I was wrong.
I want to get that out of the way, so let me reiterate, I was wrong. Horribly wrong, terribly wrong, absolutely and wholly despairingly wrong.
I think a major issue that a lot of readers face in starting new series and reading new authors is coming to terms with the fact that your initial gut feeling was incorrect. Being forced into the realization that your instincts, which you’ve been able to rely on in Fantasy Series X, are giving you incorrect information in Fantasy Series Y can be a bitter pill to swallow.
This guest post is being written entirely due to this happening during my initial reading of The Black Prism, book one in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. Having not read any of Weeks’s writings prior to this novel, and entering into the series based on Andrew’s recommendation (with no knowledge as to its content), I was in a perfect position to judge a book by its cover, as the tired cliché goes. I was also just coming off a reading of a book by Joe Abercrombie, and thought that my ability to sense twists and plot reveals was at an all-time high. I had no idea how wrong I was.
For those of you not familiar with The Black Prism or its sequels, I’ll very vaguely sketch out the concept so you can see where I’m coming from. Outcast son of a drug addicted whore finds out he has magic powers, embarks on a “quest” to get better at using those powers and, shockingly, gets better at using those powers. As I was getting around a fifth of the way through the book, I remember scoffing at one of the main characters’ use of what is essentially a glider that is shaped like a glass bird pooping rainbow balls. This, after what I thought was a somewhat formulaic opening to a fantasy series, was nearly the final straw and had me seriously considering finding another book to read. I told Andrew this, and his only response (besides agreeing that the rainbow-poop bird-plane is absurd) was to laugh and tell me how wrong I was, and asking me to trust him and just keep reading. Rolling my eyes as hard as I possibly could, I continued reading, hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
Was. I. Ever.
One of the, at a guess, ten major plot reveals/twists occurred in the very next chapter, and it left me with my jaw on the floor. Now, not every one of them was a total surprise, some of them had a good deal of foreshadowing or “this is the only outcome that makes sense” about them, but after that first moment I was absolutely hooked, and continued to be pleasantly surprised through the remainder of the series. I eagerly anticipate next year’s finale, The Blood Mirror.
Had I put the book down, and not given it the chance it needed to shine, I would not have read what is now one of my absolute favorite series out there, and would have missed out on so many excellent moments. It was during my conversation with Andrew that I learned about his “20% rule”, something I now take to heart. The rule is this: lots of authors have great book ideas and are incredibly talented, but have no idea how to start their books, so sometimes you have to give about the first 20% of a book a pass. While there are a lot of books out there that start strong, I feel like there is something to be said for making an effort to get to the halfway point before really evaluating your feelings on a story. I don’t think that’s the case with The Black Prism, as I think the “standard fantasy hero” beginning to the story acts to set up the story’s many plot twists incredibly well by setting the reader’s expectations against them.
So let me say it one final time, and send out an apology to Brent Weeks for my lack of faith at the same time. I was wrong about The Black Prism, it is as far from a formulaic hero’s journey as can be. I was the most wrong, wronger than wrong, the wrongerest, and I will use this experience to try to be less unbelievably wrong in the future.
The Black Prism: 9/10