REVIEW: Night Angel Nemesis by Brent Weeks

Last Updated on February 14, 2024

Night Angel Nemesis is the latest novel from bestselling fantasy author Brent Weeks and marks a return to the world of his debut trilogy. The Night Angel Trilogy of The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge, and Beyond the Shadows was released in 2008 by Orbit, before Grimdark Magazine was even a twinkle in the eye of the Internet. I cannot tell you how much I loved that original trilogy, but by now, my copies of the books are held together with sticky tape and good intentions. I was gleeful at returning to Week’s world with Night Angel Nemesis, the first of The Kylar Chronicles.

 

Night Angel Nemesis

Sometimes, reality can really disappoint with a new release you are most excited about. This was not the case here. Even though Night Angel Nemesis is over eight hundred pages, almost every page holds readers’ attention. The fact that the stories set in Midcyru was billed as The Ka’Kari Codex fills me with the hope that this will become of the great vast series of the fantasy world. If I can have a whole shelf filled with novels from The Ka’Kari Codex, I will be delighted.

 

Night Angel Nemesis begins mere months after the final events of Beyond the Shadows. They are separate narratives, but many of the characters from the first trilogy are still key players in this novel. However, given that there is well over a decade between their publications, I think Night Angel Nemesis could only be enjoyed by having read (or carried out a recent reread) of the earlier novels. While not essential, it would vastly increase your understanding of the world and the characters. There are some characters in Night Angel Nemesis that only play a relatively small part in this novel but were much more critical in the original trilogy. In terms of the main characters, Kylar and Vi, what they went through before the events of Night Angel Nemesis is very relevant to why they are the way they are now. Weeks does summarise their histories very well as part of the narrative. Still, to get the complete picture, I think Night Angel Nemesis should be seen as a continuation of The Night Angel Trilogy rather than a completely independent novel. 

 

In Night Angel Nemesis Kylar Stern is now a master assassin, rather than the street rat and apprentice wet boy we met before. Although we lose the repartee between Kylar and his former master, Durzo Blint, there is a similarly enjoyable back and-forth between Kylar and his Black Ka’kari, a magical artifact that enables Kylar to be the titular Night Angel – a supernatural assassin able to judge souls and dispatch those deserving of death. Kylar is also a broken man. He is alone – a widower mourning his wife and unborn child, and struggling to process events that saved thousands but cost him almost everyone he loves. The vast majority of Night Angel Nemesis is from Kylar’s perspective, so his grieving process and the growing ripples of a life of trauma play a significant role in the narrative. If Night Angel Nemesis is your starting point for this world, it is worth pointing out that, for all the dark humour in Weeks’ writing or Kylar’s jolly lack of social graces, this is a very bleak world. Happy endings do not last, and Kylar is no hero. He is not a soulless sociopath or a masked crusader and is wrecked by the choices forced upon him. 

 

One of my favourite things about Night Angel Nemsis was the structure. It is an embedded narrative, and this “novel within a novel” is how the reader gets the perspective of Vi – aka Viridiana – who used to be an assassin to rival Kylar in skill but now serves as a sister in the magical order of The Chantry. As a reader, we see Vi as a character in the account Kylar has dictated and also get her perspective when she is “reading” the journal. This sounds quite like metafiction, and I accept that some readers may find it jarring or be frustrated by Weeks’ jumping in and out of the action or the breaking of the fourth wall (if it can be called that in a novel), but I found it to be very well executed and enjoyed it as a development of Weeks’ writing style for this world. It also served as a great tool to break away and deliberately gloss over things that may otherwise have felt gratuitous. 

 

There were other departures from Weeks’ earlier style in Night Angel Nemesis which I liked. The female characters’ descriptions and roles feel like less of a sexy caricature. The fact that this novel’s key events are set around a heist rather than assassin training or war means fewer bloody outbursts. Weeks still does not shy away from the violence (indeed, if anyone remembers the moment from the first trilogy, which involves a barrel, olive oil, and a mole scenario, is utilised again in Night Angel Nemesis). Still, because it is not as common, it feels more effective.  

 

Although this novel has its faults, I found them minor niggles in an otherwise great reading experience. I will be shoving Night Angel Nemesis into the palms of anyone who asks me for a dark and twisty recommendation. If any fans of grimdark are yet to discover this world, I thoroughly recommend it, and if, like me, you want to return to Midcyru I do not think you will be disappointed. It is one of my favourite reads of this year. Thank you so much to Brent Weeks and the team at Orbit for sending over a copy of Night Angel Nemesis for me to review.

5/5

 

PS I also purchased a beautiful special edition of Night Angel Nemesis from The Broken Binding. It is gorgeous, so if pretty books are your vice of choice, it might be worth seeing if they have any left in stock. 

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.