Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Mention: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Realistic characters, a fascinating magical system, compelling conflict, and a fight between two brothers is at the heart of it all…The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I’m not sure what is happening in the realm of fantasy writing… But whatever is in the water, I hope more authors drink and get pregnant with it. Recently, I reviewed The Warded Man, a fantasy series I can finally get behind. This week I’m reviewing another first book in a fantasy series that I expect to captivate me: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.

The Black Prism begins strong with action right away. Somehow, Weeks hits the mark right on the head: the character is someone you immediately root for, the setting is immediately believable, and the magic system immediately makes a kind of sense even though it’s different than the magic systems you see in other fantasy novels.

And then Weeks hits you on the head again, by making it clear in the first few pages that this isn’t just another fantasy novel. He acknowledges the trope of a young character who believes his life will become something bigger, and then says: Really? What makes you think you have a right to that, buddy? This puts me on the author’s side right away, because he’s telling me as a reader that he has no intentions of being lazy and selfish. He’s thinking about me as he’s writing this novel, and I appreciate that.

Then Weeks really kicks it into high gear by adding all kinds of political and personal drama that is fascinating, and yet it never overshadows the most important thing in a novel, in my opinion—the people! Man, I love the people in The Black Prism. As I mentioned earlier, the heart of this novel is the conflict between two brothers that, I have to say, I can’t wait to read more about.

And Weeks does something I haven’t seen in a while: he plays with my expectations of who these two brothers are, and then twists it in a way that, although I did see it coming, I was thrilled to see it coming. In other words, as soon as I realized what Weeks was doing, it made me want to read the book even more than ever. Can I just say it? Brent Weeks, you had me at hello. And you’ve kept me. Congratulations!

This is a rare book that I think even non-fantasy fans could enjoy, because it is so easy to get into the flow of the action. Many times, fantasy novels belabor the magic that drives their world. Or they belabor the setting. Not The Black Prism. This book makes everything so accessible, so quickly, that it feels natural to read about it. Being a regular fantasy reader, I know how hard this must be, because I don’t see it that often. Brent Weeks pulls off a hat trick here. I don’t know how he did it, but he did.

In sum:  If you read fantasy at all, you have to pick up a copy of The Black Prism. This is mandatory for you, right up there with The Lord of the Rings. If you write fantasy, or any kind of fiction, you’ll also want to pick up this book to study what Weeks does and how he does it. And if you’re game to read outside your normal genre and want to make a foray into fantasy writing, I think this is a good one to start with. Highly, highly recommended!

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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