I'm really not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this, I've had it on my shelf since Christmas 2010 and I was a huge fan of Weeks' Night Angel trilogy when I read them in 2008. I like to tell myself that I was waiting for more of the series to be published so I didn't have to wait for so long in between books.
Firstly, can I just say that I didn't get in the end why it was called The Black Prism ... I was expecting some kind of last-chapter revelation a la Warbreaker, but unless I missed something ...? Anyone?
Coming off the back of A Song of Ice and Fire I found the beginning of The Black Prism quite clumsy and unpolished, but in fairness I think this would be the case with almost anything in comparison to GRRM. Whle GRRM is meticulous in his pace and crafting, Weeks throws us instantly and haphazardly into the action of the story. There is a real sense here that anything that isn't essential to the telling of the main story thread has been avoided or culled.
This awkwardness for me didn't last very long however before I was able to readjust to the magic that is Brent Weeks. After reading some dismissive reviews of his works, I wondered if I would still love the Night Angel trilogy today, having initially read it as a much younger and more inexperienced reader. The Black Prism was just confirmation for me that this stuff was sheer greatness.
Week's prose and vernacular isn't anything special and there are always some moments of weakness within the plot, but he writes an enthralling and captivating story that is incredibly hard to put down once you've started. I was very appreciative of the great pace, amount of action and some really great plot twists throughout which kept it intensely interesting.
I struggled a little bit with the magic system in this one, which was incredibly complicated and overloaded with detail, which meant that it became easy to find flaws and holes - but then again, this was also the case with the vague and mysterious system in Night Angel. If someone is able to create and move matter from light, why not create one thousand tiny bullets and spray them at the oncoming army? Then, even matters such as the opposing backwards thrust can be dealt with. Weeks tries to create limitations and barriers to the seemingly omnipotent form of magic, but while they help, they do not stand up completely. I'm sure it's been said, but there are also obviously huge similarities between this system and that of Warbreaker (not a bad thing, just sayin').
Gavin Guile was the real highlight character for me as challenges constantly thrown against him showed his incredible complexity and both his strengths and weaknesses. Kip was a little hit and miss for me. I liked that Weeks created a protagonist that wasn't a cookie cutter young hero, but instead a typical angsty overweight teenager, however his dichotomous personality was both a little far-fetched and overly repetitive. The amount of times he would berate himself for being weak and a failure, only then to go all Super Sayan and/or open up a can of verbal buuuurrrnnn became excessive and predictable. Both Kariss and Liv had potential to be awesome, but I think they were a little under developed and in fact, sometimes I got confused between the two (somehow). And who calls themselves Lord Omnichrome, I mean, really?
I have a feeling that things are really going to heat up in the following novels ... It seems (judging only by the last two of course) that Weeks' opening novels are kept comparatively simple and tame, while (I think/hope) the following become a real roller coaster ride in every sense. Thankfully I now don't have to wait for The Blinding Knife!
If you haven't read any Brent Weeks yet, get to it!