The Black Prism

Brent Weeks
The Black Prism Cover

The Black Prism


So before I began this book I had a lot of misgivings, but by the end, it was as clear as day. The Black Prism was a fun, intense, but most of all engaging introduction to what is definitely shaping up to be one of the coolest epic fantasy series I've read recently.

Gavin Guile, the Lord Prism and Orholom's head priest, has five years left to accomplish five great deeds. Technically the Emperor of the Seven Satrapies, in practice he's little more than a figurehead, but figurehead or not he's inarguably the most powerful man in the world. But when Rask Garadul, one of the Seven Satraps decides it's time he became a King with no higher authority, things get complicated. Especially when Gavin learns he has an illegitimate son in the Satrapy that just began a rebellion.

Okay, so I'll be honest. I've never really had a good impression of Brent Weeks' work. Largely because I've come across more negative than positive reviews concerning his work. So it was a struggle to keep an open mind when I finally decided to pick up The Black Prism, a book I've heard a lot more good things about as compared to his Night Angel stuff, and which was also the more appealing choice of his two series.

Weeks definitely earns most of the praise my friends pile on him. First and foremost, The Black Prism was one of the most entertaining epic fantasy novels I've read in quite a long time.

The first factor that really made me enjoy the book was his writing. Weeks may not be a lyrical genius or anything, but what ultimately made me enjoy the book was how he uses humor to supplement the actions of his characters. I really liked the humorous, situational moments where Kip's insecurities or his weight affect his interaction with some character or event. However, there were also large swaths where the humor feels distinctly juvenile, where it proved more groan-worthy than amusing.

It felt at times like Weeks was writing the book specifically targetting geeky guys in their mid to late teens. Kip's self concious behaviour with every woman he meets, though typical teenage guy thinking, served the dual purpose of enhancing that feeling. And that's not even mentioning the obsession with boobs. Is there an average, or even homely woman in this entire series? All sound like supermodels with remarkable racks. Like I said, a distinctly juvenile flavor to it all.

The second factor that really made me enjoy the book was actually Kip. Maybe it's because I was (still am, actually) a fat guy but I get Kip's low self confidence and hyper-awkwardness around the girl he likes. But that's just a little nostalgia. What really sold me on Kip is that for the most part he reads like the farmboy-saving-the-world trope if said farmboy, instead of steadily mastering everything he attempts, becomes am inevitable screw up who manages to shine only when placed under extreme duress and aided by an ample dose of luck.

As far as the worldbuilding go, it's average in its level of creativity. As of late I've come to demand a fairly high level of imagination in my epic fantasy, and on that front, Brent Weeks not only delivers but also falls short. Its the standard epic fantasy pit trap; most of the imagination used is expended on the main characters, the magic system, and some on the setting, but for the actual plot of the story? It seems like any old average story shoved in gets the job done. The closest thing to a plot twist was the moment with the prisoner.

The magic system, based on the light spectrum, was neat stuff, but after an initial interesting quality, it becomes rapidly overblown as we learn all the ins and outs and ups and downs. I very literally ignored most of what came after the initial magical introduction, and it never hampered my understanding of what was going on later in the book.

I do have a few issues with the book here and there, I think for the most part I've laid them out here. But ultimately, there isn't a subgenre I enjoy more than epic fantasy, and there's no doubt that The Black Prism was a pretty entertaining read. Despite its serious take of itself, I treated it like a light, fun read and I'm glad I did, as I found that I enjoyed the book more for it. Will I continue the series? Absolutely. Though there's really nothing that makes me feel like I just have to know how it all continues, I very simply enjoyed this more than enough to make the next book a definite must read.