The Lightbringer Series
Kip is the illegitimate son of Gavin Guile, one of the most powerful men to tread the realms of the Seven Satrapies. His life little more than the runoff of a brutal war, Kip finds most things in his already pitiful existence stolen away when that same war returns to finish the job. Forced to make a move, Kip finds himself in the capable hands of the Prism, the highest authority on religion and magic. This man is not only his conflicted father, but he also carries a hard history that makes him the centerpiece for the entire war. A war between colors and light.
Author: Brent Weeks
Publisher: Orbit Books
Novels: The Black Prism, The Blinding Knife, The Broken Eye
The Black Prism: 626 pages
The Blinding Knife: 625 pages
The Broken Eye: 757 pages
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I pace as I write this article. In all truth, I literally cannot stand still. I just finished the third in a series of four fantasy books by Brent Weeks–The Broken Eye of The Lightbringer series. As it stands, I cannot decide if I should be excited, melancholic, hopeful, furious, or horrified. All the above and everything in between, I suppose. This review will touch upon all three of the available books (The Black Prism, The Blinding Knife, and The Broken Eye, in order) as a cohesive whole, with the review of the final, future installment being saved for a later date. You know, sometime after its release, perhaps?
**WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD**
Kip is a weakling. A worthless, pathetic weakling who could do nothing to save his mother or friends from burning with his town. All he inherits from his less-than-satisfactory mother is this: a strange, white knife, and the knowledge that Kip has a very powerful father–the Prism, a religious figurehead and the most proficient Drafter in the world.“Drafting” is a magic that reverse-engineers light back into substance. As wax is burned to help make light, so the opposite is also possible. Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, Superviolet, and Sub-red are the perfect colors, and most-used throughout the series. Each of them carry their own chemical nature (blues are hard and easily crafted into surfaces, weapons, and the like; while red is goopy and inflammatory, good for projectiles, superviolet is invisible and great for hiding messages or traps, and so on). Each of them also has related personality characteristics and associated flaws. Superviolets are stubborn and often harmed by their own relentless pride. Greens are unstable, energetic, and have a hard time staying on task. You get the picture. These solid colors, the ones made by drafting, are coined as Luxin, and act as a mantle for the world. Not only does prismatic color act as the magic system, but it is also the foundation of the entire political system, with the world being divided into seven “Satrapies,” each led by a person who best displays the characteristics and wisdom found in their particular color. What about things like black and white? Those “colors” are some of the mysteries of the world. Do they exist? Legends say they do. Those same legends also conflict with one another, so who’s to say?
While Kip is a weakling, simply trying to find a new place for himself in a world where practically everyone and everything is his enemy, Gavin, his father, is battling more demons than any man ought to face alone. Caught between a cruel and maddeningly intelligent father of his own, a woman with whom he should and should not love, a rising revolutionary-king known as the Color Prince (or, as I prefer, Lord Omnichrome), and the “dead” secret brother that he has enslaved and trapped in his own perfect prison, Gavin is beloved and hated from all sides. Thankfully, he’s good at his job; otherwise his already limited lifespan as the Prism would be short lived.
Hopefully a lot of insanely bad things don’t happen along the way and everything goes smoothly.
The Lightbringer series has very fluid pacing for the bricks with which its story is constructed. Pro-tip: in this context, I’m talking about the size of the books, not abstract, metaphorical story bricks. Given the epic scope of the series, it’s both expected and relieving for there to be multiple viewpoints to bounce between. Who these viewpoints follow remains largely the same through all three novels, with slight changes as characters are added and taken away (read: they probably die). Chapter lengths are never laboriously long, which helps add to the aesthetic pacing of the story on a hard-formatting level. Books with super long chapters are tough customers.
As for character development, there are occasional slow points where personalities or settings don’t change much, but these dry spells do not last long and are never concurrent between characters. This is to say, if one character is having a momentarily, exposition-laden segment (which is usually pretty important information, in spite of its thickness) or something else that’s bogging down the actual process of moving through the story, expect something tremendous to be going on with the character in the next chapter. The world itself is in a constant state of fluctuation, with rising and falling powers of nations and individuals causing chaos and order as seen fit. The world and character changes fundamentally parallel what is happening in the narrative, so you can expect all of them to be moving forward at a healthy speed (though things do feel like they get faster as more trouble starts going down in the later books). There’s fun, humor, excitement, energy, intensity, tranquility, and so much else to be had as the books develop.
And then there’s the ending. Particularly the endings of the second and third books are agreed to be utterly brain-destroying by most readers, delivering several successive plot-twists without giving you any room to breathe, and practically demanding you to read the sequel. Too bad the final book, The Blood Mirror, is still a long ways off.
Heads up, the characters change. A lot. Whether it’s Gavin, Kip, Karris, Liv or anybody else, chances are, if they get any decent amount of face-time, they’ll undergo some pretty grand metamorphosis, both for the better and for the worse. The author does an exquisite job of making these changes come with the times, and only in proper response to things that happen in the story. If a character is becoming paranoid, it’s because they have a good reason for it. If they’re becoming more sentimental, it’s because things have happened to teach them the importance of breaking down their own walls. As the characters change, you can bet they influence the people around them as well, and those characters take notice of such changes. These developments walk hand-in-hand with the narrative to make a seamless flow of story. You will love characters, and you will hate characters. Sometimes you’ll love and hate at the same time. There’s one character in particular I can think of who clawed at my nerves every time he showed up, but he was so keen and clever and instrumental to moving the story forward that I couldn’t help but think his chapters were the best ones.
Being that the author has had some practice at this whole writing thing, the dialogue is not only good, but tests the boundaries of how words can be conveyed on a page to both the reader and other characters. With a straddling combination of 3rd person limited and 1st person limited at work together, many doors are open for strong dialogue passages. On top of all this, the author shows his wit in categories of happiness, humor, terror, intimidation, melancholy, and drama, all captured from various socioeconomic perspectives, ages, and genders in his cast.
The Lightbringer series is no stranger to profanity. While I’ve read worse, you can still expect quite a few curses of every shape and vulgarity to make an appearance throughout these books. There doesn’t seem to be any inconsistency between the books either, so if you read The Black Prism and are okay with the language/hate the language, you can expect that same delivery in all three novels.
There’s plenty of violence. The story revolves around a war, so blood is spilled in accurate detail on dozens of occasions. Some scenes also depict both physical and psychological torture, the latter of which is particularly memorable.
Some sexual themes pervade the books, including a few fully-realized sexual encounters. Perhaps I only say this because I recently finished reading multiple George R.R. Martin novels, but the explicit nature of these scenes don’t seem all that bad in comparison. It’s just…cleaner, somehow. Sex scenes are not blatantly perverted or voyeuristic, like Martin is so infamous for doing with his cast of characters, but still vivid none-the-less, and should be approached with caution.
Religion and spirituality are a pivotal facet of The Lightbringer universe, providing a context for many character developments and transitions of power within the world itself. Orholam, the god in this series, shares many similarities to the Christian god, Yahweh. It’s quickly apparent that, even if the author does not filter his story under a Christ-centered lens, he certainly does have a history (or at least has done extensive research) with that frame of mind, and uses it to flesh out the religious tendencies of the characters–what faith and spiritual fervor mean to them–and includes the conflicting interests of religious authorities, political powers, and congregations en masse. There are also many passages of the book that pull from Christianity (or, at least, various forms of theism) and share the potential wisdom found there. This is most evident with the character “The White.”
There are references to alcohol and drug consumption, though neither plays a particularly significant role in the story outside of filling in the atmosphere and providing an element of realism.
All sorts of deliciously beneficial things can come out of this story if you look for them. On an intellectual level, it provides various mentalities, perceptions of the world, ways to describe things in a new light, and understanding for political, religious, scientific, and practical living. The author clearly studied and delivers knowledge on the science of colors and light, archery, stealth, combat, analyzing social cues and situations, comedic rhythm, narrative craft, and so forth. Gavin in particular is fun to listen to, as he’s got a marvelous silver tongue that can get him out of practically any circumstance.
On an emotional level, the entire spectrum of feelings can be found. Joy, though uncommon, is supremely satisfying when it dawns amidst all the struggling in the story. There’s a lot of introspection and inner dialogue with the characters to draw you into their personality and decision-making processes. They convince you of good or bad choices, and you may or may not agree with them, but at least you always understand why they made their choice and can empathize accordingly.
There’s a lot of humor of varied sorts. Much of it is sarcastic, but even that is shown in different shades, depending on the character you’re following. Kip, because of his natural weakness, lack of talent, and social ineptitude, often uses sarcasm whenever things happen to go right, especially because things usually go right in the wrong way.
Spiritually, there are many ties between Orholam and the Christian God, and while they definitely should not be perceived as one in the same, there will likely be at least one time during the story where they’re talking about the character/actions of Orholam and you pause to consider the implications of their words on your own faith.
This series is just fun. Brutal sometimes, but always fun. It might be a little weird at first, but the whole “turn light into solid color” system is brilliant and wonderful. The world revolves around the principal of color dominance, and the uses for Luxin are complicated, yet profoundly vast. Combine the nature of this magic system with the already colorful characters that are thrown into the mix, give them good aspirations, goals, and conflicts, and you’ve got a splendidly entertaining read ahead of you, where children are forced to fight assassins, kings challenge gods, and every man must face things worse than gods: the nightmare that is themselves.
VERSE OF THE DAY: Isaiah 61: 1-3
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion…”
SONG OF THE DAY: “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel.
This song plays at the finale of the show Scrubs and strikes at those heartstrings like nobody’s business.
+ Interwoven, twisting plot
+ Character-specific humor
+ Diverse and powerful setting with a unique magic system
+ Keen character progression
+ Refined prose writing skill
+ Extensive glossary to help with the dozens of terms and characters
- Some important chapters deviate from the main story, and you forget them by the time they become important
- Numerous content concerns (refer to ‘Content Warning’ section of review)
- Sometimes hard to imagine what some of the magic actually looks like (I'm looking at you, Gavin; Your "Skimmer" thing is confusing)
- A lot of terminology makes for a relatively large learning curve