The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks is the third and penultimate in his Lightbringer series following on from The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife. It continues the story of Prism Gavin Guile and his illegitimate son Kip and their attempt to stop the Seven Satrapies from collapsing under the pressure of the Color Prince and his new gods.
My impression of this book was that it was very much a middle book – concentrating more on positioning the characters for the final assault. It concentrated more on character development than moving the plot forward. While there were a couple of eyebrow raising moments for me, but nothing compared to the couple of WTF?!? moments of the previous books. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.
What I liked
The magic system. For this series Weeks has created a wonderfully developed magic system. I usually consider Brandon Sanderson the master of magic system development, but with this colour-based system Weeks could give him a run for his money. In essence, Weeks’ magic system works in the opposite manner to a candle. A candle takes a physical substance – wax – and converts it into light. Weeks’ magic users (drafters) can take light and convert it into a physical substance, luxin. Different drafters can convert different colours of the spectrum, red, green, ultraviolet etc – and each colour of luxin so produced has different properties.
Like any good magic system, it has clear limitations. Drafters need to be able to see the colour they draft. In Weeks’ world, you can cripple a drafter by limiting his or her access to that colour. Additionally, it is believed that drafters can only draft a finite amount of luxin in their lives before they “break the halo” and become dangerously emotionally unstable. This means they must give serious thought before using their magic. Although drafters can create luxin, that luxin subject to normal physical laws. More skillfully drafted luxin is stronger and more stable, but lack of skill can be compensated for by amount of luxin drafted.
The character development. There is some great character development in this book. Without going into spoiler territory, Kip, Karris and Teia are all becoming the people it looks as though they will need to be for the final book. On the other hand, Gavin’s character arc has hit rock bottom. In a standard fantasy, that would mean that his fate is going to take a large upswing. However, this is a Brent Weeks series we’re talking about here; anything thing could happen.
Setup for final book. It’s actually really clever that we’re three books into a four book series and Weeks could still go anywhere with his storyline. That makes it wonderful for speculation.
The narration. The audiobooks of The Blinding Knife and The Broken Eye were narrated by Simon Vance. The combination of Weeks’ witty writing style and Vance’s narration is pure gold. I just ADORED the narration. In fact, Vance’s narration of book two, The Blinding Knife, was a major factor in my becoming so hooked on audiobooks. If you’re thinking of checking out this way of enjoying books, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Vance and Weeks.
What I didn’t like
Spot the antagonist. A fantasy series needs a strong villain, and we saw very little of the Color Prince in this volume. I’m going out on a limb here and assuming the Color Prince is the series’ big bad. That’s by no means certain when you’re talking about a Brent Weeks series. The antagonist role in The Broken Eye was played by Andross Guile and for Teia Murder Sharp. Don’t get me wrong; they’re both nasty pieces of work, but they both operate primarily on the mundane plane. When you’re getting into territory of new gods being born, you need an antagonist operating in the same sphere. In some cases it could also be said that the characters’ biggest challenge was their own emotional baggage. That is fascinating in terms of character development, but less so to create dramatic tension.
In summary then, I would recommend the Lightbringer series – especially in audiobook format. I gave this particular volume, The Broken Eye, four stars out of five.