The Blinding Knife improves a lot from The Dark Prism but because of its abysmal ending I'm afraid I can't rate if four stars.
In book 2 war is fast ap...moreThe Blinding Knife improves a lot from The Dark Prism but because of its abysmal ending I'm afraid I can't rate if four stars.
In book 2 war is fast approaching. Kip is now training to become a Blackguard. Not only will he have to endure the rigorous training but he will also have to spar with none other than Andross Guile himself, Gavin's father, in a dangerous game of cards and wits where the stakes always keep rising. Liv Danaris, daughter of Gavin's friend and ally, Corvan Danavis, has joined the Color Prince in his war against the Chromeria but her loyalties will be tested until her choice is made clear. In the meantime, Gavin has the unenviable task of convincing the Spectrum that war is upon them before he ultimately loses all his colours and is unable to stop the Color Prince from wreaking havoc upon the land.
Those are, basically, the main plots of book 2, with Brent Weeks jumping back and forth between them. I enjoyed them all, to some extent, with Kip's remaining the most interesting thanks in no small part to the added pressure of having to prove his worth to the Red. However, I quickly grew tired of the "Kip Almost" routine and his self-deprecation. There's only so many times I can read Kip going over the same thoughts over and over and over again.
Another thing I didn't like is that Brent Weeks uses the "damsel in distress" trope. He used it in the first book with Karris' capture and again in this one when she's beaten and bloodied by Andross' thugs. What's worse is that I saw it coming miles away, as soon as I read Karris was going for a walk if not before. And that situation with Ana? It was both pointless and non-sensical. Pointless because it was simply used to delay the moment of Gavin and Karris' reconciliation and add drama. Non-sensical because Gavin had only just told his Blackguards that Karris was the only woman he loved and his guards are supposed to protect him from people casually entering his room. This won't be the first time the Blackguard fails by the way.
(view spoiler)[And can I say how tired I am of reading how every villain is somehow related to the main characters? If it wasn't enough that the Color Prince was Karris' brother, now it turns out that Zymun is Karris' son. When it was mentioned in passing in the first book (it was simply there, as if someone had cut and pasted that chapter from somewhere else, unrelated to pretty much anything) it occurred to me at the time that the author might connect it later on to Kip. After all, we don't really know if Kip's mother was actually his mother and the real Gavin never confirms or deny this. Besides, he has a thing for saying blunt truths and regretting it later, just like Karris. But no, Zymun had to be Karris' son. Does that add anything to the story? To my mind, not one bit. Villains don't have to be kin in order to make them interesting. In fact, I would prefer it if they weren't, if they were simply different people with their own tragedies and triumphs.
Like I said before, the high points revolve around the Chromeria, Kip and his friends. There are a few moments that revolve around Gavin, particularly in his dealings with the Spectrum and his final encounter with his brother. That bit ended the way it had to. The real Gavin (turned Dazen) wasn't a good read. In fact, I don't believe he added anything to our duology (so far) except for being a secret that tormented Gavin. So kudos to Brent Weeks for finally getting rid of him.
Up to this point, "The Blinding Knife" would have gotten 4/5 for me. It had some pretty cool moments as the Blackguard joins Gavin in raiding pirate ships, using new skimmers and explosives. The war gets going fully towards the end of the book and our heroes don't have it easy. However, the ending is what got to me in the end, no pun intended. Our heroes won, but barely, and Gavin continues to lose his colours. For some reason that doesn't make sense to me, Andross Guile decided to join that battle if from far away. He summons Gavin to express his displeasure at his son having defied him and Kip out of the blue has this realization that Andross is a wight and has been in league with the Color Prince all along. WTF?!?! Where did this come from?! Of course, he tries to murder him with the blinding knife (YES!) and obviously fails (FUCK KIP ALMOST). The fight ends up with Gavin and Kip being captured by an enemy ship and Andross Guile in possession of the fabled dagger (that we still know nothing about, can you see a trend?!) and has also now magically regained his youth, after a fashion. I repeat. WHAT. THE. FUCK?!?!
The worst offense this scene commits is that it makes no sense. Sure, it is likely the writer needs Andross alive for his third book where a plan of Machiavellian proportions will be revealed to our heroes that stems from the False Prism's War and will further connect the Red, the Color Prince, and Zymun even. I frankly don't care. The writer could've easily achieved this by having Andross stay in the Chromeria (where it makes sense he should be given how much he seems to fear light). Instead, he places him on a boat with dozens of Blackguards that do absolutely nothing when they see the Prism and one of their own engaged in a fight with the Red and his servant. So, Blackguards, with all your speeches about protecting each other and swearing fealty to the promachos, here's what I say to you, STICK IT WHERE THE SUN DON'T SHINETH. YOU FAILED. GO COMMIT SEPPUKU OR ITS CHROMERIAN EQUIVALENT.
And, yes, you guessed it, this again separates Gavin and Karris. Because drama and cliffhangers. Never mind the war has only just begun and Gavin's losing his colours. (hide spoiler)]
Having reached this point in my review I'm seriously considering taking down its rating a notch or two. I can't believe how such a great read could've been botched by such a wretched ending. Not to mention it still doesn't address the major questions we readers are bound to have from the first book and now from this one as well. Let's make a list and award points on the basis of the answers provided, shall we?
1) Who's the Black Prism? Still no idea. (0) 2) What's the blinding knife? Well, we already guessed from the first book it was Kip's dagger but we still don't know what it is or does, so that's a zero for this book. (0) 3) What and who's the Lightbringer? Oh, it's mentioned, but it's never fully explained by any character. So half a point for mentioning the name of the trilogy. (0.5) 4) Why is Gavin losing his colours? We can guess it has something to do with the blinding knife and we have more information on how it possibly works from Kip using it, so that's another half point (0.5). 5) Why were there two light splitters this time around? I'm talking about Gavin and Dazen. Has it something to do with the blinding knife? From something Andross says in this book I believe it does. Maybe it's a way to create full spectrum polychromats? In any case, we still don't know, so zero. (0)
I think that about covers the more important questions. In total, 1 point out of 5. Disappointing doesn't cover it. And we thus reach book three's conundrum: exposition. It will have to make a lot of it if it intends to tie all the loose ends together as I imagine it will. At the same time, it will have to fight (and end) a war and have Kip breaking his "almost" routine once and for all. And, unfortunately, we'll see even more scheming from Andross but at least he'll get to play that last game with Kip (what will probably involve a fight with an exposition dump).
In conclusion, I still believe the story improved a lot from the first book though some of the characters remain a bit dry and certain events are forced to a particular conclusion that is not supported by the events themselves. I'll leave my 3/5 rating for the time being but the sad part is it could have been a four.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Camaraderie. That is, in one word, the draw that wars, any war, have for me. The tale of how you team up with a bunch of people in order to accomplish...moreCamaraderie. That is, in one word, the draw that wars, any war, have for me. The tale of how you team up with a bunch of people in order to accomplish something, the ordeals the group and its individuals go through and, finally, the reward, whatever that may be.
Some background first. Earth is at war with an alien race known as the 'buggers,' has been for some time now, enough that there have been two major conflicts already, and humanity is unsure whether they can survive a third. Thus, the Fleet places their hope in children, genius children that are trained to become soldiers and officers.
Ender Wiggins is such a child. To some, he's humanity's last hope, with the potential to become the greatest Fleet Commander the world, the galaxy, has ever seen. But first he must survive Battle School, where he'll be brutally tested beyond endurance over and over again. The lesson he must learn: win every time. For in the war with the buggers, defeat means annihilation.
That's the story for me. First, we'll follow Ender through Battle School where he'll train for combat in null-g and learn to command an army. Then, we'll move on to Command School where he'll learn to command a fleet. Throughout the story we'll be plagued by Ender's dark musings about the man he's being made into and the man he wants to be. While in Battle School (and Command School as well), the balance between action and quiet introspection is achieved nicely. It's always better when Ender, and thus the reader, learns something through action rather than have it forced upon the reader by the author.
However, the story sags a little in other areas. For instance, the whole Locke/Demosthenes bit rather stretches credibility. First, that they could manipulate world opinion that easily and in such a short amount of time. Second, that nobody ever caught on to them and exposed them. Third, and perhaps most important of all, why is this bit worth telling? To highlight that the Wiggins are smart? To highlight everybody else in the world is dumb? Take away Locke and Demosthenes and you can still have increasing tension between the I.F. and the Warsaw Pact, a short civil war, and the subsequent return to peace. To be honest, when Ender left for Battle School, I didn't expect to read about Peter or Valentine ever again and was glad for it.
Another problem is perhaps one of duration. I wasn't gladly surprised to find out that the war is apparently fought and won in a single book. It seemed rushed, like the author wasn't all that interested in the war itself, and that it was just a means to an end. Even once the war with the buggers is won, another war breaks out between the Warsaw Pact and the I.F. The entire conflict lasts two pages at most.
For me, the drive of the story was the conflict with the buggers. Ender trains to fight that war sometime in the future. The reader expects then that the war will take several instalments to reach its conclusion. It doesn't, the future is actually the present and it's all over before you know it. After that, the author speeds up things again to end up with a teenage Ender that has decided to explore the galaxy with his sister, since peace isn't exactly his area of expertise.
On a different note, I tried to read the follow up novel, "Speaker for the Dead." Took me a few pages to decide I wasn't very keen on it. Picture 17th century Earth history but in space. Of course, the author uses "Ender's Game" to set up the background for this novel, apparently his masterpiece and the novel he had intended to write all along (what probably explains why the war with the buggers was rushed to conclusion). The fact that Novinha reminds of that kid in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake doesn't help. Even after a couple of pages the preaching seemed apparent.
I checked descriptions for other books in the Ender's Saga but found nothing of interest. I actually thought the saga would be about Ender's war with the buggers but it seems I was mistaken. Oh, well, I guess it paid off not buying the box set after all. You live, you read, and you learn.
Summing up, "Ender's Game" is, despite its weaknesses, a pretty good read. Had it been entirely about Ender's journey I might have given it a four out of five but, alas, that is not so. My recommendation? Read it, then take a look at "Speaker for the Dead" and ask yourself which do you like best. If, like in my case, you prefer the former, then you've read the first and last book in Ender's Saga. If not, enjoy the ride and let me know if there's a leprechaun on the other side with a pot of gold.(less)