(If you have not read the first book in the series, The Black Prism, stop right here and go read that instead. Possible spoilers ahead.)
The Blinding Knife is the second book in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks, who also have the Night Angel trilogy under his belt.
The book starts where the The Black Prism ended. The fight for Garriston is over, Gavin Guile, Kip, Karris, Ironfist and 50000 refugees have escaped Garriston. Gavin has lost blue and he has perhaps a year left to live. He is in a hurry, there are the great purposes to fulfill, the Spectrum to whip into submission, Karris to make amends with, Kip to keep safe and he has to find a home to the refugees. And that is just some of his problems.
The others are struggling as well. Karris is angry, she has discovered Gavin’s secret and is trying to come to terms with its implications, Kip has recovered his knife, but he is lost, caught between what he know of his father and the horror of his mother’s last message. Ironfist is left with a decimated Blackguard and an urgent need to fill the ranks. And at the same time the Color Prince is amassing a great army in the conquered Garriston. Soon he will be marching for other satrapies. And to cap it all off the magic is starting to run wild, creating wildly unusual things.
Gavin, who has to try and stop the war before it really starts, abandons Kip in Chromeria, telling him to join the blackguards, and at the same time manage two major tasks. One is to impress Andross Guile, a task Gavin himself admits is near impossible. The story alternates mainly between Gavin trying to accomplish some of his tasks and Kip trying to be a blackguard and to obey Gavin’s requests, but it offers insights into Karris, Liv and a new character Teia, slave and blackguard trainee, as well.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is filled with great characters I care about, I love Kip who’s insecure but strong willed, smart and not at all perfect, and I am intrigued by Ironfist, the huge soft-spoken hulk of a man, competent and loyal. I root for Karris and I like Gavin, who is impish, headstrong and able to juggle a million purposes at all times and I love that he sometimes fails.
The storytelling in this book is deep and vibrant. It builds and builds as Brent gives his plots and subplots time to develop. He expertly weaves story lines together into a compelling story of love, loss, identity and magic. I absolutely love the world building, it is very complex and rich, both in diversity and culture, religiously and politically. Especially the magic-system is amazing, original, imaginative and envy-inducing.
There are a few things I didn’t like. Mainly: Liv, the Chromeria girl who joined the Color Prince, feels tacked on, like she’s solely an opportunity to see behind enemy lines. I don’t like her, she is strong willed and rational, but can’t make up her mind, she is disgusted by the actions of the Color Prince but does nothing. She takes a lover but can’t seem to get rid of him on her own when he proves a wrong match. Her motivation to join the Color Prince is weak. She just irritates me massively. Secondly: The battles in the book gives me pause as well. There are huge build ups to them, and they are difficult, but at the same time they feel too easy. The obstacles that Weeks throw at Gavin, Karris, Kip and the others are substantial, but I don’t really fear for the lives of the main characters. I know beyond a doubt that they will all make it through.
And a note on Gavin and the Color Prince as characters. They are on each side of this cataclysmic rift in the magic, fighting for each their side. Gavin for the balanced, controlled side and and the Color Prince for the wild uncontrollable side, but at the same time they are so similar. They are both master manipulators, charismatic and utterly ruthless. They both use people indiscriminately though Gavin does it with a heart and the Color Prince does it with cold detachment. Sometimes I am not sure if I am not supposed to sympathize just a little with the Color Prince as well as Gavin, Kip and the others.
That said, this is really a great book, it swept me with it like a huge wave and it deposited me back in the real world amazed, surprised, thoughtful and sad to turn the last page. I love that Brent Weeks avoided certain pitfalls my jaded reader’s mind expected and I like that when I seem to know it all, the story twists and I have to re-orient myself. Especially the ending managed to take me by complete surprise. I can’t wait for the third installment to hit the shelves, I need more Gavin and Kip.