Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism

I first heard of Brent Weeks when he was mentioned by Brandon Sanderson in an interview. Sanderson recommended a bunch of authors, I added their books to my TBR list and then continued to my attempts to finish reading 'The Way Of Kings' within this lifetime. His name popped up a few weeks later in Google Reader, when the cover for 'The Blinding Knife', book two of his Lightbringer series was leaked and even the unfinished art was attractive enough to make me check out the its prequel, The Black Prism.

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

A lot of authors (especially those who wrote epic fantasy) start slow, gently introducing the reader to each character, explaining the rules of the magic system and describing the setting but Weeks deviates from the norm and starts of with a bang. It's an energetic start with a couple of interesting bits but except for a some political intrigue, nothing fun happens in the next hundred pages. The story feels kinda slow and the magic system is hard to grasp. This will be the hardest part to get through but if you persevere, you will be rewarded with a brilliantly sneaky plot. Weeks writes seemingly straightforward storylines and character arcs which twist and turn so unexpectedly that your brain will be doing backflips when you read the first big revelation. I know mine did.

The characters are stereotypical - Kip, a poor, village boy; two brothers who fought over a beautiful girl - but they are handled damn well. The village boy doesn't transform into a paragon of virtue or a docile student destined to learn or lead, instead he retains the stubborn character and sharp tongue which his hard upbringing gave him and his clashes with authorities result in some of the most hilarious scenes I have read in a long time. Karris, the pretty woman is actually a formidable warrior, the Gavin brothers have their own sub-plot which is among the best parts of the novel. Every character is swathed in greys with their own motivations and machinations.

Brent Weeks

Weeks uses interweaving POVs, mostly those of Gavin and Kip Guile, in the third person to showcase the reasons for every correct and incorrect conclusion they draw. There is a scene in the latter half of the book, which alternates between the celebrations of the Sun Day festival in the war camps of the protagonists as antagonists, and beautifully emphasises the contrasting ideologies of both sides.

The magic system is loosely based on scientific fact as magicians 'draft' different colours from light and use them to form a material called 'luxin' whose properties depend on the color used. It's a complex system (you might wanna take notes!) and initially a hurdle which prevents complete immersion into the story but once you get the hang of it you will be astounded at how creatively Weeks uses it and balances the advantages of being a chromat with the tolls the magic takes.

Although it has a slow start, the well-placed hints, sharp reveals, grand battles and a blazing climax leave you thirsting for more from the seven Satrapies. The book ends with a huge cliffhanger but luckily for me the next book has been released already. Simply said, The Black Prism is a superb start to the Lightbringer series and I am rushing to pick up the next one right now.