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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I recently read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. The book has a Wikipedia article, which goes into considerable detail about the setting and the plot, so I'll make this post brief.

This is a fantasy novel, and the first part of a series. (I'm not sure how many books are to be in that series.)

First, a word on the type of magic. The magic in this book has not been proposed before, so far as I know. It is the power to "draft" physical substances from light. That, indeed, would be magical! The ability varies. Some people with such power can use all colors of light, including ultraviolet and infrared, but most others are restricted to one or two colors. The substances produced have different properties, depending on the color. A drafter can, almost instantaneously, produce a missile, or another useful object, provided he or she can see some of the color they need to use. A drafter can produce, over several hours or days, an entire city wall. A most interesting idea. I wonder, though, if the subcreation made by Weeks might not be littered with the work of drafters.

A bit on the characters. There are a few important characters, one female, one an adolescent boy, and two adult males. All are human. (There are no non-humans in the book, except that some people have used too much magic, and become taken over by their color, and their color substance, even bodily.) The characters are well drawn, and appear in situations that caught my imagination, as few other books have done, both in the physical situation they found themselves in, and in their interactions with other people. Characters, especially the adolescent boy, Kip, think for us -- we can read what they think, as much as, or more than, we can read what they says and do, in some parts of the book. There are several minor characters who make appearances.

A bit on the plot. There doesn't seem to be a precursor to this book. Weeks does a pretty good job of explaining what went before, without seeming too didactic, and without giving away too much. If anything, he gives too little away -- there were momentous events, involving all of the main characters, and shaping them in various ways, that took place within their previous lifetimes.

There is a religion in the book. One of the main characters, at least, has his doubts about the reality of the deity of that religion, and its integrity. This is an interchange between that character and his mother:
"Remember what I said," she said.
"Everything," he swore. Even if I don't believe it.
"It's all right," she said. "You'll believe it someday." (p. 539. Note that his mother knows him so well that she knows that he doesn't believe, even though he doesn't say so.)

Thanks for reading. I look forward to reading the next book. I have no idea what Weeks is going to do with it!

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