Contains spoilers for the Lightbringer series through The Broken Eye, and mild spoilers for The Blood Mirror.
I read through The Blood Mirror in four days, the fastest I have finished a full length novel in a long time. It wasn’t because it was the most anticipated book I’ve read recently, but the previous book had me fully invested in the story, and being able to jump into this one was exactly what I needed. It also felt like a much faster read, especially with the shorter length compared to the previous book (The Broken Eye has 757 pages where The Blood Mirror has 613 pages). The Lightbringer books perfectly ride the line of accessibility in terms of writing style and narrative intricacy to be able to either read them quickly without being overwhelmed, or slowly over time without needing to reread portions of the books. The language style is its own unique addition to this book, being dramatically intricate and complex at times, while even on the first page, words such as “schloomping” are used with perfect accuracy. This book has a very different style compared to the previous, it focuses on story and greater themes instead of a heavy emphasis on character growth. A beautiful precursor to the final volume of the Lightbringer series, The Blood Mirror brings together dynamic characters and complex moments within a beautiful and engaging story of intrigue and adventure.
After the characters made their choices and chose their sides in The Broken Eye, they are committed to their places in the world as we follow them in The Blood Mirror. They have each made their proverbial beds, now they have to sleep in them. Character growth and development are never put on hold, not for storytellers like Brent Weeks, not even at the expense of the greater story. But many of the significant choices and changes for the main characters have already occurred, and at this point in the greater narrative, events are unfolding and things are happening.
The Blood Mirror covers a lot of ground for many of the characters. The previous books had some time jumps, but this book covers several months of extended time. The pacing throughout the story is well done and intentional, with events that are sequential and influence each other are positioned closely so that the greater impact is felt in the narrative. In the throes of war with the White King, the choices the characters make have lasting ramifications. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months for the full impact of those decisions to come to light, but the length of time that is covered allows those repercussions to be shown in their due time. The time jumps are done in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the narrative, there are no great leaps in believability. When they occur, the jumps are recognizable and any significant changes in circumstance are noted quickly, along with any necessary context unless it is withheld for a greater payoff later. Nothing is withheld or concealed without purpose.
The previous book put a heavy emphasis on the characters and their growth, which helped set the stage for The Blood Mirror. This book covers so much of the world, the characters making dramatic choices that see them interacting with the world much more intently, exploring and traversing the rich setting. There is a beautiful experience of looking at pieces of culture and the societies that Weeks created, bringing insight into the expansive worldbuilding that exists just beyond the periphery. Through the events of The Blood Mirror, it feels as though the genius of Brent Weeks’ storytelling is only beginning to be revealed. The characters and the story are enough to keep me invested to see this story to its conclusion, which was established for me in the first book. It is the way in which he weaves an even more intricate (and dare I say, diabolical) tale is that extra dose of brilliance that reminds me why he is one of my favorite authors. There is philosophical debate, moral conundrums and compromises, and gut-wrenchingly horrible parallels between the world he has created and our own, forcing those honest moments of introspection and revelation. It is a story, at its heart, and stories are meant to be enjoyed. But stories also tell us truths, and sometimes those truths are only revealed through the lies of fiction and storytelling. Sometimes it takes a story to show us the truth we might otherwise be blind to.
There is important character growth in The Blood Mirror, though it might feel less vibrant than in previous books, and it lies woven into the story as the narrative builds towards a climax. We see Kip growing into a man and a leader, learning to trust himself more. There are still those remnants of the struggling child, the outcast that endured abuse, the self-deprecating youth who pushed back against everything and everyone to protect himself. Those pieces of a person are built over time, so they do not vanish quickly or easily. They take time and effort and love, and this book introduces those to Kip’s story. In Teia’s story, she commits herself to the task of infiltrating the Order of the Broken Eye, trying to maintain her own humanity, but slowly comes to the hard realization that sacrifices are necessary in the pursuit of the greater good she has been charged with seeking. As she survives coming face to face with the Old Man of the Desert, the mysterious and enigmatic leader of the Order of the Broken Eye; so too does Karris face her own challenges as she survives her first meeting with Andross Guile, the Red and Promachos, as the new White, realizing that it is only the beginning of their tenuous partnership. She recognizes the truth of her new role, and the terrifying reality of what it takes to be the White. Slow revelations about Andross Guile come to the surface, which was a surprise initially and almost exasperating as they continued. They are twisted and conflicting, because they are not the damning characteristics readers might expect regarding the old spider, but instead make him seem more human, more understandable. Make no mistake, he is far from likeable, but like the slow, steady revelations that began in The Broken Eye, there is much more to the Guile than I first guessed. In some ways tied to the arc of Andross, the fallen grace of Gavin and the paradigm shattering revelations in his thread are remarkable. Without giving too much away, when Gavin comes to understand the truth about his situation, it is poetic parallelism as he finds himself a captive in a prison of his own making. As all the truth about everything he thought he knew, everything he thought he had control over, is brought into the light, at last the facade comes shattering down around him.
The revelations that are embedded in the text of The Blood Mirror, whether regarding characters or the plot, feel deep and authentic, as their timing feels nearly perfect as well as necessary for the story. It could have felt cheap, like extra twists or unexpected developments that are only there to keep readers engaged. This is not that. They make everything in retrospect look even more intentional and significant, from character decisions, parallels between characters and events, even things like the book titles begin to shine in a different light in the lens of this book. I’m certain the final book will raise the bar even higher.
The stakes are rising as the Lightbringer series draws towards its conclusion in The Burning White. For characters I have loved from the beginning, those I have come to love over the course of the story, or simply (begrudgingly) followed their narrative arcs, I recognize that they all have a role to play, for good or ill. As the old gods walk the land again, and the White King gathers his power and forces, the Satrapies are splintered and the heroes are scattered. The characters have to decide what their courses of action will be. Will they be able to make the greater good their priority, or will the sacrifices necessary be too high, will the price paid not be worth what they are fighting so desperately to save?
The Blood Mirror is written by Brent Weeks, and is published by Orbit Books.
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