The Black Prism (Lightbringer #1)

The Black Prism Book Cover The Black Prism
Brent Weeks
August 25, 2010

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

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