Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review of The Black Prism

Book #5. The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks. Hardcover. 

This novel is the first book in the Lightbringer series. It takes place in the Seven Satrapies,  semi-independent countries loosely controlled by a ruling council, along with a person known as The Prism. The nature of the Prism’s power is such that they tend to die after their 7th, 14th or 21st year in the position. The Prism also represents the god Orholam, who it is believed to bestow magical power onto his chosen people. Over the course of the book, we learn that the realm is in turmoil, as a leader from a distant Satrap, King Garadul, wants to wage war on the Capital, and for his nation to secede.

The current prism is Gavin Guile. Both he and his twin brother demonstrated the requisite power to become the Prism, and after a brief but bloody war, Dazen was defeated and imprisoned. One of the key plot points of the novel is that an identity-switch may have occurred, meaning it may in fact be Dazen who is the Prism and Gavin who is in shackles.

Early in the novel, we meet the Prism’s natural son Kip, a 15-year-old who does not know who his father is. Kip is taken to the capital to be trained, bringing with him a dagger that was given to Kip by his mother on her deathbed. Kip has promised to use the knife to kill the man responsible for her death. And from there ... adventure ensues!

One of the strengths of this novel is the world’s color-based magic system. A drafter of magic in this world transforms light into the physical substance luxin. Different from the light-based constructs that a Green Lantern creates, the luxin has physical properties of strength, weight, and durability. Each color of luxin has its own particular characteristics, and the vast majority of drafters can only draft one shade of luxin. Bichromes have more power, while Polychromes are the most powerful of the drafters. The Prism is both the most powerful and the most efficient of the drafters, being able to both use all the color magic, as well as the ability to “split” light.

This is epic fantasy, and like all epic fantasy, it has long passages of description and world-building. And there is a pretty large cast  of POV characters, but by the midpoint of the book, most of their voices and perspectives had become clear, making the plot easy to follow.

The book tells a complete small story, but ends on a cliffhanger that clearly leads into the next book.

Note: I learned of Brent Weeks from an interview he did with Paeter Frandsen, of the Spirit Blade Underground podcast. 

Source: purchased at a local Barnes & Noble location

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