The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3)

Published Post author

The Broken Eye Book Cover The Broken Eye
Lightbringer
Brent Weeks
Fantasy
Orbit
August 26, 2014
Paperback
757

As the old gods awaken, the Chromeria is in a race to find its lost Prism, the only man who may be able to stop catastrophe, Gavin Guile. But Gavin's enslaved on a galley, and when he finally escapes, he finds himself in less than friendly hands. Without the ability to draft which has defined him . . .

Meanwhile, the Color Prince's army continues its inexorable advance, having swallowed two of the seven satrapies, they now invade the Blood Forest. Andross Guile, thinking his son Gavin lost, tasks his two grandsons with stopping the advance. Kip and his psychopathic half-brother Zymun will compete for the ultimate prize: who will become the next Prism.

 

Holy infodump, Batman. The Broken Eye is not a short book. Despite that, it never feels slow. The massive page count notwithstanding, a LOT happens in this book. This isn’t some Shyamalan story where there’s just one big twist near the end. No, readers are constantly fed new information. And it’s not necessarily new information to the characters. It’s new to some characters; the ones whose POV we get throughout the story. So, young people. All these older folks who have been playing the Game of Thrones for a long time are already aware of this stuff.

It’s honestly kind of hard to review this book spoiler-free because of all that. So, let’s carry things over from my review of The Blinding Knife and talk about the characters. Everything The Blinding Knife did, which it did well mind you, The Broken Eye does better. With all the different perspectives, it’s really hard to nail down a single person as the Main Character. First, it seemed like it was Kip, but then Gavin started being a badass, and now we’ve focused more on Kip again. Plus, Teia’s time and influence in the story continues to grow.

Like I said last time, Kip’s character arc is very much a coming-of-age story. He started this series as a somewhat bright but uneducated and untraveled village boy. Now we’re starting to see what the clay that is his childhood will be molded into. A soldier, a warrior, a leader. And thank Orholam he got more mature. It becomes pretty clear throughout The Broken Eye that Kip has the potential to be a great man. He just needed the experience to grow into one.

Teia, on the flipside, goes through her own struggles. While Kip’s problems are mostly physical and emotional, hers are more mental. She’s living in the same world as all these other characters, but at the same time, she’s not. There are aspects of what’s happening only she can see. Dark secrets she stumbles into that could hurt her friends if they find out. And all the stress that comes with keeping such secrets.

While all this is going on, the other characters are still getting developed too. Some had more or less facetime than in the previous books, but no one gets neglected. Every character is just that, a character. Nobody gets demoted to being a background piece, which is fantastic.

This is the best book in the Lightbringer series so far. A very powerful middle point and one of the best in any series I’ve read to date. I’m a little skeptical about the next book because the 2nd-to-last entry tends to be the weakest in series like these. But it’s come a long way from the initial skepticism the first book gave me, so we’ll see.

October 18, 2020

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

Published Post author

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat Book Cover The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat
The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Carlo Zen
Light Novel
Yen On
March 19, 2019 (English) | January 30, 2016 (Japanese)
Paperback
336

Winter is roughly two months out. The time limit has been set. But the Empire's military leaders are fiercely divided on what to do. Should they conduct aggressive offensives in hopes of a breakthrough, or should they weather the winter and use that as a chance to reorganize, restructuring the lines of battle? In the end, they decided that while they gather supplies for a theoretical offensive, they would conduct an investigation to collect intelligence. Naturally, Tanya's Salamander Unit was the first candidate for the mission. Should they push ahead, or should they hold their ground? There's no time to hesitate. As the hellish conditions worsen, the war shows no sign of slowing down or becoming any less brutal. Everyone has no choice but to keep what they hold dear close to their hearts as they march ever onwards toward the battlefield. Everything for the sake of the motherland, for the fatherland.

 

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat. One misstep leads to another. Literally translated as “hell calls hell”. A very appropriate title given this is the point where Tanya’s actions come back to bite her personally. The longer this war goes on, the worse things get for every side involved. But up to this point, Tanya has been fairly lucky. Volume 5 even pokes fun at this at one point, with the enemy believing they have intelligence leaks because no one is lucky enough to ruin as many of their operations as Tanya has. But the last book showed us that Tanya’s ego is starting to have consequences for the Imperial Army. Now those consequences affect her personally.

One of Tanya’s core flaws is failing to put herself in other people’s shoes. Now, this is not always a bad thing. Because she has knowledge of Earth’s military history, she is able to examine the current war with a unique viewpoint. But the flipside of that is assuming her preconceived notions are correct. When something happens that utterly and blatantly proves one of her assumptions wrong, it blindsides her.

Tanya has put trust in her instincts and experience up to this point, and for good reason. It can’t be said that she’s had zero setbacks before, but she has always come out ahead. Improvise, adapt, overcome. No matter what’s been thrown at her, she always manages to keep moving forward. But this time, she hits a wall. No one wins forever; everyone makes a mistake eventually. For someone like Tanya, who fears failure on an extremely personal level, having to confront that becomes a devastating challenge.

War is hell. Well, actually, war is war. Hell is hell. Tanya has never been disillusioned enough to not believe that. But success after success has conditioned her expectations. Volume 5 gives us the first time she experiences not a setback, but a complete and utter failure. It brings her to an absolute low point, the type of crippling negative emotion that can break people.

This is (most likely) the point in the series where the protagonist is at their lowest. They’ve been kicked down into the dirt and it will take everything they have to rise up again. But Tanya is as stubborn as she is anything else. And this being a war story, when she comes back with vengeance you know it will be bloody.

October 11, 2020

Maelstrom (Destroyermen #3)

Published Post author

Maelstrom Book Cover Maelstrom
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
February 3, 2009
Paperback
417

The alternate history saga of The Destroyermen continues...

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the battleship Walker, are once again at war. Having sided with the peaceful Lemurians against the savage, reptilian Grik, they now find themselves scrambling to prepare for the attack that is sure to come. Meanwhile, the Japanese juggernaut Amagi, also trapped in this strange world, is under Grik control. Soon, they will have amassed a force that no amount of fire-power and technology will be able to stop. Reddy, his crew, his allies, and his loved ones face annihilation. But if there is one thing they have learned about their new world, it is that hope-and help-may just be over the horizon...

 

Alright, so Maelstrom picks up right where Crusade left off. Captain Reddy and co. know the Grik are coming for them with a massive invasion force and only have so much time to prepare. What’s more, the enemy fleet is backed by the Japanese ship Amagi. For those keeping score, the Amagi is a battlecruiser while the Walker is a destroyer. In laymen’s terms, the Walker is severely outgunned. The Amagi is another ship that did really exist with Taylor Anderson changing its history for his story. The real-world Amagi was damaged by an earthquake while under construction and scrapped. The sole surviving ship of its class, the Akagi, wasn’t even completed to the original designs; the Washington Naval Treaty forced it to be converted into an aircraft carrier mid-construction.

Anyway, back to the book. A lot of the last book involved Reddy and his crew getting their new Lemurian friends ready to fight. That still happens a bit in the beginning here, but the meat of Maelstrom is the subsequent massive battle. So, on one side we have the Lemurians and humans. They have superior weapons, training and tactics. The other side is the Grik. What they lack in quality they make up for in quantity and mindless brutality. Plus, the Amagi as their trump card.

It’s kind of hard (for me, at least) to sum up all the military action in a book like this without really going in-depth. I will say that it is top-notch. The two sides fighting are very different from each other in terms of personality, motivation, tactics and technological prowess, and it all shows. It reminds me a bit of early WWI history where some of the leaps in military technology were so massive and different that entire armies basically had to relearn how to fight. Remember kids, there’s a reason trench warfare suddenly became a thing.

The other main thing here is the set-up. While the big battle is the key focus in Maelstrom, the subplots continue. Including some new ones that will keep the series moving forward. Going in, we and the characters all know that this battle could break the Lemurians. But if they win, it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning. They’ve spent the whole series on defense so far. It’s still a long road ahead to take the fight to the Grik. Plus a few other things I won’t mention in detail here because spoilers.

And as a final side note, I think one of the reasons I’m loving this series is that it’s basically a space opera and I’m a sucker for those. Seriously, change the Walker into a spaceship, the Squall into a wormhole, and the Grik and Lemurians into aliens and we’re there. The only real difference is the setting being The Land That Time Forgot instead of Farscape.

October 4, 2020

The Old Guard

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "The Old Guard"

The Old Guard

Forever is harder than it looks

20202 h 04 min

Ok, so The Old Guard wasn’t a bad movie. Its fatal flaw is that it couldn’t decide what it wanted to do. Is this an action movie? Kind of. Is it a superhero movie? Sort of, but not really. This movie is trying to do a half dozen different things at once and pulls itself in so many different directions it never really accomplishes any of them. The audience is bombarded with tropes and clichés in every sense. From the dialogue to plot structure it feels like everything is…not half-assed, but just running on low battery life.

Now granted, I have not read the comic book The Old Guard was based on. I can’t comment on how much (if anything) they changed for the movie. But if it’s like most movie adaptions, stuff probably got left out.

I mean, I didn’t think any of the actors were bad. They were all clearly trying their best. But when you take someone like Charlize Theron and cast them as the lead, your audience is going to be picturing a high bar. We know that she can portray a total badass from films like Fury Road and Atomic Blonde. And that level of awesome just doesn’t happen in The Old Guard.

Now I will say that the action scenes are fairly well done. The gunfights are realistic, and the hand-to-hand combat was choreographed amazingly. Not to mention how well it was all edited together. None of that shaky camera work where you can’t tell what the heck is going on (I’m looking at you, The Expendables). But as cool as the action sequences were, it can’t make up for everything else the film is lacking. Cause that’s really what The Old Guard did wrong. It’s not so much an issue of “what’s there is bad”, it’s an issue of “what isn’t there”.

Think about any truly great action movie. Terminator 2, Kill Bill, Aliens, take your pick. Are the action sequences awesome? Of course they are! Is that what people remember the most about those movies? No, usually not. Now there are exceptions like The Bride slaughtering her way through an army of mooks at the end of the first Kill Bill. But that is an exception, not a rule. We remember things like the young John Conner bonding with the good Terminator. Or Ripley hopping into the mecha suit to save the little girl from the Alien Queen. We remember the characters being people. Doing the right thing for the sake of what’s good or just acting like genuine human beings. Going through some kind of personal, emotional struggle on top of the physical turmoil. Things that feel real.

The Old Guard tries to do this, but how relatable are immortals? The whole thing about immortals in any story involving them is that they’re removed from society. The fact that everyone else ages and dies makes them forever outcasts. It’s hard to relate to a character like that. They’ve got their own little happy band, but they function alone. And it doesn’t seem like they get all that much character development to get away from that throughout the film. It’s frustrating because The Old Guard is almost a great movie. The ideas were there, but the execution fell short.

September 27, 2020

The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer #2)

Published Post author

The Blinding Knife Book Cover The Blinding Knife
Lightbringer
Brent Weeks
Fantasy
Orbit
September 1, 2012
Paperback
671

Gavin Guile is dying.

He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies.

Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.

 

The Blinding Knife is a step up from The Black Prism in a lot of different ways. Part of this is due to the fact that it’s not the first book in the series. First entries are always hard because of everything they have to accomplish. Authors have to introduce the world, characters, and plot and then sell readers on all that. But if you’ve made it to book 2 here, you’ve clearly been sold already. Characterization and plot (especially characterization) are a lot more at the focus than world-building this time around.

So, let’s look at the characters. They’re great. Gavin is the world’s most magically powerful person, but my god the man has problems. Between the skeletons in his closet and everything he’s trying to deal with presently, he somehow manages to be a badass on top of having a heartbreaking story. And then there’s Kip. Thankfully, he starts to mature with a lot of The Blinding Knife focused on him being trained. It’s a slow journey for him, with most of his facetime being dedicated to growing up. For Kip’s segments, this is very much a coming-of-age story. And these are just the two chief characters.

Other people from book 1 may not have as much time in the spotlight, but they still shine. Karris and Ironfist in particular are increasingly well-written every time we see them. We also start to slowly learn more about our antagonist, the mysterious Color Prince. And you can’t not mention Andross (or as I call him, Tywin Lannister) and how much of a magnificent bastard he is. We also get a slew of new characters, most of the good ones being Kip’s fellow trainees in the Blackguard. While most of these characters have smaller moments, the moments they do have (often alongside Kip) are just fantastic. Especially Teia, you go girl.

Now, while all this characterization is great, the plot is a little slow. Granted, this is a fantasy series with a big page count, so that’s kind of a given. While a lot of The Black Prism focused on the world’s history, The Blinding Knife focuses more on its present. With the known world on the cusp of war, politics naturally become involved. The world is a loose connection of nations that only sort-of kind-of get along. Some people care about the war, others don’t, and it all gets very complicated. Plus, the multiple POVs throw a lot of different plotlines at us and not everything connects just yet. Those bits will probably come together in book 3 or later.

Overall, The Blinding Knife is a big improvement over The Black Prism and paves the way for a truly great series. If you’re like me and found The Black Prism to be a bit rough, just stick with it until you get to the good stuff.

September 20, 2020

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 6

Published Post author

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 6 Book Cover The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 6
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Aneko Yusagi
Light Novel
Yen On
November 22, 2016 (English) | June 25, 2014 (Japanese)
Paperback
400

After their battle with Glass, Naofumi and his friends work to revitalize the Cal Mira islands before returning to the castle. On the ship back to Melromarc, they meet a young girl named Rishia, who claims to have been tricked and abandoned by her companions. Naofumi, sympathizing with her fate, agrees to listen to her story, and she joins the party. Eventually, Naofumi discovers that she has a talent for transformation magic, but before they can discuss it, someone comes running to beg the heroes for assistance. A monster wearing something like a turtle shell needs to be chased off. The monster is so powerful that even the mightiest adventurers cannot defeat him so what hope is there for Naofumi? Those answers and more in volume 6 as the epic fantasy continues!

 

Rising of the Shield Hero Volume 6 picks up not too far from where Volume 5 left off. Everyone is licking their wounds after the last big battle and planning their next moves. Kind of. As per usual, the other three heroes are still treating this whole thing like a video game and being jerkasses. And for those of you who watched the anime, Volume 6 is right after season 1 ends. Presumably, season 2 will cover Volumes 6-10 since season 1 did Volumes 1-5 but at the time of this writing, they don’t even have a release date announced yet.

Now, Volume 6 covers two different story arcs. For the first 60% or so of the book, we wrap up the previous arc with little hints about the next one being dropped. This mainly involves a training montage, with Naofumi and the Queen both aware of how grossly underprepared everyone is. This is the more easygoing part of the book, giving Aneko Yusagi more time for world-building, character development, and all that good stuff. Plus, a convenient way to explain why the characters are suddenly a lot stronger in the next fight. And I will take that over some “power of friendship” deus ex machina any day.

The second act is where we get to the good stuff, the next story arc. You better believe that training montage is going to pay off here. The opening arc bleeds into this new one and once the next arc starts, the characters slowly figure out what the new threat is. Until it culminates into a massive, epic battle of survival against a horde of monsters, naturally. It all makes Volume 6 very balanced; first, we get the “normal life” stuff, then we get the big battle.

I would say the biggest pro of this book is the characters, both new and old. We get a few new people like Éclair who are just awesome. And our existing characters get further development too, from massive levels of development like Rishia to the gradual development Naofumi picks up with each new volume. The downside of Volume 6 is that nothing really gets resolved. The opening arc has no real stakes and the new arc is set to continue in the next book. We’ll see what happens next there.

September 13, 2020

The Colorado Kid

Published Post author

The Colorado Kid Book Cover The Colorado Kid
Stephen King
Mystery
Hard Crime Case
October 4, 2005
Paperback
178

On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There's no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues.

But that's just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still...?

No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world's great storytellers presents a surprising tale that explores the nature of mystery itself...

 

I’m admittingly not the biggest mystery fan, but I’ll read anything by Stephen King. And honestly, my biggest reason for picking up The Colorado Kid was wanting to read something short. Now, Stephen King has shown before that he can write non-horror just as well as horror. And this is a very different story from your average King book. The reviews for this book are very mixed. It’s not even a ‘love it or hate it’ thing; people’s opinions are all across the board here. I, personally, liked it but can imagine some people loathed it for the same reasons I give it 4 stars.

So, The Colorado Kid has a lot going on that’s different from most other mystery stories. First off, the mystery isn’t fresh. And the characters aren’t even really trying to solve the mystery. We have two older journalists telling this new younger journalist the most memorable story of their careers. The story of an unsolved mystery and their insights into it. And this is where I think a lot of people draw ire with the story. In fiction, people want a resolution. They want the time they spent reading to have a payoff. That’s not what The Colorado Kid does, but it was never trying to do that in the first place either.

Like any good mystery, we start with one big question. In this story, it’s “who was this mysterious dead man?” And as little answers and hints are uncovered, that leads to more questions so the trail of clues can continue. The thing is, this is where The Colorado Kid kind of stops. The characters (and readers) speculate a bunch, but it’s never outright said what really happened. And that’s the point. The Colorado Kid is meant to reflect a real-life mystery. Not the fluffed up, everything-works-out fictional version that people tend to expect. And oftentimes, real-life mysteries go unsolved.

Yes, The Colorado Kid is in the mystery genre. But it’s not really about the mystery. It’s about the characters trying to solve that mystery. Which happens, albeit a bit on-again-off-again, over more than a year. When the trail ends and they still don’t have a concrete answer, all they can do is speculate. And deal with it. And move on with their lives. The older characters even straight-up say they’ve never shared this story with any big-time publications because they know the facts will get muddled as people make up their own false ending due to our unyielding need for that type of closure as a society. By telling the younger journalist this, they’re passing the torch to her. And that’s really the point of this story at its core.

And as a side note, I think I really liked this book because it didn’t have a “real” ending and endings are something that Stephen King tends to struggle with. That many authors tend to struggle with. Ending a story is one of the hardest parts of writing one and the “life goes on” aspect of The Colorado Kid allowed it to skip over this usually steep hurdle.

September 6, 2020

Foolproof

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Foolproof"

Foolproof

20031 h 37 min
Overview

Kevin, Sam and Rob have an unusual hobby: planning foolproof heists, without intending to actually perform them. The game goes wrong when their latest plan is stolen and carried out. Things get even worse when a mysterious man approaches them with an offer: plan a heist for him, or go to jail. As the clock ticks, they find that the risk might be higher than just their freedom.

Metadata
Director William Phillips
Runtime 1 h 37 min
Release Date 3 October 2003
Details
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not bad

Man, Ryan Reynolds really knows his audience. If you haven’t seen his newly launched streaming service, go check it out. There you can watch Foolproof, and only Foolproof, for free. This is a heist movie from the early-2000s, so I know what you’re thinking. And yes, Foolproof was probably trying to ride off the success of Ocean’s Eleven. But aside from also being a heist movie, Foolproof isn’t really all that similar. The cast of characters is much smaller and written pretty differently, the plot is less complex, and the writing puts more of a focus on comedy.

So, this heist group is only made up of 3 partners. They get a few tagalongs once the plot starts unfolding, but these core 3 form the main group. The key difference between these 3 and most other heist movie characters is that they’re not accomplished criminals. Up until this point, the whole heist planning thing was literally a game for them. These aren’t hardened criminals, they’re people working white-collar jobs. But that just leaves room for some fantastic character development as the story unfolds. Instead of saying “here’s the character, the movie is about the plot”, Foolproof is more about how these normal people with a weird hobby respond to an extreme situation.

That being said, the stakes didn’t feel quite as high as in many other heist films. Or at least different. Being caught during their heist is clearly a threat and there are some suspicious police officers who start poking around after a little while too. But the main threat is Leo, the criminal blackmailing the group. If they get caught, they could land in jail, but Leo seems more likely to just straight-up murder them. And the level of that threat fluctuates as they get to know Leo and see more of him as a person, only for an occasional reminder that he is absolutely ruthless.

While I wouldn’t classify Foolproof as a comedy, the comedic elements are definitely there. Which is pretty much what makes many of Ryan Reynolds’ best movies work. Not that he can’t do non-comedy, he can, but comedy is where he shines. God, I’d love to see some kind of comedy “Vs.” movie that pits him against Chris Pratt. Anyway, the funny elements are mainly restricted to a quick jab here and there. And it works well to break up the tension in an otherwise purely action-thriller story.

Overall, this is a decent movie. Not amazing, but entertaining and certainly worth the running time. Especially since it can be watched for free.

August 30, 2020

Crusade (Destroyermen, #2)

Published Post author

Crusade Book Cover Crusade
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
October 7, 2008
Paperback
400

The "gripping and riveting" Destroyermen saga continues.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the USS Walker, have chosen sides in a war not of their making. Swept from the World War II Pacific into an alternate world, they have allied with the Lemurians: a mammalian race threatened by the warlike reptilian Grik.

The Lemurians are vastly outnumbered and ignorant of warfare, and even the guns and technology of Walker cannot turn the tide of battle. Luckily they are not alone? Reddy finally finds Mahan, the other destroyer that passed through the rift. Together, the two American ships will teach the Lemurians to make a stand. Or so they think.

For the massive Japanese battleship Amagi, the very ship that Walker was fleeing from when the rift took them, has followed them through. And now the Amagi is in the hands of the Grik.

 

Things are starting to heat up for Captain Reddy, his crew, and their new allies in Crusade. A lot of the initial worldbuilding for Destroyermen got taken care of in the first book. So, this time around there is more focus on plot advancement. By the time I got around to writing this review, I’m already 6 books deep into this series. And so far, it seems like the story arcs can be measured out fairly well. Yes, the overall story is still about fighting the Grik. But it can be broken down into smaller actions, just like a real-world conflict. The first book left a lot hanging, but the story was fairly self-contained. Crusade is more the first half of a two-parter.

At the end of the first book, it’s not 100% clear what the characters are actually going to do next. They know a massive invasion force that will take no prisoners is headed straight for them. A decision has to be made: run or fight. They pick ‘fight’ and a lot of Crusade is the human characters teaching the Lemurians how to get ready in every possible way. That means training in combat tactics, developing new weapons, learning to use those weapons and tactics, and outfitting an overall peaceful society for war.

Much of the book is spent on this prep work. Not just getting it done, but how they go about doing it and the beginnings of ramifications all these changes will bring to Lemurian society. And a lot of this is new to Captain Reddy and his men too. Yeah, they’re Navy, but it’s not like any of them were Admirals commanding fleets before this. Not to mention having to lead ground troops into battle.

And as far as the plot goes, it’s kind of basic. In real life, war is a messy business that (historically) is rarely about the moral high ground. But when you’re up against a take-no-quarters enemy who behaves as such because they’re vicious carnivores that you hope to God will have the good grace to kill you before they start eating you, it kind eliminates any question of good vs. evil. It makes it pretty easy for the protagonists to become shining paragons of honor and heroism. They’re not like Disney-protagonist level good, they’ll get their hands dirty when necessary, but the enemy is clearly much worse.

Destroyermen really reads more like an old serial series than anything else. In the grand scheme of things, not too much actually happens in Crusade, and nothing is really fully resolved. But that’s not at all what this book is trying to do, so it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a fun alternate history military romp. It knows this and does it well. This is not the series to read if you’re looking for something on par with Of Mice and Men. It’s what you read when you want fighting, explosions, and action in a light sci-fi setting.

August 23, 2020

The Black Prism (Lightbringer #1)

Published Post author

The Black Prism Book Cover The Black Prism
Lightbringer
Brent Weeks
Fantasy
Orbit
August 25, 2010
Paperback
661

Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

 

So, The Black Prism was kind of a mixed bag for me. A friend of a friend gave the Lightbringer series a glowing review and I trust her opinion well enough that I gave it a shot. And I did a little pre-reading research beforehand; the thing that stuck out most was everyone commenting on how unique the magic system is here. Ok, sure, I’m game. The story kind of felt like a halfway point between Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy. There were elements of both, and it didn’t strictly lean towards one or the other. And the characters and their quirks are a-whole-nother thing on top of that.

First off, the magic system. How it works is that there are different colors of magic, modeled after rainbow colors. While you can, in theory, use any color for any task, they all have specialties. For example, red magic is the most combustible so that works best for fire and explosives. Each color is also linked to a certain emotion; using a color can cause that emotion to flare up for the user. Red makes you angry, blue makes you logical, and so forth. I got to about this point when I realized the magic here is just the Lantern Rings from DC Comics. Take that as you will.

Then we have the story. Like most good fantasy stories, this world already has a lot of history to it. The audience gets little glimpses from people talking about the last big war. And how, despite being decades ago, the effects are still felt today and influencing current events. The fact that a lot of this information is conveyed through Kip, a 15-year old normal village boy, leaves a few things to be desired. Despite being described as smart, Kip is very much a fish out of water in this story and makes some pretty dumb choices along the way.

And the character tropes don’t stop there. We have an archmage, wizard apprentices, an evil despot, men behind the scenes on both sides, and more. Although the thing that sticks out more than the characters’ personalities is their bodies. Kip is fat and holy crap does that come up often. Not that it necessarily shouldn’t; I mean, it’s not fun to watch but it’s certainly a realistic approach to bullying. And The Black Prism also seems to have some troubles treating women as people instead of things, but I do not have enough space to go in-depth on that here.

Despite all the issues this book had, there are redeeming qualities. Mainly Gavin and his interactions with the world. And there was an impressive enough cliffhanger to keep me interested despite the various issues. People seem to like this series, so I will keep going and give it a chance. It might be a stretch to call it ‘bad’ based solely on The Black Prism, but I am hoping it improves.

August 16, 2020