Fantasy Book Review – The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks is epic fantasy, a genre that is often over-wrought and under-written. Instead we get three beautifully crafted characters striving to survive in a world realized with grandeur and grit all at the same time. The plot is almost evil in its complexity, if it weren’t so much fun to get wrapped up in. Because believe me, you will get wrapped up in it.
Weeks brings us powerful wizards who wield light like a weapon. There is political intrigue that would make Machiavelli proud and secrets that could shatter a kingdom. All are just part of the pattern in this first book in Weeks latest fantasy adventure series.
The Black Prism’s Trio of Tales
The Black Prism starts with the view of young Kip, a worried and hungry boy soon caught up in a war he can’t even comprehend. Over the course of the book he will grow from a foolish awkward child to a young man who is just beginning to understand his own power and destiny. I love Kip because he is such a real person, with all their faults and sometimes whiney problems. That he overcomes his tongue-tied personality to become someone we go from feeling sorry for to someone we admire is one of the strengths of this fantasy novel.
From our child’s eye view of the chaos that is beginning to seethe in this land we then meet Gavin, the most powerful of all the weavers of light, called The Prism. He is also the central player for their religion, which brings more than a little complication to his life and the story. The deeper we get into his own thoughts and desires, the more we understand that he is so much more than the surface. I found I went from actually not liking him much at the beginning to quickly not only liking him but also rooting for him. He is a complicated and truly compelling character.
Brent Weeks switches views from chapter to chapter, but somehow I not only was never lost – I looked forward to seeing who we would meet next. He has the plot unravel slowly, layer by layer like an onion. Soon a shadowy third character is revealed, one that we know is pivotal to everyone, but also unseen. His existence could change the course of this world’s history, if it is ever revealed. The question is, by whom?
Secret Pain and Secret Love
We see the secrets that Gavin keeps, the pain that the boy Kip carries and the destinies that weave their lives together, piece by piece. It is a wonderful involved tapestry that pulls the reader in as we begin to unlock the keys to the characters and see the bigger picture.
There is even a romance. I loved how the history of the romance between Karris the Blackguard warrior and Gavin is hinted at in places. It reveals so much about each of them, and our shadowy character in the background. However it is more talked about and acts as the fulcrum for much of the action then actually being the action. Karris was not always a warrior, and this revelation gives more depth to her character. It helps us to understand how she has become the stuff of legends without seeming to be aware of it. I just know it is going to play an even bigger role in the next book, The Blinding Knife.
Of course, what would an epic story be without a few battles? All of our characters secret and not so secret lives soon lead to a rush to stop a madman and save a city. You can be sure that the climatic fight to hold on to and save the city of Garriston will have more than a few twists and turns to it. This is where, I think, Brent Weeks really shows his stuff. I could picture the work that Gavin does to save the city; along with the sweat and fear everyone was experiencing.
But it is the battles within, for each of the three characters that truly shape this start of a great new fantasy series. The conflicts, the rumors, the need for acceptance and the heartfelt desire to be a better person, are all shown here. The characters are human and complicated, the conflicts grow as we come to understand these characters and what makes them tick.
Building the Epic Adventure
I frequently found myself in one of those “a-ha!” moments while reading The Black Prism. It comes when you see what Weeks was driving at with this particular character arc, and loved it for where it went. The doors those moments can open makes this particular epic fantasy tale such a treasure.
So grab your own copy of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks on Kindle or in paperback or even a hardcover at a bargain price, and join me in a great adventure. I am already hip deep in the next book of the series, The Blinding Knife and hope you will come around to read my comments on it next week. This promises to be a heck of a series!