Brent Weeks is not the first author who I mention to people when I say that I love fantasy. I tend to lean toward Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, and Brandon Sanderson — all producers of the beloved literary warhorses that dragged me into the genre.
Weeks’ novels were typically the ones that I paused on and never actually brought home. However, The Black Prism hit me like an emotional dump truck, and I can confidently say that this book is one that I will treasure forever, in multiple first-edition copies, after I finally pay off my library fines.
The Black Prism is a high-fantasy novel that is set in a land with a colour-based magic system. Certain people are able to produce a mystical element called Luxin, which can be used for construction-, attack-, and compulsory-type magic. However, the properties of the Luxin are tied to a colour, and most characters can only create Luxin of one colour — a gift that comes at a deadly cost.
Gavin Guile, the protagonist of the novel, is the only person who can create all seven colours of Luxin. He is worshipped as a divine figure known as the Prism. But Gavin is scarred emotionally and physically from war and is haunted by the acts that he performed to bring peace to his world.
Weeks’ story feels intricately planned. Many fantasy books fall into the trap of mimicking others in the genre. There are several novels that contain a Gavin-like character — The Name of the Wind, a familial feud — American Gods, or even magic based on the colour spectrum — Warbreaker. However, this book is exceptional because, despite the old tropes that feel like familiar friends, the novel spools out plot twists and double crosses in a way that I can only describe as masterful. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that no one is who they appear to be in this book, and everyone is the better for it.
At times, though, the writing is almost too painful to read. Weeks includes many heavy plot points in the novel. Characters face war, devastation, and heartbreak, yet the novel is set largely after most of these events occur. There is an omnipotent central character, but many of the points of view come from characters who are forced to play sidekick to the legends.
The most emotional scenes come from the ordinary people who are called upon to live in the mess that was created by the giant war, those who have dealt bitterly with those consequences for years after. Weeks never shies away from this idea, which is extremely appealing in a genre that often glorifies and focuses on the stories of the never-fallen.
Finally, this book is perfect for autumn; it should be accompanied by vivid scenery. As so much of this book is based on the ideas of colour and light, Weeks’ writing dwells on the beauty of the natural world and makes a pretty convincing argument for watching the leaves fall from the trees.
This book is funny, well-written, and matches Red Rising in the number of quotable, dramatic, and slightly arrogant phrases. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or wants to love it.