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Azoth is an 11-year-old boy barely surviving in the streets of Cenaria City. He’s part of a brutal gang of children who will do anything in order to survive. But Azoth wants to do more than survive; he wants a way out of the Warrens and he sees an apprenticeship with master assassin Durzo Blint as his ticket. Now if he can just find Durzo and persuade him of the same thing…
My sister shoved this book into my hands and said, “Read this. Now. It will be your next book crack fix.” That might have set my hopes a little too high, but it was still a great read.
The beginning was a bit startling. Fairly or not, I think of my baby sister (who is 30, by the way) as being more innocent than I am. So when the book is suddenly talking about rape as a means of subduing the boys in the gang, I was appalled. It wasn’t graphic, but there was no question what was going on. I started texting her about it. She didn’t remember it at all. “Oh, maybe that’s why The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn’t bother me.” Blink. Blink. Okay…. But the author addresses this in his interview at the end. He says, “Hope isn’t vibrant unless it has to be chosen over despair. Redemption is cheap unless there’s a suffocating darkness in which even a hero is tempted to hide….without that, light and peace are meaningless, worthless, boring.” OK. I get it. I actually make this same argument to my husband whenever he asks why I read “stuff like that.” Granted, what I normally read doesn’t get this dark, but he has to listen to me working out what’s going on within the darker parts of my books. He doesn’t know that’s what he’s doing, and I just realized it myself. He’s my sounding board to make sense of the darkness. Hmmm.
Philosophical meanderings aside…
This twisted and turned a lot. That’s why my sister loved it. Sometime over the past several years I’ve actually gotten decent at predicting where a story will go, but I never knew with this book. I was absolutely clueless. And I still feel clueless about where the sequels will go.
I liked Azoth quite a bit. He’s doing such terrible things for such a good reason. It’s not just about his own survival, but that’s all I’ll say. He’s conflicted but he’s good at what he does. He ends up living a double life and making some friends, despite Durzo Blint teaching him to stay detached from everything. Blint’s philosophy seems to be, “If you don’t care, it doesn’t hurt.” Azoth just can’t bring himself to live his life that way.
I mostly liked the other characters as well. I loved Mama K and wish I knew more about her. Her role is not very big, but it is hugely surprising. I like Azoth’s friends a lot but I don’t want to go into details. There are even some fairly minor characters that I want to know more about. I hope they get more page time in the rest of the series. I can’t bring myself to like Blint. Even knowing more about him, I just can’t like him. His aloof attitude turns me right off. What’s the point of a life lived only for killing with no love or friendship mixed in? Yet that’s what he chooses.
After a certain point, I did have a hard time putting the book down. The real action gets started, twists turn on twists, and I just had to see what was going to happen next.
If you can make it through the bleakness and violence of the first 75 pages or so, I do recommend this book. Azoth is a character you’ll want to meet.
Read an excerpt.
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