Contains spoilers for the Lightbringer series through The Blinding Knife, and mild spoilers for The Broken Eye.
While the first two books in the Lightbringer series were slow to fully hook me, The Broken Eye had me invested quickly and held it for the duration. As the longest book and the middle one in the entire series, the book relies heavily on the diverse cast of characters and the foundation of the world and story set in the previous two books. As the stakes seem to have reached a critical point at the end of The Blinding Knife, Kip finds his position beyond precarious but through the story, grows and reaches a new level of personal growth and maturity that marks a significant shift in the story.
Following the climactic events and cliffhanger at the end of the last book, things are dire. Gavin has lost his colors, and is a slave at the mercy of an old adversary. Kip is likewise at the mercy of a cruel enemy, and even once he makes his way back to the Chromeria, has his grandfather to contend with. Karris has seemingly lost everything and is near her lowest she has ever been. Conversely, Andross Guile is growing more powerful following the end of the last book, and his ambitions have fewer roadblocks than before. Even following the victory at the battle of Ru Harbor, the heroes and the Chromeria seem to be on the cusp of losing everything.
His characters are one of the greatest tools that Brent Weeks wields. There are good characters that we love and want to see succeed, but we also see that they are flawed and not infallible. There are morally reprehensible characters, the villains we learn to hate, while we might learn to understand parts of their story, the reasons why they are the way they are, the true villains are the ones we don’t want to empathize with. And there are corrupted, compromised, or morally ambiguous characters, the ones who you don’t know which way they will go. Grey characters that may have started as either good or bad, but have had a crossroads event that sent them down another path. Some you might want to see reach for their redemption, while others you might want to see get their due, either for past sins or for their current choices. Whether characters are acting out of their own self interest or something more altruistic, hard decisions are made all around in this book, with each person needing to determine what they believe in and how much they are willing to sacrifice in its name.
The Broken Eye is a story about the characters, and while the world is changing around them and the threat of war is ever-present, it’s in the periphery. The growth, maturation, and inner conflicts of the characters take the center stage for a majority of the book. The diverse cast taking center stage is refreshing, especially after Gavin’s story had to take a more central role alongside Kip’s in the previous books. In The Broken Eye, his story is no less important, but it allows the others to shine. Gavin’s character has been complex, and readers have been able to understand what he had done in order to survive, what the motivations behind his actions were. As the stories continued, it felt as though we are given more than enough reasoning to empathize with him, but there are still times when it feels difficult to excuse what he has done, or to dismiss his arrogant pride when it rears its head. He is a remarkable character, and when I had to think about whether he deserved his hardships or not, I found myself on both ends of the pendulum and every space in between.
The evolution of the dynamic between Kip and Andross Guile is one of the best, and some of my favorite, parts of the book. It has been slowly building from the moment Kip entered the Red’s awareness, but their interactions in The Broken Eye take it to a new level beyond the simple power discrepancy. Not simply because of the maneuvering and strategy employed by both men, but because they come to respect and understand each other better the longer their dance goes on. They slowly see each other beyond the facades they present to the world, and allow themselves to see past the suppositions they have created around the other. Andross begins to see the potential and promise in Kip, and inversely, Kip sees that there is more than a vindictive, cruel, and manipulative old man in his grandfather. Their dynamic in this book shifted the paradigm in an unexpected and remarkable way.
Some of the most significant moments of this book were captured in conversations between characters. Those exchanges were the ones that demonstrated the heart of a character or characters, and many of those exchanges represented crossroads moments for those characters. The depth of the characters, many of whom are well-known by this point in the story, are showcased in their interactions with each other and the people around them, a sign of maturation of the characters as they step more fully into themselves. The discussion between Kip and his squadmates about the morality of war and the conflict, debating about the lengths to which they will go to win is a pivotal moment for the group. Other moments are less significant to the story, but are no less impactful. The revelation about Ironfist and his brother in the middle of the book struck a heartfelt nerve I was not expecting. Teia’s journey, her self-confidence, and particularly the cultivation of her relationship with Karris, and Karris’ own growth and acceptance of her role and status, are additional examples of the significant growth and developments that key characters make in order to reach further maturation.
In the Lightbringer series, Book 1 introduces the characters, Book 2 sets the stage for the conflict, and Book 3 dives into why the characters are fighting, why they are fighting, all backlit by the conflict as it comes to bear. If you find yourself at The Broken Eye, then you will be happily rewarded as this was my favorite book in the series thus far. The first two books were great in regards to the story, worldbuilding, and plot development, but the characters’ growth and development that Brent Weeks masterfully crafts in The Broken Eye is phenomenal.
The Broken Eye is written by Brent Weeks, and is published by Orbit Books.
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