Tuesday, September 25, 2012

[Lisa's Take] Lightbringer Book 2: The Blinding Knife (Brent Weeks)

It pains me deeply to say this, but I was a little disappointed by The Blinding Knife.  Don’t get me wrong – it was a great book!  Excellent!  Spectacular in some ways, even!  But taken as a whole it left me feeling a bit let down.

A bit of background: I adored the Shadow books, and then Black Prism completely blew me out of the water.  I was stunned at how much of a better writer Weeks became between his first trilogy and his second; Black Prism was a tighter, more believable story.  I suppose I had hoped that momentum would carry into Blinding Knife – but of course it’s unrealistic to expect that kind of exponential growth from anyone, even one of your favorite authors.

My gripes about the book fall loosely into two categories: gripes that are probably legitimate (when considering that this is a work of fantasy), and gripes that even I can tell are kind of silly (when considering that this is a work of fantasy).

Regarding legitimate gripes: I called every twist in the book.  There was not a single thing that surprised me, even a tiny bit.  There was one thing near the end that confused me [1] but that’s not the same thing. Also, about half way through the book I started feeling like Weeks was drawing on the same tropes he used in the Shadow books (they love each other but they can never be together!  Woe!  But now they might be able to be together if only circumstances didn’t conspire to have one of them horribly maimed! WOE!).  There was still a ton of brilliance and originality in the details of the story and the world itself, but when it comes to major themes and the ebb and flow of the action, it felt very familiar and very done.

As for gripes that I think are kind of silly… once again I hesitate to bring feminism into my book blog, but it niggled at me throughout the book so I suppose I’ll just get it out of my system.  So.  Women see colors better than men, right? Kip is the [MINOR SPOILER?]first male superchromat [/MINOR SPOILER] in ages at the Chromeria, and the teachers and his classmates all remark on it.  If that’s the case, why is the society in the book still so very male-centric? Sure, there are some strong women, but they make up only half of the Spectrum and seem to be in the minority in the Blackguard (though that is arguably realistic, since women are physically less powerful by default). But you’d think if women were so often superior with colors, they would hold a majority in positions of power.  There are even some subtle things about the speech of people in the book that would likely be different – why would a society centered around strong women default to male-gendered wording, for instance, or always assume maleness in an anonymous strong person?

Weeks took some great strides to make his female characters strong and independent, but in the end most of his female PoV characters fell victim to love or lust, as though all they needed in their lives was a man to complete them. The one exception here is [MINOR SPOILER] Teia [/MINOR SPOILER], but she was also the most minor of the PoV characters – I will be shocked (SHOCKED!) if she makes it through the next book without having a man to attach herself to.    Oh, and as a slightly more minor manifestation of the same gripe – if Gavin Guile’s internal monologue says just ONE more time “oh, she was/is/will be so easy to seduce and win over to my way of thinking” I will stab someone.  With an actual knife, not a toothless little color-sucking knife.

I can’t be more specific on “ladies who need men in their pants” without getting into spoilery territory, but color me (heh) disappointed.  For both of the items above, Weeks started with a strong idea and then didn’t take it out to its full world-buildy completion point.

Hah, boy – funny how my list of “silly gripes” doubled the length of my “legitimate gripes.”  I wonder if that is telling?

Anyway, I don’t want this review to end with any takeaway other than: I really, truly did enjoy this book!  It was great and awesome as a whole and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  I ate through almost the entire thing in a weekend. I was just a little let down since I expected Weeks to step up his game, but instead I was given another dose of “more of the same.” Which is nothing to complain about when “more of the same” is a rollicking good time, with several good gut-wrenching twists thrown in.

[1] [SPOILER] namely how the knife suddenly behaved in a completely different/inconsistent way regarding color transference[/SPOILER]