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The Black Prism by Brent Weeks Jacob Send a noteboard - 04/11/2010 06:26:03 PM
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks


The Black Prism is the first book in Brent Weeks' new Lightbringer series. Brent Weeks first series, the Night Angel Trilogy, was moderately successful, a touch controversial, and a bit hit and miss.

The Black Prism is not set in the same world as Weeks' previous series, and features a completely new magic system. The 'world' is still suffering the effects and fallout of a major civil war that ended around 15 years previous. It was a war between to very powerful brothers who were rivals for the role of Prism, the political/religious leader of both a magical institution and the political confederation making up the current landscape, oh and for the love/possession of young woman. Tensions are still high. War is about to break out again.

While the magic system of The Black Prism is 'new', not much in this story is new or surprising. The book is a sum of rather typical fantasy conventions, from the magical/political turmoil to the types of characters. You have the most powerful man in the world, the Prism, who has grand designs of unity and fairness, and also a time limit to when his power will kill him. You have the Prism's just discovered 16 year-old bastard son, suddenly very powerful himself, both a target and a pawn, and his own struggles. There is the faithful guard who faces insurmountable challenges in the name of duty. There is the former love interest of the Prism, strong, competent, and a bit at a loss over her remaining feelings for the Prism. There is the brilliant general who is stoic and wise, and his daughter, the love interest of the bastard, that has to find her way in confusing times. There is a magic institution that both trains students and plays specific roles in the governing of the land. The magic users are defined by colors (though magic is created by using specific colors of refracted light so this makes sense within the context of the story). There are rebels. Epic fantasy standard, with the occasional gun and cannon thrown in.

So, you shouldn't read this one, right? Oddly, that isn't the case at all. Weeks has proven that he can take the very common epic fantasy conventions and create a very entertaining and engaging story. The characters are compelling. While some of the events and actions had me asking if Weeks was trying to be serious or just throwing anything at all on a page, the story comes together quite well... and becomes something of an unexpected page turner. There are several plot twists, and Weeks twists enough of the conventions for the story to seem fresh and interesting.

There are a few ideas here that bind the entire story together:

First, Weeks plays around with identity and the lies we tell each other and ourselves. Weeks creates a difference between person and persona that is integral to a good portion of the plot.

Second, I've always been intrigued by magic systems that directly impact the life and health of the practitioners. In the Black Prism, the use of the magic physically alters the user over time and the amount of power used. Also, the use of magic WILL eventually cause its users to be consumed by the power, specifically a color and attributes of that color, leading to obsession and insanity. How people deal with that plays out in a lot of different ways in the novel, and it's one of the more interesting things that Weeks has created here. Also, the idea of mostly crazy, power-addled magic users leads itself to very interesting 'monsters'.

Third, Weeks invests a lot into his characters, especially a few of them, creating somewhat believable people struggling is somewhat unbelievable circumstances. This allows Weeks to explore truth vs personal truth, magic and creation, and the skeletons people have in their pasts.

Fourth, Weeks is a good enough writer that his world, his locations, and his characters have a tangible feel to them. They are things that engage the reader and ground the story.

The Black Prism is sort of like that B-movie that should be forgettable but turns out to be a fun and entertaining experience. The book is filled with fast-paced action and slow-boiling intrigue. There are new, old, and broken relationships. There is tension. There is rivalry. There be monsters, both human and not quite so human. So, it might be a B-movie, but you just might find yourself standing up, foolish grin on your face, and applauding a book's equivalent of the end credits... or as fantasy convention would have it, the cliff hanger.

So, if you can't tell... I recommend the book as a very fun read. It might just surprise you a little.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Published by Orbit Books (August 2010)

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The Black Prism by Brent Weeks - 04/11/2010 06:26:03 PM 4253 Views
and clearly Ares is a central star. - 04/11/2010 11:25:39 PM 660 Views
Ha! - 05/11/2010 01:19:03 PM 728 Views
I'm a tad bit ga-ga over Ares. I can see him a MILE AWAY - 05/11/2010 04:34:07 PM 615 Views
Nice review - 05/11/2010 08:40:01 AM 653 Views
Probably. Though, I do have to say... - 05/11/2010 01:18:04 PM 747 Views
Thanks for the review! *NM* - 09/11/2010 09:24:51 PM 323 Views
You are welcome. - 10/11/2010 04:33:54 PM 609 Views
I've added it to my book notebook. - 01/12/2010 08:22:01 PM 566 Views
- 02/12/2010 02:26:55 PM 572 Views

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