within the current style and format, though it did not detract from the story.
The more I read through Perfect Shadow, the more I was reminded of the broad world and its history that the author created for this story. It became so clear in the novels, especially in Shadow’s Edge and Beyond the Shadows (Books 2 and 3 of the Night Angel Trilogy), as the scope of the story broadened from that of a single city, out to the Kingdom of Cenaria, and then the wider world of Midcyru. There is evidently a history of this world and of the characters that fill it, as detailed by the character references, dates, events, wars, and kings mentioned throughout the story, and I imagine we have only begun to scratch the surface through what is in the published novels. The novella only continues to hint that there is far more to the world of Midcyru, and I for one cannot wait for it.
Perfect Shadow was a twofold opportunity for the author, simultaneously exploring ways to tailor a narrative style to fit his characters within the short story format, as well as offering a return to the world of the Night Angel series. Weeks hints that both by returning to explore Durzo’s past and the content of the included short story, there could be more stories within this world yet to be told. We can only hope that as the Lightbringer book series (Weeks’ latest novel series) concluded in 2018, that his creative bent has brought his attention back to Midcyru and the rich world he created. Whether it is following the legacy of the new bearer of the ka’kari, a deeper dive into the history of Acaelus Thorne, or a departure to explore other aspects of this magical world, there is no end to the potential stories that could be crafted by Weeks. Until then, the magic of the novella succeeded in reminding me why the Night Angel Trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series and has placed it back within my To Be Read list. I can only optimistically hope that someday I might reread the series in anticipation of an official return to the legacy of the Night Angel and the world of Midcyru.
Perfect Shadow and the Night Angel Trilogy are written by Brent Weeks, and published by Orbit Books.
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