I wanted to like this book. I really did. Not just because Luke would yell at me otherwise, but because the premise - street rat turned apprentice assassin - was one I really liked. In my head, it was a lot like Graceling (which I really enjoyed and would recommend; it's about a girl whose Grace, her skill, is killing) but I've discovered that I really need to stop hanging on to what I think books are going to be like.
I've also discovered that 'having' to read books is a massive drag. I rarely liked the books I was forced to read in school, probably because I rarely approached them with the same enthusiasm I would a book I'd picked up at the library. Same goes with parentally-recommended books, most of the time (sorry, Dad). Despite Luke's assurances that it was awesome, and even my own interest in it, it was really hard to pick up The Way Of Shadows. Probably because it's 650 pages and I'm out of shape.
Anyway, the book. I did enjoy it. I would read the sequels. I can't say it's my favourite book ever, or that I would read it again (unless it was to prepare to read the next book in the series). At times I thought the writing was not great but it nevertheless kept me interested most of the time. I even cast longing glances at it during one of my uni lectures.
Disclaimer: Nothing in the next two paragraphs is supported by anything more than a 'feeling' I have about the book. Probably none of it stands up under scrutiny.
I think my main problem was that I never really felt like I understood the world I was in. The author clearly had this grand idea for it, and had this whole world in his head, with all different societies and interests going on, but a lot of the time I wasn't feeling it. Given that the book relies on politics a fair bit, I need to understand the world in order to be invested in it.
There was a bit of telling instead of showing, especially when it came to characters' motivations, which at times I have to say confused me. I'm pretty sure you have to show someone feeling remorse before you can say, 'And because of that remorse he was feeling all that time, he's now going to do this.' And people lying, then saying 'Just kidding,' and having people accept that... if they've lied once - or if, say, they're an assassin - why would you be taking anything at face value anyway?
I wanted to like Durzo Blint more, but he wasn't in it as much as I liked and wasn't constantly being awesome (although when he was, he was). I really wanted it to be the two of them against the world. (Maybe in the next one?) (Luke: You may have to read it to find out.) Azoth/Kylar is meant to be the main character, but I am much more interested in other characters. As Luke promised, there are some good strong (arse-kicking, I hope) female characters who look to be about to be awesome. And there's all kinds of other people, nobles and soldiers and magic types, all taking their places ready to get into it - say it with me - in the next one.
(Luke: Personally I like the third book the best, as it does bring together some of the things you have talked about, and you have a better feeling for the world and its politics.)