Book Review – The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Review of: The Black Prism
Brent Weeks

Reviewed by:
On 2013-06-17
Last modified:2013-06-16


The book starts off badly but gets better as it goes on, and by the end it was pretty good.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The blurb says:

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 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.

The book starts off badly but gets better as it goes on, and by the end it was pretty good.

Especially at the beginning of the book and to a certain extent through the rest of it, the writing of human thoughts and feelings isn’t good.  I won’t spoil the plot, but I’m pretty sure that in real life people would have a pretty strong reaction to tragedy, which the characters don’t seem to.  I think that I enjoyed the end of the book more that the beginning because there was less human interaction and more war, which the author seems better at describing.

My other big problem with the first part of the book is a massively unlikely coincidence.  I suppose it’s possible that there will be an explanation for it in later books, but I suspect that it’s just something that needed to happen for plot reasons and the author couldn’t think of a quick way for it to happen naturally.

I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but it happened again in this book – the writing trundles along harmlessly and then all of a sudden there’s an appalling atrocity which seems completely out of place.  Once again, I think that real human beings would react very strongly to seeing some of the things described in this book, but the characters don’t seem to react at all.  It feels as though the author wanted to be “gritty” and so put the worst things he could imagine in the book, but wasn’t able to describe how someone would feel when faced with such things.

The author’s name sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until after I started reading it that I realized that it’s the same author as The Way of Shadows, which I reviewed previously and wasn’t very impressed by.

On the positive side, although the bad guys are irredeemably bad and the good guy seems pretty good, there’s a certain amount of ambiguity about the goodness of the good guy for a lot of the book, which I appreciated.

Back on the negative side, another thing I didn’t like was the author’s portrayal of slavery.  He shows well treated slaves as being the same as servants, which misses the point completely.  If a character treats their slaves well it doesn’t make them a good person, freeing them would.

Although I found the author’s portrayal of war better than his portrayal of people’s reactions to tragedy and atrocity, there was still the problem that one of the main characters is a child and yet gets into war as if he were a veteran soldier.  I can’t help but think that killing another human being is a traumatic experience and not something one would just brush off.

One final complaint – why would you name a character Guile?  It just sounds made up.