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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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REVIEW | The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)

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.

You Might Also Like:
REVIEW | Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
REVIEW | The Prodigal Mage by Karen Miller
REVIEW | Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes
NEWS | Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy Movie Option


Jeremy Shane said...

I loved this book, I was really able to get lost in it.

Couple things I related to was 1. Kip... maybe that is why I didn't notice any lack of development like you did, he seemed a bit like me (if not a bit exaggerated) as the overweight smart-ass kid.

The second thing was the magic system. As a photographer and wannabe writer I'm a bit jealous I didn't come up with a system based on light and the color spectrum. It reminded me a little of green lantern at times, but I thought he added enough to the magic system to flesh it out to be more than that with the mythology, ill effects, etc.

I loved the storyline dealing with the brothers (though at times I was a bit confused when names started flying back and forth in a couple sections). As much as it left me questioning how good or bad characters really were I remain happy with the way things are headed by the end of the first volume. I guess I would have list this as #3 on list of things I related to, having a younger brother (who grew up much larger than me). Though my relationship with him is much better than the brothers in the book.

One weird thing is that it seemed like people knew who other people were (in the midst of giant battles) just based on the fact they knew their parent two decades ago. Maybe I missed something, but a couple times it just seemed to happen with no real indication to give someone away. I guess "spies" were mentioned several times, so maybe that's all it is, but it felt forced once or twice. Could have just been me though.

I do feel like Weeks is using the world more than he did in the Night Angel trilogy. That story seemed like it had a full world, but felt like you only got a taste of it due to the story being more focused. This time out it feels like you are getting all the great action and great characters as well as getting to see more of the world and politics and mythologies.

As for the flintlock fantasy... I have always loved that idea (which is why the story I work on is like that) but now makes me wonder if I should change my stuff since I am seeing more and more of it. Love the way he works it into his world yet still keep it under magic as a world changer.

Some authors do a good job of creating a fantasy story with hints or minor use of magic, leaving it more mysterious. I actually think it's harder to use magic at it's fullest and most powerful, combined with powerful characters on both sides. Brent Weeks does this well (as he did in Night Angel too).

All in all I loved it. I told Brent on twitter that I expect this trilogy to come out as quickly as the Night Angel trilogy did. He didn't answer though, so I guess we will have to wait until next year for volume two. This series and author are definitely at the top of my must read list going forward.

Andrew Leonard said...

I have this one waiting near the top of my tbr pile and I'm glad you dug it so much. I had run across some less promising reviews.

thanks Hatter!

The Mad Hatter said...

@Peter - I avoided reviews until mine went up today. Just looked around and so far the one's I've seen have been pretty supportive. >Grasping from the Wind and King of All Nerds certainly had nice things to say and seemed on a similar wavelength as me. Liviu was particularly taken with it as well even more than me.

Mad Hatter Review said...

@Jeremy - The magic system is definitely the strongest component in the book. I hadn't thought about Green Lantern, but that is almost exactly how I envisioned the characters using the magic.

The brother's storyline was quite good, but Weeks is holding out on us on that front. The anticipation is building and that twist at the end with his brother was brilliant.

On the world usage: Well Night Angel was more of a Sword & Sorcery book so the world building usually takes back seat to the action of the main characters while Weeks is going for Epic with this one, which he achieved.