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.