The Blinding Knife review

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Blinding Knife is the second novel in the Lightbringer series, following a great start for the new epic saga of the author with The Black Prism back in 2010.  Brent Weeks is at the top of his game with this book and he raises the standard for the whole series, creating higher expectations for the follow-ups.
Gavin Guile is dying. 
He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies. 
Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.
To quote myself: "The Black Prism is a fast paced epic adventure concentrated around its magic system with a bunch of entertaining characters.".  With this in mind, I started reading The Blinding Knife and I was glad at first when I realized that the magic system, original and slightly overwhelming as it is, is now out of the way, firmly installed.  To my surprise however, I found out that it's developed even further and integrated into the story with much more skill than in The Black Prism. Weeks' world feels even more real this time around, the cohesion between the historical, magical, political and narrative elements being achieved seamlessly, all in symbiosis with the 'chromaturgic' lore.

The Lightbringer series is clearly for the fans of classic Epic Fantasy with big empires, prophecy, heroes and villains and a good deal of prowess.  However, even if Weeks is playing with subjects like fatherhood, love, power, brotherhoods and war, he's also able to dig deeper into these issues through his characters.  The book may look at first designated for all the family, without much grittiness in the prose, meaning that it's written for everyone but with adult subject matter more often than not, demonstrating some candor, deep reflection and perceptivity from the author. The storyline was meticulously planned out. 

In the first book, Gavin stole the show.  This time, even if he's still the center of attention and a compelling character to follow due to his position and arrogant behavior, my curiosity drifted toward Kip and the Black Guards training.   Their universe may seem simple with weekly battle matches to fight for a position high enough to make into the special unit but that's a coming of age story for the clumsy Kip alongside a cruel  search for his place in his family's world that I was always eager to discover.  The young man was still bringing smiles to my lips as I went through the chapters where he's the point of view.

Speaking of which, similarly to the previous novel, Weeks shows that he can deliver coolness in the form of his protagonists.  In The Blinding Knife, we follow the right people, at the right moment, the stars of the show (with one exception of which I'll talk later).  Yes, some of them are still a bit stereotypical and the surprises may not come in an unexpected abundance, but the tale is still unpredictable enough to keep the pages turning again and again without putting the book down.

The author's writing has always been pretty straightforward and practical and it never hinders the narrative.  He made some choices in term of who to keep alive or kill that I found dubious but we'll see if he's right at the end of the run.  Moreover, there's still a big lack in term of character evolution for Gavin's nemesis, the Color Prince (the exception I was talking about).  If there's one aspect that need more work in the coming book, it's there and maybe in the relationships the Prism entertains with the head of the different Satrapies.  The political game is explored further in the second book but it's not enough to satisfy my appetite.

Aside from the meta-story where war and new color gods arise, the more personal threads keep the tale sincere and substantial.  The somewhat destructive relation between Dazen and Karris is expertly handled and the supporting characters get enough exposure to be considered important for the main protagonists.

There's one last aspect to talk about, the Nine Kings card game.  It may be reminiscent of the Malazan Dragon Deck with some twists as it is a game, but it's really a great addition to the tale.  That element alone creates many canvases for Weeks to work with, which he uses to cement Kip distinctiveness and enhance the whole lore of his world.

As you can see, I would recommend this book to everyone who read the first opus.  Be it that you were a bit disappointed by it or simply loved it, in this case, second time's the charm.

Technically, I'm not a big fan of the Orbit books cover (and as some have commented, it's a drastic change from the cover of the first book) but it's not awful. The hardcover edition of the book stands at 671 pages and the same nice map as in The Black Prism is present.

The Blinding Knife review score :

Characterization............. 8.5 /10
World building............... 9 / 10
Magic system................. 9 / 10
Story.............................. 8 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10


Brent Weeks page
The Black Prism review


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