Brent Weeks – The Black Prism

Power, strength and riches are his. But the cost is life itself.

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 preserve a fragile 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.

Having only read Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy this summer (reviews here, here and here), I was thrilled to discover that his new series would be out in August. I couldn’t wait to see where Weeks would take the reader with his Lightbringer trilogy. I was swept away into the story set in the Seven Satrapies and I’m only disappointed I couldn’t spent more time there than the 627 pages of this book allowed!

Most eye-catching about the world The Black Prism is set in, is it’s magic system. The way magic is based around colours and the properties of light is really interesting, but what made it unique for me was the fact that the magic was finite; drafters have to quit at some point or ‘break the halo’, which essentially means they’ll go mad and lose control of their magic. I’m still not completely clear whether this is because each drafter only has so much luxin he can draft or whether it is connected to willpower and keeping the magic in control, but it is clear that each drafter walks a fine line between using his magic and losing himself. What is also clear is that it takes an enormous amount of willpower to just stop drafting when the edge is reached, since it leaves a drafter feeling deadened. Drafters are trained at the Chromeria, the temporal and spiritual seat of power, headed by the High Luxlord Prism and the Spectrum, his council of advisers. The Chromeria is a snake pit, where you need to play the game to win. And don’t expect anyone to play fair, as illustrated by Gavin’s ploy with the Spectrum to get his way regarding Garriston and Aglaia Crassos’ treatment of Liv.

As dazzling as the magic is, it was the characters who really shone for me. Kip, Gavin, Karris, Corvan and Liv are the main characters with Corvan and Liv taking slightly smaller roles. Gavin is intriguing; he’s driven and knows he’s running out of time, but he is not what he seems. One thing that is central to his character, is his relationship with his brother Dazen. At one point in the book Gavin remembers a fight he and Dazen had in their youth, which was intense but also really cool because I recognised the scene from a blog post Weeks wrote for the Powells blog about the Black Prism and some of its inspirations. It was a powerful scene and knowing its background only made it resonate more. But the absolute star of the book, for me, was Kip. I adore Kip! He’s a little bit of an anti-hero; this pudgy, tubby boy, with an overly sharp tongue, who has always been an outsider. His wry, self-deprecating humour is priceless. He had me chuckling a lot and laughing out loud at a few points. I like how he draws strength from shrugging off his yoke of always having been told he’s worthless and being bullied. Kip finds his feet and his place during the book and at the end is stronger and more mature than at the start. I can’t wait to see how he develops further in the next book.

The Black Prism is an interesting start to the series. It had a few moments where I was unsure plot wise, mostly because it seemed Weeks was re-doing Night Angel, especially when it turned out Kip was Gavin’s son. I was fearing another ‘Luke, I am your father’-scene a la The Way of the Shadows. But with this book Weeks has taught me to trust him. He went in that direction, but it was only a curve in the road, not the destination. The book was a page turner and a very smooth read. There’s so much more that I could say but I don’t want to give spoilers. I can’t wait to see where the story will go from here. What happens with Liv? Will Gavin be able to keep his secret and what is that dagger?

No word on when book two is out yet, but Weeks updated his twitter this morning announcing that he had handed in a novella on the origins of Night Angel‘s Durzo Blint. So hopefully, we’ll be hearing more about that soon and have more information about the second Lightbringer book soon after that!

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