The Black Prism (Lightbringer #1) is the first of a five book fantasy series written by Brent Weeks deemed The Lightbringer Series.
I had never read any of his fantasy work prior to this novel, so going into it I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that I was about to embark on arguably my favorite fantasy series ever.
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my book reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the book to give you an idea of whether or not this novel might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
The Black Prism review is meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary. I only include spoilers for previous novels if the novel is a sequential installment in a series.
In short, The Black Prism review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of The Black Prism. Enjoy!
What reading genre is The Black Prism?
The Black Prism is considered to be a part of the epic fantasy reading genre.
What is The Black Prism about?
The story is set in a corrupt land divided into seven satrapies where magic is the overriding avenue to power.
Trouble is on the horizon threatening to annihilate the existing way of life in the seven satrapies to pave the way for a new dawn of darkness and power.
It is up to a certain set of protagonists to thwart this rebellious uprising, even if it costs them everything.
What separates The Black Prism from existing fantasy novels?
A major aspect of this novel that makes it unlike any other fantasy book I have ever read is the magic system.
In this world, those that are born with magical capabilities harness their power from specific colors in their environment. The power drawn from the visible color spectrum is utilized to draft material called ‘luxin.’
Luxin can be utilized in an almost endless number of ways, such as erecting buildings or crafting weapons from thin air. Weeks goes all in with his descriptions of this magic system, setting an airtight foundation for the story as a whole.
For this reason, I was able to fully engross myself into the pages rather than squander time foraging for plot holes.
What is a major strength of The Black Prism?
Although the magical system was marvelous in its own respect, the characterization stole the show for me.
The novel is written from a first person perspective; however, the story cycles through multiple characters, alternating the first person perspective every chapter or so.
Each character brings a different dynamic to the table, thus making every chapter a smooth change of pace.
Weeks does a tremendous job of sticking the characters in precarious situations where the right decision isn’t always so clear. At certain points in the novel, I even found myself sympathizing with the villains’ motives because the reasoning behind their actions made complete sense.
With that being said, the frequent character carousel did take me a little bit of time to fully settle in with the characters and get accustomed to the writing style. In my humble opinion, tolerating a little confusion early on was well worth it because of how gratifying the storyline of this series is.
Who are the characters that make this novel so top notch?
Kip is a primary protagonist in The Black Prism.
He may not exactly fit the image of what you may be picturing a fantasy hero to be. Kip is young, ignorant, self-deprecating and not in the most pristine condition. Weeks provides a different take on what a fantasy protagonist looks like with the introduction of Kip.
Gavin Guile is another major protagonist that better fits the mold of an archetypical fantasy hero.
He holds the title of Prism, the most renowned position in the Seven Satrapies. Gavin is charming, strong, handsome and heroic. But underneath this mask lies something much deeper that is a source of considerable intrigue throughout The Black Prism.
Karris is a female protagonist that is the embodiment of fit and beautiful.
She is a member of the Blackguard, a prestigious group of individuals entitled with protecting the Prism and the White. Her story is of romance and tragedy. It is another very interesting storyline to keep tabs on.
These are just several of the major character arcs illustrated in The Black Prism. There are several other characters that are introduced as well.
What I like about the characterization so much is that each individual brings their own dynamic to the table. Even the “minor” characters. This intricate character network provides a solid foundation for the electrifying escapades to come in the latter portions of this fantasy series.
How long of a read is The Black Prism?
The Black Prism is an average sized epic fantasy novel.
The novel logs in at little more than 186,000 words total. The total page count is 688 pages on the dot. For the average reader, The Black Prism would take a little under 12 and a half hours to read from start to finish.
Overall, this novel is not too intimidating in terms of reading length. Most epic fantasy novels take a similar time to complete. The time commitment necessary to read The Black Prism should not be a major factor to consider.
It is a trivial factor to consider in the grand scheme of things if you are deciding whether or not to purchase this novel.
How easy of a read is The Black Prism?
The introduction to the intricate magic system can be a tad confusing. When you are initially trying to grasp the concept of chromaturgy, it can feel overwhelming.
As you progress throughout the novel, these feelings of confusion dissipate. Weeks does a tremendous job of simplifying complicated concepts into words the reader can follow.
Understanding the magic system behind The Black Prism is similar to riding a bike. Once you figure out the magic system, it is hard to lose that understanding. All you have to do is get past the fear of riding that bike.
As aforementioned, the character carousel can also complicate your overall comprehension of the plot, especially in the introductory stages of the novel.
The learning curve is surprisingly quick when trying to get a feel for this type of story structure. It only takes a couple of chapters to fully get into the rhythm of the writing style.
Besides these petty qualms, The Black Prism is a pretty smooth read. What makes this read easier is the signature style Weeks formats his chapters.
Most of the chapters in The Black Prism are fairly short in length. These chapters are organized in a way that provides constant, refreshing changes of pace to the novel.
Nearly every chapter ends in some form of suspense. Whether it be a cliffhanger or an abrupt turn of events, Weeks discovers a new way to grab your attention as a reader.
This story structure made all the difference when it came to the ease with which I was able to read this novel. Had The Black Prism been formatted like a standard literary work, I probably would have been discouraged from pushing past the initial sections.
What are the overarching themes in The Black Prism?
One of the overarching themes in The Black Prism is courage.
The theme of courage is heavily emphasized in several character arcs. Each individual character has their own specific set of daunting obstacles that gets in the way of their responsibilities. To accomplish what they need to accomplish, courage is necessary.
The theme of courage takes on a variety of forms in The Black Prism. Not all the acts of courage in this novel are grandiose.
For certain characters, an act of courage may just be reaching out and meeting a new friend. For other characters, an act of courage may entail something a bit more challenging, like saving a town from destruction for instance.
The alternative fashions in which courage presents itself allows the writer to present the reader with this theme from a variety of fronts. This constant repetition reinforces courage is the main theme of The Black Prism.
Since courage is such a relatable theme for readers, its inclusion enhances the overall appeal of this novel. This theme opens up the audience as well.
Whereas before The Black Prism may have only catered strictly to a fantasy audience, the theme of courage opens up the audience to appeal to the more casual reader.
It does this by helping to ease the reader into the transition into the fantasy world of the Chromeria with a universal human conflict.
Another major theme in The Black Prism is overcoming weakness.
Each individual in The Black Prism has some sort of noteworthy flaw. These flaws tend to present themselves in the most unfortunate of circumstances. The vulnerabilities of these characters threaten to bring about their downfall.
Thus, the protagonists are faced with a dilemma. Should they continue to ignore their flaws or acknowledge their weaknesses outright?
What makes this theme even more interesting is the nature of the weaknesses each character has.
For instance, Gavin has the weakness of excessive pride, often leading him into precarious situations that is too much for one man to handle.
On the other end of the spectrum lies Kip, who has self esteem issues. His self deprecation prevents him from pursuing otherwise attainable ambitions. Thus, he is own worst enemy when it comes to his own character development.
The multiple avenues in this theme of overcoming weakness spice up the storyline that much more. Will these characters succeed in finally overcoming their weaknesses? Or will these vulnerabilities bring about their downfall?
Read The Black Prism to find out!
How did The Black Prism make you feel while you were reading?
At first, I was a bit mystified when I was presented with the world of Chromeria. The detailed intricacies and peculiarities of the magic system had me wondering if I could see myself getting into a convoluted world like this.
I felt a bit tiresome after reading through the extensive passages depicting the setting and the magic system in the beginning.
Nonetheless, I understand why it was necessary. The key to any classic fantasy series is to set a solid foundation. Any cracks in the foundation will just come back to haunt the writer later on.
As I kept reading, I came upon a realization. Slowly but surely, I became infatuated with the world of the Chromeria. I was baffled that one man could craft this complex world out of mere words.
I genuinely believe that not even a team of writers could combine their efforts to outdo this singular man. Some of the creative concepts behind The Black Prism are just that good.
Once I was hooked, it was not difficult to devour the entire novel. It had been a long stint since my last top tier fantasy novel. As you could probably imagine, I was elated once I realized the true potential of The Black Prism.
I attribute much of these feelings of enthusiasm to the originality and characterization of the series. These two literary aspects were magnificently done. Consequently, I had no difficulty entering this fantasy world and sharing every up and down with the protagonists.
Would you recommend The Black Prism to children?
I would recommend The Black Prism to teenagers, but not children.
For the most part, the language is not crude. The sexual undertones are kept to a minimum as well. The only major area of concern is the violence. Violence is certainly present and can sometimes be graphic in nature.
For any youth under the age of thirteen, The Black Prism may not be the most suitable option out there.
Is there a follow up novel to The Black Prism?
If you happened to enjoy The Black Prism, I got some good news for you…
Yes! There is a sequel to The Black Prism!
The Black Prism is the debut novel of a fantasy series titled Lightbringer. The Lightbringer series is composed of five volumes total. The Black Prism is merely the beginning. There are plenty more expeditions to be had if you decide to continue along the Lightbringer series.
For a complete overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the Lightbringer series, check out my Lightbringer series review. You will be surprised to see where I mark the Lightbringer series on my all time fantasy series list!
The Black Prism Review Recap
I would recommend The Black Prism to any fantasy fanatic.
For one, the protagonists are a pleasure to read about. What makes it better is that there are so many of these good characters too. The way all of their storylines intersect flawlessly is also expertly done.
The magic system is also refreshingly original. I have never heard of a magical system based on drawing in the different colors of light. I am genuinely excited about the potential of this magic system in the coming novels. And I will certainly be reading the coming novels.
Just get through the early stages of The Black Prism and you will be golden!
Looking for a new fantasy series to start? Browse through a list of My Top Fantasy Books to find your next reading adventure.
“You might want to think twice before you try to use a man’s conscience against him. It may turn out he doesn’t have one.”
“Moments of beauty sustain us through hours of ugliness.”
“Light cannot be chained.”
“You have to be a little bad to make history.”
“And what fun is it being a genius if no one appreciates you?”
The Black Prism Review Rating: 8/10!
Back of the Book Blurb
In a world where magic is tightly controlled, the most powerful man in history must choose between his kingdom and his son in the first book in the epic NYT bestselling Lightbringer series. Guile is the Prism. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.
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.