The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

When I was desperately in need of some well done fantasy, I went looking for a new author. Peter V Brett led me to Brent Weeks, and I tried out The Black Prism on a whim. It is a 629 page sort of epic science fantasy novel, the first in a planned four book deal known as the Lightbringer series.

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)

Before I detail the plot and characters, I want to give a little description of the magic system which centers around light and the ability to “draft” physical objects from it. Each drafter can draft different colors — each color has certain strengths and weaknesses; green can be incredibly durable, but will also weigh you down and can induce mania, superviolet may be invisible to most, but it can be used in secret messaging, and so on. When someone can draft, which not everyone can, they can be a monochrome (one color), bichrome (two colors), polychrome (3+ colors, usually in successions: red-orange-yellow), or if they can draft every color, they are known as the Prism.

Only one person can be the Prism at a time. They last for years in increments of 7 — they die out after 7, 14, or if they’re lucky, 21 years. Gavin Guile is the Prism at present. Unfortunately, due to unknown circumstances, his younger brother Dazen was also granted prismatic drafting abilities. This spawned the Prism’s War (or the False Prism’s War, if you were on Dazen’s side). Gavin won the war 16 years ago, and has been the religious figurehead, sort of emperor, and High Luxlord Prism of the Chromeria ever since. The Chromeria is a neat, sort of oppressive ruling body and elite school where anyone who can draft, and can afford it or earn a sponsor, goes to learn the magical craft.

The Black Prism follows Gavin and a few other key characters, like his bastard son, Kip, his prisoner and brother, Dazen, his ex-fiance Karris, a general who fought on Dazen’s side in the False Prism’s War, Corvan Danavis, and Corvan’s daughter, Liv. I honestly can’t talk too much about plot without giving away a huge spoiler that happens about 1/3 of the way into the book. Though I will say that watching Kip and Liv, both from the same town originally, learn and grow so differently based on how the Chomeria affects them when they go there was a great dynamic.

Spoilers aside, the plot focuses on Gavin’s great purposes that he sets out to accomplish before his final 7-year span finishes and how each of the other characters eventually help or hinder him. In the land, there are seven satrapies (sort of territories/countries) that are loyal to the Chromeria. Unfortunately, one of them–Tyrea, has had their head satrap (diplomatic leader) go rogue and insist he is the King of Tyrea. Gavin has to enlist the help of everyone to try to figure out why this occurred–aside from the fact that Tyrea suffered major losses 16 years ago in the (False) Prism’s War–and how they can put an end to the senseless massacres of innocent citizens.

I loved this book, and the magic system was incredibly fun to learn about. Of course, once you think you have a handle on it, Weeks throws in some curveballs that the characters don’t even understand, but that just adds to the whole mystery of chromaturgy (drafting powers). The only real complaint I have about the book is Kip’s POV. Even from the beginning of the novel, I wasn’t a huge fan of his sections. At first, I thought he was a boring weakling, but even after he started becoming more powerful, he was just awkward. It was obvious that it was part of his appeal, but I didn’t find it that appealing. The shifts from third person narration to first person in his sections was a little jarring at times, and sometimes just felt unnatural. Fortunately, it was a rare occurrence that the rest of the brilliant narrative easily makes up for. Balancing his incredibly awkward teen vibe, Gavin Guile absolutely shines in the book as a debonair, clever, handsome, and extremely powerful ruler who is actually wily and more humble than he likes to admit. His character was incredibly fun to read as a POV and I am excited to get more of him in the next book, The Blinding Knife.

With The Black Prism, Brent Weeks spins an incredible tale of secrecy, intrigue, loyalty, and questionable faith. If you enjoy high/epic fantasy with incredibly intricate and clever magic systems, I highly recommend The Black Prism. It’s through the magic and worldbuilding that the book really shines. With plenty of character growth in the second half of the novel, the Lightbringer series is a promising one.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks | Realm of Reviews
  2. Trackback: Summer Reading | Realm of Reviews

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