The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks
|Book Name:||The Blinding Knife|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||September 11, 2012 (US) September 13, 2012 (UK)|
Wow. Now that is how you write a follow up. Brent Weeks, although not the greatest prose stylist ever, knows how to give his readership a great story, engrossing characters, powerful shocking twists, and possibly the greatest pacing known to the fantasy genre. He writes as a man who is fully invested in what he is doing and loving every moment of it. His pure joy for his work seems to come out of the pages and his enthusiasm succeeds in pulling the reader along for the ride. The Blinding Knife was a literary whirlwind of fun and mightily enjoyable because of it.
It’s funny how much I’ve fallen for this book after my lack of enjoyment when reading The Black Prism. The first Lightbringer volume, I felt, tried and failed to satisfactorily build the world and setting that the story is based in. The pacing was great but the plot seemed to fly by a bit too quickly, leading characters to suddenly excel in situations that you felt would have been way out of their league not 100 pages before. Having read that story after the wonderful Night Angel trilogy, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed.
The Blinding Knife, however, changed everything. It felt like Weeks had decided to reel himself in a little. Bring the characters back to their roots. Give them time to learn about themselves and the world around them. It was a good choice to make as the story benefitted from it greatly.
Kip’s story takes a ‘back to basics’ approach which I think was truly necessary for his character. Kip was allowed to explore his abilities and put them to the test rather than be rushed through plot point after plot point. It did feel a little jarring at first; after having killed men twice his age in the previous story he suddenly felt he couldn’t take on 15-year-olds in a fist fight. But it felt believable and natural and so it had my approval. Kip’s character interactions are always great and his persona of a worried kid thrust into an unusual environment, mixed with his rebellious nature and explosive tongue, really captured many different elements of his characterisation. His chapters were very interesting in their personal look at how the Chromeria and the Blackguards worked and his sub-plot rivalry with his grandfather Andross Guile made for some very memorable scenes.
Andross is a character who, as another added bonus, is given a lot more page time in this outing. He seems to get quite a bit of comparison to Tywin Lannister (from A Song of Ice and Fire) but what he lacks in the dominant presence and manipulative genius of Tywin (instead preferring to hide away in a darkened room to preserve what’s left of his life) he makes up for in his controlling-the-strings secrecy, his sanctimonious haughtiness, and his horrid authoritarian judgements and actions. For someone who appears physically weak, he is not someone you’d want to cross. Ever. Andross Guile is a seriously formidable figure who was a joy to read whenever he chose to grace the page.
With Liv we get brief but interesting insights into the other side of the overarching conflict presiding over the whole series. She has now sided with the Colour Prince, who, whilst being presented as the major antagonist of the novel, is given plenty of grey and opinion-changing moments which serve to distort the line between right and wrong, or rather question it. Liv is a woman caught between two priorities: the love of her father and her drive for independence and recognition. Her actions throughout the novel are guided by this central inner conflict and it is interesting to see the level she stoops to and the choices she makes in her quest to do the ‘right thing’. She stands as a rather unpredictable element to the story and it makes her chapters rather insightful into the minds of non-conformists to the established order of things. Sometimes you just don’t know who, or what, to root for.
The introduction of a new player is made in the form of Teia. She becomes a bit of a replacement for Liv in Kip’s life, but the added element of her slavery, along with her unique drafting capabilities, makes her a more than intriguing character on her own merit. It’s a shame that some of her parts of the storyline seemed to go by quite quickly without much more exploration into her character and abilities, but I dare say there’ll be time for that in the following volume.
Of course, once again, it is the character of Gavin Guile that truly drives this book to excel. The figure is just so fascinating. Both painfully heroic at some points and darkly villainous at others. He is a two-legged epitome of hypocrisy and lies, yet he always wants to do the right thing and his heart is, more often than not, the core drive in his decision-making. He is thoroughly unpredictable and I love him for it. The plot hinges on the dark secret that he has hidden from almost everyone in the world, but in this volume it starts to slip out a little more. You can taste his desperation and fear, and the looming revelation of this secret creates an amazing amount of tension and unique drama.
Gavin is a truly compelling figure, masterfully constructed, who develops well in this second volume and tries his best to help his people in the limited time he has remaining. He took a backseat in the first half of this volume, which was good as it allowed Kip to flourish a bit more, but came back to take his rightful place as central protagonist at around the halfway mark. Safe to say, the second half was exciting and just a delight to read.
To conclude, this is a big plot with plenty of interesting characters, a range of fascinating new developments and ideas (such as the Nine Kings playing cards that can tell a person’s history), and enough set pieces, drama, and shocking moments to keep you on the edge of your seat with your heart firmly in your mouth. What started off as a rather mediocre series in the first volume has blossomed into something worth the time of every fantasy fan. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s unpredictable. Escapism in its purest form.