I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of The Black Prism, but actually put it down after only 20 pages. I had just finished The Way of Kings the prior week and worried it was too similar in themes and style of magic. Rather than risk reading The Black Prism and judging it based off Kings I decided to hold off and read it from more a fresh perspective. Little did I know that would be about 6 books later. When I finally got knuckle deep into The Black Prism I decided I made the right call. Sometimes distance does help perspective.
The Black Prism opens on the fields of a long dead battle from the Prism War with Kip wandering around before day break in search of luxin, a substance that drafters of light (magic wielders) can create and bend to their will. Kip is the poor fat teenage boy of his village who nearly everyone pities because of his infamous and drug addled mother. What Kip doesn't know is he is bastard to the most powerful drafter in the world, Gavin Guile, also known as the Lord Prism of Chromeia and figurehead of the predominate religious/magic order. As the Prism he can control the whole color spectrum and work wonders with his abilities.
The Black Prism is among the new wave of Flintlock Fantasy, which seem to becoming more in vogue the last few years. At least in this volume the guns don't add much to the world except in a couple short scenes. Otherwise it is the magic that keeps your attention with the grey characters we've come to love from Weeks.
The magic system is one of many facets that make The Black Prism standout from other Epic works The system is amazingly detailed and believable. Drafters are able to absorb light and create objects both large, small, and intricate with it. Each color of the spectrum has its own characteristics and uses. Some are more moldable. Some more discrete and others stronger. And a very few people have the ability to draft more than one color. What Gavin can do with his abilities is truly awing at times. Performing drafting magic does have a cost for the drafter, which makes the use of the magic very believable. It is all in the eyes. The color wrights who have overdone their use of magic were a nice touch, especially those crazy blues.
Many of the main characters appear at first blush to be typical archetypes, but Weeks managed to surprise me again and again with the depth they have. His greatest strength as a writer to date has been hiding secrets in plain site yet still making them just difficult enough to decipher that you have to laugh at yourself for not realizing the truth. All the characters hold secrets and as they are revealed each is in turn bigger than the last.
Weeks often leaves you wondering who the real hero is and whichever way you go you will be sure to change your mind as the story unfolds. The Black Prism has a whole Man in the Iron Mask angle that came off fresher than I expected as he created a character with some serious psychological problems. There are some flaws mostly with character development. Kip could have used some more background development in connecting the reader to his mentality and curt tongue possibly with an added scene involving his mother earlier on. And the the ladies didn't seem to be used to their utmost, but in this regard Weeks has laid the groundwork for bigger things for them in future volumes.
Weeks blew my expectations away as the story zooms though leaving you wanting more, but still satisfied at being introduced to this world and its major players. For those that were thrown off by a certain aspect of the first section to The Way of Shadows have no fear as there is none of that here. The Black Prism is still quite a brutal book with a high body count and some very gruesome scenes, especially one towards the beginning. It wouldn't be a Weeks novel without him pushing the envelope to give characters justification for their actions. I give The Black Prism 8.5 out of 10 hats. The ending builds momentum well for the next volume. For fans of Epic Fantasy with a gritty edge this is a must and the start to a very strong trilogy. Orbit has created a fun little game/quiz to tie-in with the book that helps you figure out what color drafter you are.
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