Book Review: "The Black Prism" by Brent Weeks


Gavin 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 preserve a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But 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.

I'll get right to it and say this is a difficult book for me to rate. It is as challenging for me to rate as it was for me to read, which is a shame because I've only ever heard praise regarding Brent Weeks. This may simply come down to me not being his target audience, which is a shame because there were plenty of ideas I found intriguing. The plot starts off interesting, and there's a unique magic system involved with good action. Now, the magic system is confusing and hard to visualize until a certain point of the story, but overall the concept is unique. The characters...I have trouble with. My biggest issue with the characters begins with the protagonist, Gavin Guile. There's a moment in this book where the reader discovers Gavin's secret that offers a better understanding of what's at risk for him. Normally this would be the point in the book where the reader starts cheering for his success but instead I groaned. I've seen this kind of character before and am not often their biggest fan, so I blame my previous experience with this trope than I do Weeks' choice in protagonists. Kip is a secondary protagonist and Gavin's son who offers a little bit more character but is the subject of repetitive fat jokes and cowardly kid digs. Including a comedic layer to a character that has to grow into their role can be rewarding but I grew tired of Weeks reminding me of Kip's physique and lack of bravery several times every chapter. Oliviana and Karris are two other protagonists that seize their own narrative chapters in the story. Oliviana is a member of the society Gavin rules and naturally comes into contact with the protagonist. Her introduction and the chapters following, is where the magic system finally started to make sense. Oddly enough, by comparison Oliviana came off as being better suited as the protagonist than the other characters. Karris is the other female lead of the story and...I skimmed her chapters every time I encountered them. In summary, Gavin cheated on Karris and ultimately fathered a bastard. Karris is still freshly upset about this infidelity fifteen years after its happened and doesn't seem to be recovering any time soon. Gavin has a plan and five years to complete it. What he wants to do and how long he has to do it is told to us again and again. We are also reminded through the course of the story what resistance he's experiencing. This is all fine and good but by the midway point I started skimming more and more pages because, narratively, I found myself in a loop. My willingness to remain invested wore thin with every turn of the page. I was frustrated by the end mostly because the concept and characters sounded up my alley but I just didn't find either inspiring. After hearing the praise my husband gave when recommending this book to me, I assumed I simply encountered what wasn't Weeks' best work. Out of curiosity I looked up the book's rating and found it was pretty well received by its audience. There's definitely a following for this book and its series, but I leave this first book unimpressed.

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