At its heart, The Black Prism is a spin on the classic fantasy Farm Boy trope. Kip, our farm boy, is just an ordinary 15-year-old kid living in a humble little village, when destiny suddenly comes a-knockin in the form of an army that slaughters his entire town. In the ensuing chaos, Kip discovers he is the illegitimate son of Gavin Guile, the Prism, who is a sort of religious/political figure, kind of like a Priest-King. Prisms are one in a generation; they alone are able to draft seven colors with no negative effects, making them extremely powerful; they also use this power to maintain “color balance” in the world. This particular Prism, though, is marked by a war from sixteen ago, when Gavin fought against his brother, who was seemingly also a Prism, leading the war to be known as the False Prism’s war.
This is by far the best Schwab book I’ve read, and yet I’ve still come away from the experience in much the same way I’ve come away from reading all her other books, which is to say: I think that, on a technical level, this is an absolutely brilliant book and I can’t fathom giving it less than five stars, but I still have several criticisms. And I just know there’s going to be so, so many effusive and glowing five-star reviews of this book (they’re coming out already), which are well-deserved, but I’d still like to discuss some of the issues I had.
Al-Andalus is a gilded vision imprinted into the minds of many Muslim children, myself included. It is a dream of glory days long past, the Golden Age of the Islamic Empire, a time of prosperity and tolerance. The Bird King begins not in the midst of this glory age, but at the door of its downfall: the year is 1491. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand have laid siege to Granada, the last remaining stronghold of the great empire of Muslim Spain, tenuously held by the sultan and his retinue.
I’m really terrible at finishing series. Mainly, it’s because my memory is garbage, and so by the time a sequel comes out I’ve forgotten absolutely everything and have to re-read, and I’m really lazy about re-reading. Plus I have a short attention span and 99% of the time I prefer standalones or companion novels. But, mainly the memory thing, and because of that, I made the executive decision not to read series until they are complete, or nearly complete. So, I’ve been waiting and waiting on some of my favorite books to finish up so that I can finally get the payoff I’ve been waiting for.