The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks: Review
|Book Name:||The Broken Eye|
|Formatt:||Hardback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Anthology|
|Release Date:||August 2014|
Intro & Recap
I admit that when Brent Weeks announced he was going to take a break from the Night Angel world – leaving behind incredible characters such as Kylar, Durzo and Viridiana – I sighed. In fact, I thought he was crazy. I mean, I don’t have access to Brent’s bank account (despite a number of requests), but I presume he did pretty well from that series. I tend to judge a conventionally published book’s popularity by the number of Goodreads ratings it gets (yeah, not exactly science) and Brent has around 63,000 ratings for his first book in that series. Authors around that number include Scott Lynch with 60,000 for The Lies of Locke Lamora, Brandon Sanderson with 70,000 for The Way of Kings and Peter V. Brett with just over 40,000 for The Warded Man. That said, I had faith in Brent. The Night Angel books remain some of my favourite fantasy to date, so I was going to give Brent a chance, whatever he decided to write next.
I have to say that I was pretty nervous when I picked up The Black Prism. The concept was based on ‘drafters’ who could draw upon colours from the spectrum of light. Each of these colours has its own properties that allow varying usages and also have different effects on people. Red for example is volatile and therefore good for fire, but it also means that those who draw upon it are prone to anger. Blue is hard and can be used for things such as building, armour or even weapons. Those who draw upon it tend to be rational and relaxed. The issues I had with that first book was that Brent’s concept of his world was incredibly well thought out, but reliant upon a reader understanding the importance of each colour in every interaction (to stop the ‘Gandulf effect’ – where it seems as if the author came up with a solution by creating a new rule), that my brain was about ready to explode after that first novel. I’d learnt about the properties of 9 colours, a hierarchy that was as corrupt and complicated as Game of Thrones, and – most tricky of all – the protagonist wasn’t who he was, he was his twin brother.
On reflection, I probably went into The Black Prism expecting a Night Angel Clone in a new world and it certainly isn’t that. Looking back at my original review I’m kind of proud of myself, check this out:
The big question fantasy fans will have is “Does it live up to The Night Angel Trilogy?” and I have to say to you all “No it doesn’t… BUT… It has potential to be better”. Although it has taken its time to build a world, something The Night Angel Trilogy did not, the second book will determine whether Weeks has taken a huge leap forwards or a small step backwards. When you set the bar as high as he did with his past trilogy, perhaps beating it takes a little preparation.
I feel I nailed that conclusion, honestly. Looking at what Brent pulled off with the second book, the first in the series had to be exactly as it was. It meant that The Blinding Knife could be almost the opposite to The Black Prism in terms of pace and yet do it in a convincing manner. The Blinding Knife offers readers an experience of non-stop twists, turns, revelations, character growth, dangerous interactions, action sequences and so much more; there was absolutely no way we could have done anything but give it Fantasy-Faction’s Best Book Of The Year Award for 2012.
Review of The Broken Eye
But anyway, you know all this if you are reading this review. You want to know about book three, right? Can Brent pick up where he left off, write another ‘book of the year’ contender or does he drop the ball?
Well, the book picks up where we left off. Our protagonists have lost a pretty big battle and things are not looking good. Kip was taken capture by his evil half-brother Zymun, Gavin has been stabbed by a magical knife and found himself powerless and enslaved on a boat, Andross – who had broken his halo – has somehow healed himself and is looking 20 years younger.
With so many of the strong male characters out of play the women characters take centre stage for much of the novel. Teia, who many people enjoyed reading about in The Blinding Knife, really comes into her own. Her being able to draw upon paryl – a colour invisible to many due to being so far above the sub-red spectrum – means that certain dangerous people are interested in her. Readers will follow Teia’s interactions with an assassin who goes by the name of ‘Murder’ as he tries to recruit her to his ancient cause. It quickly becomes apparent that Murder has specific tasks in mind for Teia; it would be very, very useful for him to have someone inside the Chromeria. Teia’s answer may seem clear cut, but her life has been passed around on a piece of paper, she has been traded and gambled for as a slave – does the Chromeria really deserve her loyalty? Fans of the Night Angel series will enjoy the action sequences and exploration of the moral dilemmas connected with betrayal, theft and the murder of other human beings – even when they are bad people or even the enemy.
Karris struggles to deal with the loss of Gavin and her new position as ‘wife of the Prism’. Very early on in the novel she is forbidden to draft by The White who tells her that she has burnt through too much of her life already. If she wishes to live more than a few years she must go completely cold turkey and learn to use her wits rather than her power. As an impulsive, wild red this is incredibly challenging for Karris. Formerly enjoying a position as one of the most powerful drafters in the world she is now a petit woman married to a lost man – who is presumed dead. That said, The White has plans for Karris and she is to link up with a former rival to run a spy network. Of course, getting Gavin back – who she does not believe is dead – is always on her mind.
The White is near death. We have known this for quite some time, but we really feel that she is entering her last few months as be begin The Broken Eye. The White is a rare character in a fantasy novel. She is incredibly powerful and yet old and fragile. She has almost lost the usage of her powers (to preserve the little life she has left), but she is still feared and in control of the most powerful order in the world. People fear her, respect her and seek her advice at every turn. Each person in the Chromeria fears the ramifications of her death that fast approaches… None more so than Karris who has come to see her as a mother. There are some beautifully written interactions between Karris and The White, some of the finest I’ve read in this genre, that I am sure will have readers fighting back the tears. It is obvious that Karris, especially now she is powerless, would be the obvious choice to replace The White – but is her past too tainted? How could she possibly live up to such an incredibly gifted woman?
This feeling that The White’s death is to be a significant blow that will throw the World into turmoil is far from the only ‘big change’ that Brent teases the reader with. Gavin is alive, and readers will likely expect his escape or a rescue attempt to come quickly. I won’t spoil things, but Brent doesn’t make it easy to guess when or if this will happen. Every time I thought something positive was going to happen for Gavin I was proven wrong. He isn’t getting out of this position easily. Similarly, I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that Kip makes it back to the Chromeria (it is in the blurb). When he gets there, Kip’s games with his Grandfather are back and full of unexpected twists and turns. If you enjoyed Nine Kings then wait until you see Kip and Andross play a game of wits and moves in real life that involves not only powerful people of the Chromeria, but also the people Kip cares most about.
What fans of the series will most appreciate is Brent’s mastery at expanding his world. Using a number of excellent techniques such as the reappearance of the cards, visits to a secret library and flashbacks to times where other luxin colours were in use and talked about Brent makes the world feel much, much larger. Although there is a slower pace to this novel – probably because the most powerful man in the world isn’t able to go out an race around kicking arse whilst chained up on a boat – this allow the other characters in the series to really shin and for readers to get a better grasp of the world they all live.
That said, I wouldn’t want to give the impression this book is a hard read; I may even have read it faster than book two. By having so many hanging plot threads that inevitably will have explosive endings whilst he explains certain important history and concepts, the reader feels almost dared to put the book down. Additionally, characters evolve so quickly that you can’t help but want to spend more time with them – Kip is so, so different from book 1, but without realising it until I stopped and reflected, also book 3. The same goes for Karris, Teia, Gavin and even Andross. Something else readers will appreciate is Brent’s almost comic book-like humour that is laced into both spoken and internal thought – adding a ton of readability.
Any complaints? I guess I missed reading about Liv. Although we see her a couple of times the actual time spent with her is very short. This meant that plot thread seemed a little left behind whilst we dealt with the more internal Chromeria stuff. I think some readers will miss the villains a little – although Andorss and Murder do a good job at filling their spots temporarily. All that said, the chapters we were in her POV were obvious setups for a bigger role in the finale.
And… speaking of that finale, it is impossible to convey just how excited I am about it without spoiling the ending of The Broken Eye, but lets just say that Brent’s trend of leaving the reader dangling from a cliff will ensure that anyone who finishes book three will be counting down the days to book four.
The Short version: Everything about this book lives up to book two. The plot is an unforgiving torrent, the world grows significantly in its epicness, the characters are rounded out even further and although the pace is certainly slower, the rate that you turn pages won’t be! The Broken Eye is the closest thing you can get to a ticking time bomb in book form. We can’t wait for book 4, which promises to be the explosion!