Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

On Brent Weeks, you sneaky bastard. After about two years of waiting for the sequel to The Black Prism, I was expecting another fiasco like with Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Trilogy. Despite my misgivings, The Blinding Knife was the kind of wonderful book I hate reviewing because the bad parts sound worse after standing in awe of such a fantastic fantasy writer.

For those that haven't read the first book, I'll just gloss over the facts so I don't reveal too much of the spoilers. The Blinding Knife is the second book in the Lightbringer series (which i can only pray is just a trilogy) taking place in a land ruled by 7 different "satrapies" and a culture dominated by people called "Drafters". Drafters can control different colors in the light spectrum to create things: anything from tools to weapons and everything in between. Because of the strain such power puts on a person, Drafters have a fairly short shelf life depending on how frequently they draft and how powerful they are. When drafters "break the halo" they go mad.

The main characters of the story are Gavin Guile, the spiritual leader of the government that controls the drafters, and his bastard son Kip, a powerful, but self deprecating child. There are many other characters introduced throughout the story, which I'll get to later, but for the most part, Gavin and Kip are the ones to look out for. While Gavin is going about his business trying to save the world and working through some serious issues, Kip is learning to control his colors and working to become a Blackguard (elite drafters who protect Gavin and other high ranking members of the government.)

My favorite thing about Kip is that he is the perfect anti-hero. Even though he is immensely powerful, a quick witted smartass, and always does his best to save the day, he is so self deprecating I'm always surprised he doesn't start cutting himself halfway through a conversation with his fellow classmates. A lot of this has to do with his backstory: his mother was an emotionally abusive drug addict and his father is the most powerful and influential drafter in the world. It's enough to give anyone a complex, but no matter what Kip accomplishes, he always finds a way to show a way that he failed, making him such a flawed character that I can't help but  want to give him a hug and a cookie before telling him to go watch cartoons while the adults are busy.

On the flip side, Gavin is less likable in my opinion. Gavin is the Prism, the most powerful drafter in the world and the spiritual leader of Brent Weeks story. Gavin is not limited by the limitations of other drafters. While Gavin presents a cocky, self assured attitude, he has so many secrets that he always give off an air that he is misunderstood. There were so many times in the books that Gavin could have done something to fix his situation but doesn't and waxes at length about how misunderstood he is and how he wishes things were different.

As far as the writing goes, I have little in the way of complaint except for the speeches Gavin gives realism vs. believability, and the character shifts. First off were the long speeches Gavin gives about various things and indeed, some of them are given by other characters. Whole pages are filled up with exposition where Gavin or someone else will tell exactly how things go in paragraphs so long, even I feel winded reading them. While some of it was very important to the storyline, it just felt overdone to me (a little like Professor Binns in Harry Potter, the History of Magic teacher who puts people into comas just by talking.)

One of my issues I actually brought up on Brent Weeks twitter page, but here's just one example. Kip, who is kind of a country boy, is going out to a naval war and describing ships in great detail, everything to the terminology for parts of the boat to the different names for them. Later on, another character who has been trained in battle for years, goes on to say that she can't name any of the different sized ships. While naming the ships was realistic, it wasn't believable that Kip knew the smallest of minute details about every type of ship on the seas but his friends look at them and just say boat.

I've raged about shifting character views too much, but Brent Weeks almost seemed to have that under control in the first book. While there were about four characters in the last book, all of whom were given rich detail, this time Weeks did something new. Inter-spaced in the chapters are small chapters going into other characters lives. These chapters hardly lasted longer than a page or two, and while one or two of them was important, for the most part they seemed random and unhelpful to the actual plot. While I wouldn't be surprised if they show up to be important later on, I don't see them being all that memorable in two years when the next book coming up. To me they were kind of like a friend asking if you remember that one guy who worked at dairy queen two years ago.

For the most part, though, The Blinding Knife was an excellent book. While I was reading it I found myself setting it down after a few pages, just to make sure that I wouldn't finish it too soon, and I can't wait for the third book, The Blood Mirror.

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