Monday, December 08, 2014

"The Black Prism" by Brent Weeks – The Colors of Fate

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks - book cover
Though in the real world politics and struggles for power are the cause of much pain and suffering, in the world of the book they are the fodder that makes for grandiose and epic stories, the kind literature doesn't forget. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks is the first part of the Lightbringer series, and though it certainly is in the realm of fantasy and magic, its overwhelming story is still founded in the very familiar realm of power and politics.

In any case, this first part is mostly about Guile, the Prism; the most powerful man on the planet, high priest and emperor, leader of a magical college where lights can be turned into materials. He knows that he only has five years left to live, and the war that put him in power was fought against his own twin brother, Dazen. As Guile tries to repair the errors he had committed in the past and the many grievances inflicted, he becomes faced with a rather perplexing scenario: he has a bastard son born in a faraway kingdom after the war. And so, Guile finds his last stretch of life has become much more adventurous than anticipated, being faced with his mortality, a newly-discovered son, a corrupt governor, and even a threat to the established religion. (Read the first chapter here)

And so begins this grand adventure that spans quite far in terms of time and space, and it could hardly have had a better start. To begin with, the exposition of the world is done in a rather masterful and sublime way, in the sense that what we learn about it and see in it goes from the surface and into greater depths. Thing's aren't shown or explained completely straight away, but rather, Weeks takes it upon himself to slowly and carefully mold and build this world in front of us, fleshing out the details further and further as the story goes on. In other words, the reader's curiosity is kept satiated with more and more information, all while the sense of mystery and intrigue remains intact.

As far as the characters are concerned, they are all flawed in human ways and don't simply follow a function or a purpose; rather, they actually feel like they are their own people, with their personal agendas, thoughts, feelings, successes and failures. They are capable of the best as well as the worst, and are all driven by very understandable wants and needs. Also, I have to add that the idea of switching viewpoints serves this type of story rather well for it constantly keeps us guessing who the good, the bad and ugly is, all while giving us that coveted insight into the characters' minds.

The plot is truly something to behold, and I assure you that even though the book is close to 700 pages long, there are very few moments, if any really, where you are going to notice things stretching and slowing down. The pace is kept rather consistent and Weeks doesn't lack elements in his mind to present us with and keep our desire for knowledge at bay. As a matter of fact, Weeks seems to be master at manipulating the reader, at raising our expectations in one direction only to completely obliterate them and leave us as stunned as the characters portrayed. This is certainly a novel that will surprise you, that's something you can take my word for.

And so, to conclude this review, The Black Prism is a most excellent debut to an extremely promising serie, one that breathes fresh, quality air into these grand fantasy, politics-centered epic stories. If these are the types of books you generally go for and want something solid that is guaranteed not to disappoint (as much as that is possible, at least), I'd recommend you give it a shot.

Brent Weeks (March 7, 1977)

Brent Weeks (March 7, 1977)

Personal site

Brent Weeks is an American writer of fantasy novels who managed to squeeze into The New York Times Best Seller List with his novel The Blinding Knife in 2012. So far he has authored two book series, Night Angel and Lightbringer, as well as a short fiction story titled Perfect Shadow.

More of the Brent Weeks' book reviews:
The Blinding Knife
The Broken Eye
The Blood Mirror

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