Excellent book. While I had issues with the Night Angel series (assassins were essentially supermen in that world), the plot, plot twists, and some of the characterization was good enough to add him to my list of authors to read.
The Black Prism, well, is even better. Fantastic world building, good magic system, and amazingly good plot. Best high fantasy novel I've read this year, hands down. Some parts of the plot figuratively floored me, and he definitely doesn't move the characters OR the plot in the direction that you anticipate after the first 150 pages. In this regard, it's similar to the Night Angel series: the reader builds up an expectation of how everything is going to pan out, and then he shakes it all around, and beats you over your head with your own expectation. It's frustrating not being able to talk about it here, but I hate people that blow spoilers for me.
I think it accomplishes a light-based magic system better than the one used in Brandon Sanderson's Warbringer - though that novel had an appeal all of its own as well.
Highly, highly recommended.
on September 5, 2011
An Original Story in a Very Original Fantasy Universe where magic is based on the color spectrum. Brent Weeks, author of The Black Prism and The Night Angel Trilogy, is known for his creative world building, twisting storylines, and characters who act like people, rather than generic fantasy adventure archetypes.
One thing is certain, this story is NOT FORMULAIC...
A generation ago, The Great Prism War was fought. Two brothers, both powerful mages, built armies and battled each other to become The Prism. The war ended when Gavin defeated his brother Dazen. Now, a count with grandiose, aspirations declares himself a king and builds an army. His first act is to destroy the small town of Rekton, who failed to supply men for his rebellion. Kip, a chubby farmboy, and Liv, a student at the magic academy, are drawn into the conflict. Just when you start to figure out what is going on, the story twists and turns...
This is an original Medieval Fantasy Universe, that takes place in The Seven Satrapies. Each Satrapy functions as an independent country, but is under the watch of a central government. This government has three branches: The Prism, The White, and The Colors. The Prism, a religious figure and powerful mage viewed as an avatar for the god Orholam. The White and The Colors are like Senates, and they maneuver with each other for political power.
Magic is based on Chromaturgy, the act of creating physical objects in the world based on light. (Similar to the Green Lantern) This substance is called Luxin. The magic users who create Luxin are called Drafters. Most Drafters can only use one color. A small percentage of Drafters are Bi-chromes and can use two colors. An even smaller percentage of Drafters are Poly-Chromes. They can use 3 or more colors. The Drafters are powerless in the dark, more powerful in strong daylight, and even more powerful if they wear colored glasses to enhance the colors that they see.
Each Color has different properties, physical and emotional.
Superviolet Luxin is nearly invisible and used for traps or secret messages. Superviolet Drafters are often sarcastic.
Blue Luxin is hard, strong, and smooth. Blue Drafters are very orderly.
Green Luxin is flexible and springy. Green Drafters are wild and free.
Yellow Luxin is an unstable liquid that becomes light. Yellow Drafters are clear thinkers.
Orange Luxin is slick. Orange Drafters understand the emotions of others and become artists or manipulators.
Red Luxin is sticky and flammable. Red Drafters are hot headed and like destruction.
Sub-Red Luxin can create flame crystals. Sub-Red Drafters are Passionate.
But being able to draft has its consequences. The more a Drafter creates Luxin, the more it contaminates their bodies. This is most noticeable in the iris of the eyes. The iris changes color of the magic used by the Drafter. So, Red Drafters have bright red eyes. However, if they draft too much, the iris will break and the color will leak out into the whites. When this happens, the Drafter is on its way to become a Color Wight. Their bodies begin to take on the physical properties of the Luxin (Blues get a hard shell) and the mental properties to the extent of madness. Having the most powerful mages running around like crazy people is not a good thing, so Color Wights are exterminated.
All of the characters have some personality and a sense of humor, which is exceptionally rare in medieval fantasy. Many of the characters would be right at home in a movie like Superbad. They're kind of funny, often sarcastic, and you still want to cheer for them.
On one end of the spectrum, you have Robert Jordan, who is incredibly poetic and verbose. On the other end, you have Brent Weeks. His writing style is pretty informal / casual. But it's fast paced and entertaining. You're going to want to read this book for the events that happen in the story, rather than the telling of the story.
This book is full of action. There are battles, cavalry charges, sieges, sword fights, muskets, cannons, pirates, and lots of original Luxin Battles.
There's some swearing and some... boobs... teehee... and of course fantasy violence. Where The Night Angel Trilogy was excessively Brutal, The Black Prism would seem somewhat tame... but still action packed.
This is a very fun and original book. You'll laugh, you'll be entertained, and your mind can imagine an entire new type of magic system. It's very entertaining.
Buy this book if you like plot twists.
Buy this book if you like originality.
Buy this book if you want to envision creative magic battles.
Avoid this book if you like poetic prose like 'The Wheel of Time' Books or "Fantasy Literature." This is not for you.
A word of caution to those who loved 'The Night Angel Trilogy.' This is an entirely different story, in a new world, with new characters. The story is not nearly as dark. You'll probably still enjoy it though, but you need to reboot your expectations.
on August 26, 2010
For the unawares, this is the start of a new series from author Brent Weeks, who wrote the highly acclaimed Night Angel trilogy. (The trilogy has my own personal acclaim as well. Hmm, that doesn't sound right.) I know some of us (ahem, me) were excited at the possible prospect of a new series that followed old and new characters a couple of decades later in the timeline. And when I first heard about the release of a new book, I immediately assumed this was the case. I admit to a big wave of disappointment when I heard it was in an all-new world with all-new characters. I even sulked a bit. (Okay, a lot.)
But guess what isn't a disappointment? Go ahead. Guess.
Well, that's true, but I was actually referring to The Black Prism.
The Black Prism follows the Prism Gavin Guile (the Prism is the religious leader-like the Pope) as he attempts to complete five great purposes before his death in five years. The world is composed of the Seven Satrapies, and the Chromeria where drafters-magic-users-are trained in service of the Satrapies, the Prism being the most powerful drafter of all. Sixteen years ago, the Prism fought and defeated his brother in a civil war to attain his title, and now the satrapy Tyrea, who sided with the losing brother, is attempting to declare independence. In Tyrea, Kip's hometown is destroyed by the cruel new king, and the ungainly, hapless young man becomes a part of the powerful events that are about to shatter the Seven Satrapies.
It would be too easy, too uncomplicated to say that this book is awesome, and it wouldn't do justice to Weeks' craft. But I'll say it anyway. This book...IS AWESOME!! There have been too many times where I have opened a new series in a new world by an author well-known for one particular fantasy world. And I have been disappointed. If the characters are well-done, the world almost never is. Or both. It reads palely in comparison to that other world I loved. And I can say, reading the first chapter from the online excerpt, I feared the same lackluster results. The world seemed uncomfortable and awkward, and I didn't even feel like continuing the next two chapters included in the excerpt. It's not that the events of the beginning don't fit with the rest of the book; the writing itself doesn't seem as smooth. I suspect this is in part my sulkiness at the lack of more Night Angel books. The other part is probably that Weeks really writes his characters, and Kip is an awkward character, especially at first.
Despite his awkwardness, however, Kip develops into a fantastic character. All of them, even the secondary and tertiary characters, are tantalizingly near real. In this regard, I found TBP to surpass the NAT. In fact, as much as I love the NAT (and that's quite a gigantonormous amount), Weeks has obviously grown as a writer and TBP is more polished and more well-paced than the NAT. Though at first I had trouble getting into the story, once I really got into it (about 200 pages in) I was an addict. Almost a color wight. About to break the halo. (Not ready to be Freed, though.) Okay, enough Black Prism references. Anyway, there are many things about this world, especially the Chromeria and drafting, that are somewhat hard to explain. In fact, any dedicated in-book explanation would amount to boring, excessive exposition and I might have never finished the book. But this, I think, is what made it difficult for me to become engrossed; I wasn't addicted until I had a firm grasp on the idea of chromaturgy. So, if you're not as slow as me, you'll become engrossed within the first page or three.
One really frustrating aspect for me was the excessive difficulty the competent and incompetent characters alike had with the challenges that arose to meet them. Sure, nobody wants the protagonist to march in and save the princess because he brought an anachronistic tommy gun to a Really Big Stick fight. Unforeseen difficulties and a character's lack of experience add real tension to the narrative. But after a certain point it becomes too frustrating when seemingly nothing goes according to plan. Ever. I'm not complaining too much, because it does up the excitement factor and it removes easy predictability of events, but it also creates a semi-predictability in its own way.
Speaking of irony, there is some serious dramatic irony in this book. Just sayin'. It adds to the humor sparkled throughout. As was pointed out to me just now, it may be ironic that it sounds as if I found too much fault with this book. But I truly, immensely enjoyed it. It's well-paced, well-written, well-characterized...er, full of great characters. Kip is a unique character in many ways yet exceptionally relatable, and the magic (luxin) and magic system (chromaturgy) stands out from magic systems I've seen in other fantasy worlds. The fight scenes are some of the best I've ever read, as with the NAT. They are somehow easy to follow, yet not so simple as to be boring. Ultimately, this book takes it to another level that even the NAT didn't reach, and for all my trepidations and small qualms, I expect this to be a new favorite series. It's well worth the time, long or short, it will take you to read the 640 or so pages. (So is the NAT if you have yet to read it because you're a blind kangaroo.)
Oh yeah, it ends on something of a cliffhanger.
And I don't expect the next book will be released anytime soon.
on May 23, 2012
I wanted to like this book, I loved the Night Angel Trilogy and on paper this book should have everyhting I like : interesting new magic system, coming of age story, secret origins revealed, secret identities, action, battles, love etc. but the story gets bogged down in too much exposition and not enough character growth, there is a lot of action but it leads nowhere. The characters at the end are at the same place they are after the first act. There is no big bad (he is introduced at the end and I ended up rooting for him, since he was the most interesting character in the book!) and we don't get enough of the characters we love, the main protagonists are Kip, Gavin and Karris:
Kip is the coming of age story arc and its good, i wish we had more of his POV
Gavin is the mysterious almost all-powerful Prism (Best wizard type) and his story starts out interesting but its never clear whether he is good guy or a bad guy which could be an interesting story arc, but he isn't likeable or detestable enough to root for or against!
Karris is the love interest and nothing interesting happens in her POV.
So I feel like this book was 1/3 of a good book with too much filler or world building, I might buy the next book to see what happens to Kip but I will likely wait until it is on sale.
on July 22, 2012
I'm surprised to find myself writing a review for The Black Prism, since I choose not to when I read it almost a year ago, so why write bother to write one now? Simply put, I find myself continually plagued by the thought of this book and what a disappointment it was, because, as I've found myself in a bit of a cold streak where a number of books and series have been under-performing, I continue to reference this book as an example, as it contains a number of the failures I've been seeing. Given that I haven't read the book in a year, I will keep my comments general and reasonably spoiler-free. I should also add that I quite liked the Night Angel series, and would give it 4 stars overall.
My first recollection is that I remember being annoyed as I read the Black Prism by the inconsistent age of the protagonist, Kip. Rather than acting like a 15-yo teenager, he seemed to jump between the ages of 10 and 25, seemingly at random. His intelligence, maturity, self-image, all wavered dramatically as the plot demanded it, and made him seem completed unrealistic.
Second was the magic system. At first it seemed like it would be clever, but, once the rules and subtleties were explained, it became clear it was a mess. For example, it was emphasized that emotion and color were linked, and stated to be a major factor in using the power. Many times we have a PoV character talk about the impact of using a color on their emotions. Yet, during the major battle scenes, colors are being used in immense quantities, and all of a sudden the emotional impacts don't seem to matter at all. In addition, although we are told that all the colors have this consequence, we are only ever told or shown the easy ones, rage and calmness. In addition, while there was a lot of explanation about the complexity of the color palette, when the battle rages, all the colors simply appear to be Green Lantern rings, with no substantial difference in effectiveness between any of them.
On top of both of those, we have the huge issue with the way that the lifetime limit on magic use is managed. While a solid idea, it is never shown in the book to make any difference. None of the characters make a choice to not use magic based on the fact it will kill them, and in fact, everyone seems perfectly willing to run right to the edge and then, for the first time, start thinking about the consequences! I found the culture described among the magic-users around this issue to be totally unrealistic.
Finally, at the end of the book everyone is in trouble. That's okay, it's a multi-book series. But why are they in trouble? In every case (of the four main characters) its because they aren't honest with each other. Every one of them is keeping a secret from one or two of the others, and if they all simply told each other the truth, they would all be much better off. Not one, or two, but all four, and that is insane. As the reader you just want to slap them upside the head, and when you want to do that to every character, it's a bad sign.
Oh yes, I forgot about the prisoner. Suffice it to say that his prison was cool, rational, and his escape attempt was clever and reasonable within the rules of magic as described. So how frustrating was it to have a 'gotcha' moment at the end, where we are told that escape is actually impossible. Seriously, if there was ever a goal of having him escape in a later book, I can't imagine taking it seriously after that ending.
In conclusion, any book that has stuck with me this intently clearly deserves more that 1 star. But boy, was this ever a huge letdown after Night Angel.
on November 13, 2010
I guess I am a victim of my own expectations for this novel. I loved the first two books of Night Angel, but felt the trilogy lost strength in its finale. Weeks was brilliant when writing a small number of characters in gritty, brutal situations. However, as the story progressed to the typical epic fantasy level of kings and kingdoms and more complex magic/world building, Weeks writing lost steam. And unfortunately this is where Black Prism continues.
Strengths: Gavin Guile is a very interesting character. In one chapter you will like and admire the man and in the next those feelings turn to loathing. His protrayal is highly dichotamous but believable. It will be interesting to see who he really is as the series unfolds. Kip on the other hand is less likeable. He is the fantasy cliche of small village boy who is really more than he seems. However, he is not the fantasy cliche in that he is fat, awkward, not all that smart, and lacks much of any quality to make you root for him. I cant decide if this is refreshing or if I really didnt enjoy his chapters.
Weaknesses: the magic system. People called prisms have abilities to take various colors of light and turn it into luxin, a plastic like substance. Different colors of luxin have different properties. Its not that the idea isnt creative, it just felt that the execution was lacking. For some reason, I wasnt able to suspend belief and buy into the magic. Instead it was awkward and distracting. Pages are spent delving into the "magic" of luxin rather than delving into characters and plot. I prefer the magic system to be subservient to the character development and plot of a novel, not the other way around.
I admit I may have enjoyed this book more if I didnt go into it with such high expectations. I dont think Weeks is playing to his strengths with this novel. As a big fan, I sincerely hope Weeks leaves the epic and magical focus of fantasy and writes the desparate, gritty, character focused fantasy I so enjoyed from him.
on August 29, 2014
Let me preface this by saying that I loved The Black Prism in print, 5 stars hands down. I don't even particularly like fantasy as such, as most of it is too formulaic and simple for my tastes, but Brent Weeks made me change my mind. A gripping story that breaks the mould, with believable, beautifully flawed characters, a creative type of magic, and an expertly set up world that never bores with long descriptions. This book was in the top three I read the year it came out.
But boy oh boy, did I regret getting the audio version. My only hope is that the narrator's voice hasn't wormed its way into my head already, to spoil my next reading of the book. At first I thought "this must be a joke" and waited for the real actor to start reading. Maybe the publisher had given the intern a try at the first paragraph? Or was there a hidden camera recording my bewildered expression? Nope. Cristofer Jean turns this beautiful story into an absolute trainwreck, somehow managing to make every single character sound so vapid and inane you'll want to throw your iPod against the wall. My 65-year-old dad could have done a better job at reading this, and he only speaks a few words of English. Seriously, Jean's reading is so bad, it's actually funny. Especially the women. Every woman sounds like the parody of a transvestite on too much cocaine. The guys all sound the same as well, with the exception of the young hero Kip (15ish but made to sound 5), who comes across as a whiny transvestite. I guess "transvestite" is Jean's way of portraying anyone whose voice hasn't broken.
The narrative parts actually made start to pity Jean after the 4th chapter. Clearly someone was forcing him to read this book, possibly by way of denying him food and water until he finished the whole damn thing. He starts out with a slightly bored, disaffected voice (imagine someone having to read the 1000-page owners manual to a nuclear power plant or some such) and you can almost hear him sigh occasionally at the thought of still having most of the book ahead of him. A few chapters in, his resentment of the book, the characters, and his being forced to read it out loud becomes palpable, and he actually starts sounding annoyed, sitting in arrogant judgement of every word he reads. I don't know what happens at the end, since I gave up listening once 'comically inept' turned into 'eeesh he's destroying one of my most beloved stories!' Part of me wants to listen to the final chapter just to see if Jean made it through, and if yes, how euphoric he sounds when nearing the finish line. If I ever do, I shall put an update on here.
on December 18, 2013
I think my biggest turn off to this book was simply the way it was written. Throughout the entire book there is constant narration and thoughts of the characters and not enough conversation between them. A character would say something and then you'd sometimes read 2 or 3 pages of his thoughts and why he/she felt that way.
With ^ that being said, I feel like it takes away from the reader's interaction/thoughts/anticipation/predictions/interpretations. I was slightly bored the majority of the book unless there was something dramatic or fight scenes going on. I can list a solid handful of scenes/moments that had me hooked but I don't want to spoil anything.
Things I like about the book:
-The whole drafting from light concept and everything about it. It's a unique concept to me and I enjoyed it.
-I liked the few handfuls of scenes that put you on edge, but they were few are far between.
-Comical moments (normally via character thoughts).
I think I would've enjoyed this book more if it were told differently. I wasn't on my toes waiting for the next awesome event to unfold, I was making myself read this book through the majority of it. The story/universe seems great. I liked it. Just bored with how it was presented.
I'm not sure if I'll read the rest of the series..... and I have a pet peeve about not finishing series. I want to, especially since I've invested time into reading the book, but I'm not sure if the boredom is worth it. Mixed feelings about this one.
on August 28, 2014
This story was very good. the magic system is unique, but it took me some time to understand how it worked. I think that was probably part of the book's charm. At first the plot was a bit unoriginal, but the twists and turns it takes the last half was well worth the trudging at the beginning. I definately felt a connection with the characters, and I want to read more. My only complaint about the book was that I didn't actually read it. I bought the ebook and the audible version. I listened to the audible more often then I read the ebook, which means that the majority of the book was read to me. This is the way I read now, since I have a toddler at home and can't find time to read except during my commute. Anyway, the audible version was terrible! The narrator ruined my experience and I only kept going because the story was so compelling, I needed to know what happened.
on September 17, 2015
I’ve only read a few fantasy novels. One fantasy novel I read was “The Reluctant Swordsman”. That book had an unusual beginning, interesting characters and a clever ending. (I gave that book 5 stars.) I felt The Black Prism was not as good. (I would have given The Black Prism 3.5 stars if Amazon ratings allowed fractions.)
The beginning of The Black Prism was of the somewhat conventional escape-or-die variety. The story itself was too reliant on either the application of magic or epic battles to keep the story moving along. Two of the main characters (Gavin and Kip) evolved as the story progressed, but the other characters remained one-dimensional. And the ending was essentially a set of cliffhangers.
On the positive side, I did enjoy the many instances of “palace intrigue”. Also, the world of color-based magic was well fleshed-out (though not particularly entertaining to read about -- indeed, to help the reader understand this magic, one of the story’s characters was given the task of mentoring another on the workings of color-based magic).