Thursday, August 21, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Brent Weeks' The Black Prism

Brent Weeks is the author of the acclaimed The Night Angel trilogy (The Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge and Beyond the Shadows). He has a new series out, called the Lightbringer series. The first book is titled The Black Prism, and it is really, really good. As regular readers of this blog know, I am an aficionado of genre fiction, primarily "hard" science fiction (space opera in the mold of Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Richard K. Morgan and James S.A. Corey) and mystery thrillers (Henning Mankell, Peter Robinson, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Jo Nesbø). I also read some fantasy, but only what I would consider the very top of the line stuff (like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Peter Brett's Demon Cycle saga, Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series and some Brandon Sanderson). I would add Weeks to this list of great fantasy writers on the strength of his first trilogy and the promise of how good his second one, the Lightbringer series, is shaping up to be.

Like his Night Angel trilogy, the Lightbringer trilogy has as its central character an orphaned boy who may have special powers. Although this sounds cliched, in both series Weeks  makes things interesting by adding surprising elements to his characterizations of lead and supporting characters.
The main character is Kip, an overweight 15-year-old who is literally the son of the village idiot. They live in a region called Tyrea which is one of the Seven Satrapies which comprise the known world. Tyrea is shunned because it was devastated during a recent war and so anything associated with Tyrea is considered unlucky, backwards and shameful.

The Lightbringer series is built around an interesting, if complicated magic system which is based around using light and a magical substance called luxin to do amazing things. Because of this magical system, the central power structure is called the Chromeria, and is headed by a person called the Prism, who has the rare power to use luxin combined with light of any color. Very few people can use luxin at all, and usually if they can they can only use it with one or possibly two hues.

It turns out that not only can Kip use (or "draft") luxin (in more than one color) but that he is also the illegitimate son of the current Prism, Gavin Guile, who defeated his own brother Dazen Guile 16 years ago during a civil war known as the Two Prisms War. Kip is brought to the Chromeria and so we have a typical "fish out of water" tale combined with the youngster with hidden powers tale.
There is also a fair amount of political intrigue around the governing of the Chromeria itself and when a dangerous insurrection starts up (in Tyrea, of course) The Black Prism becomes a bit of war tale as well.

I don't want to go reveal too many more aspects of the plot, I hope that I have given you a taste of the book and a sense that regardless of what kind of fantasy plots you like (rooting for the underdog, palace intrigue, complicated magic system, big action scenes of battle or the will they or won't they of star-crossed lovers) you will enjoy The Black Prism because all of these themes (and more) are included in its pages.

Apparently, The Black Prism is the first book of a four book series. I have also bought (in hardcover!) and read the second book (The Blinding Knife), which is possibly even better and I am looking forward to reading the third book, The Broken Eye when it comes out later this summer, and of course the final book, The Blood Mirror.

Title:  The Black Prism.
Author: Brent Weeks.
Length: 688 pages.
Publisher: Orbit.
Published: July 23, 2013.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


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