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Assistant Peter Recommends: The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Hello there! Brandon’s assistant Peter here. This is the start of a sporadic feature on Brandon’s blog where I recommend something to you. But don’t worry, this probably won’t happen very often. I am also going to recommend something else to you in two weeks, but then who knows when the next time might be? Not I. Since you never can tell when something awesome is going to come along.

Today marks the release of the third book in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. Many of you have probably read Brent Weeks’s books before, but if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat.

Now, when I read a book, I often prefer to go in pretty much blind. I hardly ever read the website description, the cover flap, or the back of the book, because I want to preserve as much of the surprise as possible. Of course, that makes it hard to know what to read in the first place.

But this may help: If you’ve come here, you obviously like Brandon Sanderson’s writing. Well, when I read the first Lightbringer book, The Black Prism, two years ago, it was the most entertaining book without the name Brandon Sanderson on the front cover that I had read in years—and in many ways it was very much like reading a book that had Brandon’s name on the front cover. I loved every minute.

If that’s enough of an endorsement for you, then you should go out and read The Black Prism now. But let me get the caveats out of the way:

Sexual content: There is some, a bit more blatant than in Brandon’s book Warbreaker (for comparison). I think there were two minor scenes in the first book, one or two in the second book. The third book has slightly less, yet it is an important plot point. There’s a scene where someone’s thought process in this area is explored, and it perfectly captured the emotional state inherent in such a situation. Very well done, Brent.
Language: There’s profanity. Not everywhere, but if as a reader you like to avoid certain words, you won’t avoid them in the third book. It feels like there’s a bit more profanity in this book than the previous two, but it’s hard to say. There are not any characters who are horribly foul-minded, which I appreciate.
Writing style: Brent does one thing with his writing in this series that takes some getting used to, and that’s not italicizing internal thoughts. That’s a writing trend that can work very well in first-person narrative, but it can be a bit jarring in third-person narrative where the thoughts switch to first-person as thoughts usually are. After a while my brain gets used to it while reading, but it’s a bit unusual so I’m letting you know ahead of time.

Now, just saying “read it if you like Brandon’s books!” might not be enough for you. Let me talk a little about why I like the Lightbringer series. (I hope this doesn’t get too disorganized.)

As I was reading the new book The Broken Eye a couple of weeks ago, this conscious thought crossed my mind: Books like this are why I read epic fantasy. Strong male and female characters, well-defined magic, politics, fighting, cosmology, emotional entanglements, the works. There are times like in the middle of The Way of Kings where you really don’t know where everything is going, but you’re along for a great ride, and everything pulls together eventually. Lightbringer delivers.

Let me point out one thing in particular. Sometimes I read a book and the characters exist sort of in a vacuum, as if they sprang out of nothing. In real life, everyone has a family, and family members are often the source of conflict. In Lightbringer, fiction reflects reality, and all the important characters are connected in one way or another. There’s the two brothers Gavin and Dazen, who ripped apart seven nations in the war between them years ago. There’s Kip, Gavin’s bastard son who was raised never knowing his father. There’s Karris, who was supposed to marry Gavin years ago, but fell in love with Dazen, and is now a bodyguard who kicks butt. There’s Liv, whose father was a general for Dazen and then joined Gavin after the war, and who can’t understand why her father would switch sides like that. There’s the Color Prince leading a new rebellion, and the talented hothead Zymun, and both of them have connections to the other characters that are not immediately revealed. There’s Gavin’s father Andross, who is or seeks to be the power behind the throne. His interactions with his grandson Kip in the second book are a type of generational conflict I haven’t seen before, and it was highly refreshing.

The political system is also fascinating. The relationships between semiautonomous nations show a very fluid dynamic with a lot of shades of grey. It was pretty clear by the second book that there’s something seriously wrong with the society of the Chromeria, though it was also clear that the Color Prince’s proposed solutions had their own issues. Now in the third book we start to see some of the historical reasons for what’s wrong with this world, but we’re still scratching the surface. I’m really looking forward to finding out more as the series continues.

Now, a note about the structure of this series. When I read the first book, The Black Prism, it felt revolutionary to me, fresh and new and exciting. The second book The Blinding Knife continued the story, though it felt less revolutionary, but instead was evolutionary. The characters and the exploration of the magic system bumped to the next notch, but did not immediately astound me. I came to realize that’s just fine. I can’t expect every book two to be as eye-opening as every book one. Nor is this a trilogy where everything will be wrapped up by the third book. (I think it’s slated to be at least five books four books, even if I want more…) Book one set the stage, and future books let everything play out. Some books are great standalones, one-and-done, but some stories are meant to take up multiple books where you still can’t wait for more.

The Broken Eye continues the trend started by the second book. There are some “oh my goodness” moments where you have to begin to reinterpret many things that have gone before, but for the most part you’re with characters you love while they get closer to their goals or make well-meaning mistakes that screw up their lives even more than they were before.

Something else I should shoehorn into this post just because Brandon is a huge Magic: The Gathering fan is that starting in the second book there’s a familiar-seeming card game that plays an important role. That seems like a risky move on the author’s part, but he really pulls it off.

For those who enjoyed the first two books and want to be reassured about the third book, here’s what’s going on with the characters.

Gavin: Always an interesting character to read about, in this book he becomes more of a reactive character than an active one, which changes what it’s like to be in his point of view. But he still has that Gavin attitude, and still shows why I want to root for him despite his flaws.

Karris: Really comes into her own in this book. She’s had a lot of the spotlight before of course, but here she takes on the role that will carry her through the next books. She has to face down some consequences from her past, and make hard choices. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Teia: Continues her awesomeness from the second book. It’s with Teia that we see the most exploration of a new side of the magic system, so there’s a lot of sense of wonder there. Her role is also one of the most dangerous, which had me on the edge of my seat.

The White: One of my favorite characters in this book. That’s all I want to say about her, really. Just go experience what she does.

Kip: It’s with Kip’s storyline that we also see an expansion of the cosmological aspects of the book. There’s a point somewhere after the 2/3 mark of the book where something happens that…well, it’s one of those “oh my goodness” moments I mentioned above. The sparring with his grandfather develops in interesting ways, and he also comes into his own as a leader. His interactions with former rivals in Blackguard training show a lot of growth. His emotional progress is fascinating on many levels, and it’s a testament to Brent Weeks’s character-building skills that Kip ends up in quite a different place from where he was at the start of the series, but every incremental change is completely natural. His insights into other characters also show a lot of maturity, and a certain scene where he talks about Ironfist and his brother Tremblefist was masterfully written.

Liv: After taking a major role in the second book, we see much less of Liv this time around. What she does is still important, but it’s mostly setup for the next book. I loved her in the previous book so her reduced role here was a bit of a disappointment, but she’s clearly pivotal to what will happen going forward. And what we do get of her is good stuff.

Something else that you should not expect in this book is another huge battle. The battles of this book are on a more intimate scale, but they’re no less important than what happened at the end of the second book. Yet these intimate conflicts also let you glimpse the grander war that’s been going on behind the scenes for centuries, of which a rebellion like the Color Prince’s is merely an outer symptom.

Ultimately, it’s hard for me to say anything more useful than what I said above: Books like this are why I read epic fantasy. Go read and enjoy.

|   Castellano