The Black Prism is another of the most anticipated fantasy novels of the summer, coming this time from Brent Weeks. First known for his Night Angel Trilogy, Weeks brings us the first entry in an all knew series, Lightbringer, that promises many great things. Having not read Weeks’ other books, The Black Prism slipped right under my radar until a couple of weeks before its release, at which point I decided to take a look at what it was about. The various blurbs and previews did it for me, and I decided this one might be worth checking out. My decision was a good one.
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. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.
But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.
The Black Prism impressed me in the originality of both its world and its story. The novel takes place in a world vaguely inspired by the Mediterranean where men and women can manipulate colors to form solid objects out of them and use them to different purposes. The Prism is the theological ruler of this world and has the ability to control all of the colors and form them directly from light, unlike others. I found this magic system intriguing and well integrated by Weeks into the narrative. Needless to say, this is a world where much can happen and much does happen, with a pretty constant stream of action and excitement coming your way.
Weeks’ prose has a simple quality to it that fits in well with the type of story he tells. He does not go for the overly heavy or lyrical prose, but sticks to a style that is descriptive when it needs to be and gets the point across. The plot, though, takes a bit of time to get going, spending much of the early stages stopping and starting between scenes filled with displays of Gavin’s often awesome power and scenes that set up the main bits of the plot. Once it gets going things unfold at a brisk pace which almost make The Black Prism’s six hundred pages seem short. What really separates this novel from other epics really is its magic, used profusely to further the plot, but the rest is solid stuff too. Weeks toys with a number of plot twists that leave the reader unsure of the characters’ intentions and whether they are or aren’t who you should root for.
This recurring questioning of the characters keeps them interesting where they would probably have been relatively bland, stereotypical figures. It helps that Gavin, as the main character, has some pretty big secrets and a conflicted mind. The secrets are slowly revealed throughout the book and, in some cases their nature blew me away. The second most important character, Kip, didn’t grab my attention as much as Gavin, being the whole lot less powerful fat kid with a questionable sense of humor. I wasn’t very convinced by some of his motives for doing the things he did, and I found it a shame that for a large part of the novel he is relegated to following the others along. In general though, Weeks managed to introduce us to an interesting bunch of characters which I looking forward to follow in further Lightbringer novels.
With The Black Prism Weeks gives us a solid start to an all new series. The Black Prism reads quickly with abundant quantities of action and intrigue along the way. It establishes a thrilling world, fascinating magic system and satisfyingly engaging characters. This is no perfect book, but it is an enjoyable one which fans of the epic fantasy genre should strongly consider checking out.
Summarizing Info My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
Brent Weeks' Website: http://www.brentweeks.com/
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