More than once I've seen The Way of Shadows described as being a 'dark' and 'gritty' book. Personally, I didn't think it was either. I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism, more a comment based on my own experience. Ok, the gritty bit I can understand. There are some violent moments and plenty of blood gets spilled. To my mind, gritty is more than that. But I guess I can just about see where the gritty tag comes from.
But dark? I don't get that at all. Some readers have said that, basically, Weeks' debut novel is dark because it's about assassins and relationships that get screwed as a result. I disagree. Similar events happen in The Lies of Locke Lamora (people die - brutally - and budding relationships are cut short), but I don't think anyone thinks of that as a dark novel. Likewise, the Jason Bourne trilogy of films are about an assassin, and plenty of people suffer, get hurt or even killed. But they're not 'dark' films.
So, what am I driving at here? Well, I feel that whether a book is 'dark' or 'gritty' or 'romantic' or whatever, is not so much to do with the events in the book, but more about how the author portrays them and handles them. For example, you can write a sex scene in different ways. You could focus on the physical side - the sweat, the rhythm, whatever - or you could write it from an emotional point of view - the elation, the passion, and so on. Same act, two very different ways of presenting it.
My favourite George R.R Martin short story is The Pear-shaped Man. ***Before I continue, I ought to warn there is a very minor spoiler coming up*** Apart from being a fantastic horror story, there's one scene that really, really worked for me - the scene where the protagonist finds a 'cheese doozy' (some sort of potato chip - for UK readers, I think the equivalent is a cheesy wotsit) in her underwear drawer. Now, there's nothing scary about a potato chip, right?
Well, it depends how you depict it. Martin manages to actually make it feel as if the cheese doozy is alive, and somehow threatening. Not just fantastic writing, but a great example of how the fear and tension is generated by the author's handling of the scene, not the actual event itself. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the fact you might have an assassin killing loads of people in your novel doesn't necessarily make your novel dark or gritty - it's more in the way the events are handled and portrayed, rather than the events themselves.
Well, I think so anyway. It's the only way I can explain why I didn't find Weeks' book dark or gritty. I hope that makes some sort of sense, apologies if it's a bit of a ramble. I had trouble sleeping so I thought I'd get up and pound out my feelings on the matter. I think it worked, because I feel tired now. :)
Feel free to voice your own opinions! I'm simply giving my personal take on the issue, I'm not for one minute claiming to be correct (I'm sure there are times when the opposite of what I've said might be true).
In case anyone is wondering - yes, I know I've talked a lot about Brent Weeks recently. I promise not to mention him again for a while. :)