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Not quite on par yet...
on 1 October 2010
Earlier this year I read the `Night Angel Trilogy' by Brent Weeks. I have to say that it is one of the very best fantasy trilogies I have ever read. I felt things for those characters I have never felt before in a book - I really felt I knew them and cared about what happened to them. And that for me is rare. In addition to the lifelike characters, the story was absolutely brilliant. Brent Weeks managed to hold about 7 sub-story lines that could each in themselves be considered a `main story line' as well as the main characters story. It really is an incredible piece of work and if you have not read it... do so!
Moving onto this book...
To understand the plot of the Black Prism you need to understand a little bit of science. As you may or may not know - Color originates in light. In light there are gradients of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Ultra-Violet - basically the colours of the rainbow. In the Black Prism, a percentage of the population known as `Drafters' have the ability to draw upon these colours and mould them with their will. Each colour has its own properties that allow its various usage; for example red is volatile and good for fire, yellow is strong and therefore good for buildings and so on.
His new series `Black Prism' is about `Gavin Guile' who is `the' most powerful man in the world. Known as `the prism', he has the ability to draw magic from every coloured spectrum of light. Since the dawn of time, within each generation there has been just one Prism. It has been his job to rule, control and provide religious service for the inhabitants of the seven satrapsies. Most recognise him as the single representative of the god Orloham, on earth. Gavin is a powerful, attractive and highly intelligent individual. Women love him and men respect/fear him.
Unfortunately for Gavin, the Prism only tends to live for 7 years after taking the job of `Prism', although there have been cases where the Prism has survived 21 years (multiples of 7) but never any more than that. Gavin has been in control for 16 years and therefore has just 5 years left. Knowing this he set himself '5 great purposes' that are slowly revealed to us throughout the book. The majority of these are `impossible goals' that will stretch Gavin's abilities to their absolutely maximum and as it stands - no one would believe them possible to accomplish in such a short time.
Around 16 years before the start of the book there was an unprecedented war. We are told that Gavin Guile had a brother `Dazen' and both has staked claim to being `The Prism'. With only a single man having ever been trusted to be high priest, emperor and peace keeper - all in one - things were not going to change. Neither men faltered 16 years ago and as a result, the two men built up armies of supporters and fought a battle in the satrapy of `Tyrea' that eventually lead to Gavin defeating and killing Dazen.
We are quickly introduced to `Kip', the bastard son of `Gavin' who has been born in `Tyrea' from a drug addict mother. At the time `Kip' must of been conceived, the Prism was with another woman `Karris White Oak'. Although it would not be earth shattering if the satrapies found out - it is something that Gavin wants to keep quiet and his supporters recommend killing him... At the same time there is word from `Tyrea' that one of the `Satraps' (Rulers of the Satrapy) has declared himself a `king' and is now looking to build an army and challenge the Prism's rights of power.
It might all sound a little bit complicated... and that is because it is. Although Black Prism doesn't really have a huge amount of story lines. It is very, very complicated for the first 200-300 pages... I must admit that I struggled with it a little bit. The magic system is so unique and the different ranges in ability are so complex that you really need to pay attention - perhaps even write things down. At first it did bother me, but in all honesty, with so many books following simple, over-used themes and magic systems - once I got past it and felt comfortable with the system it was a breath of fresh air...
For those used to Epics, this might not sound like a huge investment, but for those who don't know Brent Weeks, he is what I would consider `a modern day fantasy writer'. He writes in a way similar to `Joss Wheadon' in the sense there is tons of action, no holding back on the gore and the comedy is always there - all be it sometimes a little dark. In fact, what I love about Brent Weeks' writing is that he writes in a way that makes reading `cool'. We all love a good epic, but I get so bored of books that take themselves too seriously... Back to my Joss Wheadon comparison - I used to watch episodes of Buffy or Angel one after the other for 10 hours straight... and it is that same `effortless' style that I love about Brent Weeks. Everything is just simply `fun', if you aren't laughing you are saying `wow'. I read all 2000+ pages of the Night Angel Trilogy within a month and it was because of this style.
What I would say about this book is `DO NOT COMPARE IT TO THE NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY'. They are separate pieces and set in different worlds. Where as in my opinion each book in the Night Angel Series could have `stood alone' with a few small changes, this is quite clearly going to be an `epic'. Brent Weeks has taken his time creating an absolutely unique magic system, lifelike characters and expansive storyline. Whereas the first 200-300 pages took me about a week to read as my brain was ready to explode - the last 300-350 look me around 2 days. Upon reaching the end of the book I was ready to scream. The book ends with not just a cliff hanger, not two cliff hangers, but a whole range of cliff-hangers, questions and possibilities. The fact the next book isn't out for about another year may just kill me.
The big question Fantasy Fans will have is `Does it live up to `The Night Angel Trilogy' and I have to say to you all "No it doesn't... BUT... It has potential to be better". Although it has taken its time to build a world, something The Night Angel Trilogy did not, the second book will determin whether Weeks has taken a huge leap forwards or a small step backwards. When you set the bar as high as he did with his past trilogy, perhaps beating it takes a little preparation.