Review: The Black Prism

Series: Lightbringer: #1

I didn’t even know that The Black Prism was a series until I’d finished Brent Weeks other series ( The Way of Shadows et al) and it came up in ‘related works’. Reading the summary, I almost wish I’d read them the other way around. Lightbringer seems like more of a traditional epic fantasy (albeit with an interesting magic system, see below) rather than the unrelenting grimdarkness that was The Night Angel books.

One thing that I’ve really been liking about this series thus far is the world building. In particular the magic system. The basic idea is that drafters (magic users) can take light of certain colors–each person has different ranges–and use those colors to do various things. Like you can make a napalm like substance out of red or a solid, smooth surface out of blue. On the down side, drafting too much of a color will eventually drive you mad1. If I knew more about the actual physics of light, I imagine I’d be more annoyed at the technical details, but as it stands, I know just enough to think it’s a really cool idea.

Plotwise, the series starts out surprisingly slow given just how many people die in the first few chapters. It doesn’t really start moving for maybe 1/3 of the book, but when it does it really does. There are all sorts of twists and turns ( I'm still not sure if it was Dazen or Gavin that originally did a fair number of things ; So what's the difference between Lord Omnichrome and a Prism? Characterwise, Kip is an interesting choice of main protagonist. He’s an overweight teenager–as Weeks reminds us over and over again, a touch past too often in my opinion–who discovers his magically powerful linage and gets thrown in way over his depth.

“But if you betray him, I’ll tear your arms off and beat you with them.”

“Good thing I’m fat, then,” Kip shot back.

“What?” Incredulous.

“Soft arms.”

There’s a lot of self-deprecating humor there, which I appreciate and he really does grow over the course of the novel. I’m still not sure if I actually like him, but he has potential.

After that, we have Gavin Guile–the current Prism (who can use magic of any color without risk of going mad) with a whole pile of secrets. He’s definitely not a good person, but he does at least seem to be trying. He really does have the feel of someone who’s powerful and never really had anyone tell him no, which is interesting. I can’t agree with or condone some of the things he’s done, but I still find myself rooting for him. Well done that.

Other than, Karris is an interesting combination of badass warrior woman and scorned lover. Corvan is the old retired general returning for action. Ironfist is the absolutely dedicated bodyguard (that’s going to be an interesting storyline when he learns about Gavin/Dezen ).

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book–even more than I liked The Way of Shadows . I look forward to seeing everything explode in The Blinding Knife .

  1. First gripe with the series (which I believe is intentional): why does the Chromeria kill anyone who breaks their halo? I can’t really believe that they all go immediately mad and can’t still be useful / safe members of society. Some, sure. But all of them? I’m guessing/hoping that will be more dealt with in the sequels. ↩︎