The Burning White – Brent Weeks

In the empire of the Seven Satrapies, some people are born with the ability to transform light into luxin: a physical, tangible substance that exists in one of nine colors. The process is known as drafting, and each drafted color has unique physical and metaphysical properties and innumerable uses, from construction to warfare. Trained at the empire’s capital, the Chromeria, drafters lead lives of privilege, with politicians and powerful families vying for their services. In exchange, they agree that once they exhaust their ability to safely use magic—signaled when the halos of their irises are broken by the colors they draft—they will be killed by the emperor, the Prism, in a ceremony on the most holy day of the year: Sun Day. Drafters who have broken the halo are called wights, and they descend into madness if they are not Freed; those who run from the ritual Freeing are hunted to their deaths. Only the Prism can draft with limitless power, and he or she alone can balance all the colors in the satrapies to prevent luxin from overwhelming the lands and creating chaos. Every seven years, or on a multiple of seven years, the Prism also gives up his or her life, and the ruling council installs a new Prism. If the Prism refuses death, he or she is likewise hunted down by the elite squadron assigned to protecting the empire: the Blackguard. Book One: The Black Prism Kip Delauria is scrounging for shards of luxin on a battlefield of the False Prism’s War outside Rekton. He comes upon a green wight, Gaspar Elos, bound and trying to escape. Satrap Garadul has declared himself king and is planning to lay waste to Rekton; there is an army camped not far away. Kip races to the home of red dyer Master Danavis, who urges Kip to find his friends and run. During his escape attempt, Kip inadvertently drafts. Later he finds his mother, Lina, gravely injured, hidden in a cave with one of his friends. She gives him a rosewood box containing a mysterious jewelencrusted dagger before dying.

At the Chromeria, Prism Gavin Guile receives a message from Lina, telling him that he has a son in Rekton named Kip. Gavin soon sets off with Blackguard Karris White Oak. They make their way to Tyrea on a luxin skimmer/glider of his own creation, which allows them to cross the entire Cerulean Sea in a day. Upon their arrival they discover that Rekton has been destroyed, and they find Kip trying to defend himself from Garadul’s Mirrormen. Gavin quickly dispatches the soldiers, realizing that Garadul is trying to set up his own Chromeria and has declared himself king. Gavin recognizes Kip as his bastard and claims him; Garadul takes the dagger before they leave. Gavin and Kip make their way back to the Chromeria, where Kip is immediately tested to see what he can draft. He is discovered to be a superchromat and is revealed to be a blue/green bichrome. He also reunites with Aliviana (Liv) Danavis—a friend from his hometown and daughter of Corvan. Meanwhile in Tyrea, Karris has set out on her own.

She finds Corvan Danavis—Dazen’s greatest general in the False Prism’s War—in a basement, the lone survivor of the brutal massacre in Rekton. Karris is captured by the king’s forces, and she discovers that King Garadul’s right hand, a polychrome wight who calls himself the Color Prince, is the one inciting rebellion. He is Karris’s brother, whom she’d thought long dead. Corvan begins to make his way to Garriston to warn the governor. Back at the Chromeria, it is revealed that Gavin is in fact Dazen, masquerading as his older brother. The real Gavin Guile (‘the prisoner’) is still alive, held in a blue luxin prison far beneath the Prism’s Tower. Prism Guile meets with the Spectrum, the governing body of the Seven Satrapies, and tells them what Garadul is planning. Gavin decides to make his way to Garriston with Kip, Blackguard Commander Ironfist, and Liv—who is to be Kip’s tutor. Once they arrive in Garriston, Gavin deposes Governor Crassos and takes command. He reunites with and reinstates General Danavis, giving his old friend command of Garriston’s defenses.

Gavin plans to build a magnificent yellow luxin wall around Garriston in an attempt to save the otherwise vulnerable city. Brightwater Wall is nearly complete when a cannonball destroys the gate as Gavin is finishing it. Meanwhile, Kip sneaks away to infiltrate Garadul’s camp as a spy to find Karris, and Liv goes with him; Kip is captured, and Liv is invited to join the Color Prince. Liv saves both Kip and Karris by agreeing to join the Color Prince if he’ll spare Kip’s and Gavin’s lives. During the Battle of Garriston, Gavin goes down after drafting white luxin, Kip kills King Garadul, and the rest of the forces retreat to the docks. Kip helps rescue Ironfist, and they run across the ocean to one of the barges, where Kip races to meet another threat: a young polychrome, Zymun, who has been assigned to assassinate Gavin. Zymun’s attempt fails when Kip intercedes. Kip takes the dagger Zymun used and realizes it is the same blade his mother gave him; he recovers the knife, which now has a blue gem in the hilt. Gavin realizes he has lost the ability to see or draft blue. The prisoner has broken out of the blue prison to find himself inside a green one.

Book Two: The Blinding Knife Gavin and the refugees from Garriston are aboard the barges, and he tries to reconcile with the fact that he has lost blue. He saves the refugees from a sea demon, then departs with Karris for Seers Island, where he negotiates with the Third Eye, a powerful Seer, to get permission for the refugees to build a home on her island. The Third Eye knows who he really is and that he has already lost blue. She gives Gavin some useful advice about the bane, and Gavin later kills the blue bane by himself. After they make their way back to the Chromeria, Kip goes through Blackguard training against the wishes of Commander Ironfist. Kip makes some friends and meets Teia, a color-blind paryl drafter and a slave. The war isn’t going well for the Chromeria, and Ironfist announces that the Blackguard will graduate the top fourteen candidates instead of the usual seven. As hard as training is, the new interest Kip’s grandfather, Andross Guile, has taken in him is worse. Andross demands Kip play Nine Kings for extremely high stakes. Gavin and Karris return to the Chromeria after getting the refugees settled in their new home.

He meets with the Spectrum, and Seers Island is renamed New Tyrea, giving it power as a satrapy and Danavis as satrap. Karris is ambushed and beaten by men hired by Andross Guile. A librarian, Rea Siluz, introduces Kip to Janus Borig, an eccentric old artist who creates priceless original Nine Kings cards infused with magic. Janus warns Kip that her life is in danger, and soon Kip discovers Borig’s house burned and Janus mortally wounded by two mysterious assassins. Kip recovers a deck of completely new cards, kills the assassins, steals their shimmercloaks, and gives the items to Ironfist and Gavin. Kip eventually ranks fourteenth in his Blackguard testing and is revealed to be not a bichrome, but a full-spectrum polychrome. Meanwhile, Liv has sworn fealty to the Color Prince and his cause. His army begins to make their way from Garriston toward Ru, a large city in Atash. Gavin travels to Ru with Kip and a team of Blackguards. They go on scouting missions.

Gavin reveals his skimmer to the Blackguards, and together they sink the Gargantua, an enormous ship owned by pirate king Pash Vecchio. Gavin and Karris reconcile and marry just before they go to war against the Color Prince. With the new Blackguard inductees and the Chromeria’s forces, they must destroy a green bane that is birthing a new god, Atirat. Ironfist and Teia lead a team in an assault on a watchtower. The green bane emerges from the sea; Gavin, Kip, and Karris fight their way to it, killing wights in their wake. Amid the chaos, Gavin realizes he has lost the ability to see or draft green. Liv directs a huge beam of light to the bane spire, awakening the new green god Atirat. Back at the watchtower, Teia, Ironfist, and company aim cannon fire at the bane, causing the spire to explode. Using the explosion as a distraction, Kip drives his dagger—the powerful Blinding Knife —into the green god Atirat, killing it. They have killed a god and sunk a bane, but ultimately lose Ru to the Color Prince.

After the battle, while still on a Chromeria ship, Kip and Gavin meet with Andross Guile. Kip realizes that Andross is a color wight and moves to confront his grandfather. Kip draws the Blinding Knife and stabs Andross in the shoulder. Gavin tries to intervene but can only redirect the knife into his own body. Gavin falls overboard, and Kip jumps after him. They are quickly picked up by the Bitter Cob, led by pirate captain Gunner, a crazed cannoneer who was on a ship Gavin had earlier destroyed; the Blinding Knife has grown into a huge gun-sword. Gunner decides to keep Gavin and the gun-sword, throwing Kip back into the ocean as a tribute to Ceres. Andross discovers he is no longer a wight. Kip is picked up in a small boat by Zymun, Gavin and Karris’s long-lost illegitimate son. Gavin wakes to find he can’t draft, is completely color-blind .

and a slave rower. Book Three: The Broken Eye Kip and Zymun are adrift at sea until Kip escapes and swims his way to shore. He struggles to survive, withstanding dehydration, injury, and hallucinations for several weeks as he attempts to return home to the Jaspers. Ironfist and the other Blackguards have returned to the Chromeria, where Kip is presumed dead. The Spectrum meet to decide what to do about the war and Gavin’s absence; Andross is made promachos, commander in chief of the Chromeria’s military. Teia is recruited by Murder Sharp, a skilled paryl assassin for the Order of the Broken Eye. Karris, who is now married to the Prism, is removed from the Blackguard to become spymistress for the White. Upon his homecoming, Kip tells the Spectrum and Karris that Gavin is still alive and forges a tenuous alliance with Andross. He trains and studies under Karris and reunites with his old Blackguard squad: Cruxer, Ben-hadad, Big Leo, Teia, Ferkudi, Winsen, Goss, and Daelos. Andross grants the group access to restricted libraries so they can research heretical Nine Kings cards and the Lightbringer, a long-prophesied savior of the satrapies, hoping they’ll gain information to win the war.

The group meets and befriends Quentin Naheed, a humble and brilliant young luxiat and scholar. Back across the ocean, Gavin—color-blind and unable to draft—is a galley slave on Gunner’s pirate ship. His oarmate is an old prophet nicknamed Orholam. After months of sailing on the open sea, Gavin is freed by Antonius Malargos, a naïve young Ruthgari noble. They sail for Rath, a large port city in Ruthgar, where Gavin is handed over to Antonius’s cousin Eirene. She imprisons Gavin and plots with the Nuqaba of Paria (who possesses the orange seed crystal). They decide to spare Gavin’s life but plan to burn out his eyes. Teia confesses to Ironfist and the White that she had been stealing for her owner, Aglaia Crassos, and that she has been ensnared by the Order of the Broken Eye. Under the White’s orders, Teia becomes a double agent for the Chromeria, infiltrating the Order; she immediately undertakes various missions to prove her loyalty to the Order. Teia soon gets a message from Karris that someone is planning to kill Kip, and she hurries with Cruxer and Winsen to try to help their friend.

They save Kip and kill the Blackguards who were trying to assassinate him. While meeting with Andross, Kip learns that his grandfather knows about Zymun, who is on his way to the Jaspers, and that when he arrives, he will be named Prism-elect—unless Kip can find Andross’s missing Nine Kings deck, as well as the originals Kip saved from Janus Borig’s house. Kip, after confessing his feelings to Teia and telling her about Tisis’s proposal that they marry, goes down to the Prism’s training room and finds the lost Nine Kings cards in a punching bag. When Kip accidentally absorbs all the cards, he falls dead and enters the Great Library, where he meets an immortal: Abaddon. Meanwhile, Karris and Ironfist learn where Gavin is and plan to go rescue him. They leave with a team of Blackguards and rescue Gavin from the giant hippodrome, but not before one of Gavin’s eyes is burned out with a red-hot metal rod. When they return, they take Gavin to a chirurgeon they trust to hide him while Karris goes to look for Kip. Back in the training room, Teia finds Kip’s body. She revives him, but Kip is distraught to find the images have disappeared from the cards. He has stolen Abaddon’s shimmercloak, which he gives to Teia.

Kip has trouble sorting out reality from the visions he saw on the cards. Teia follows Andross to his estate on Big Jasper, where she overhears him meeting with Zymun about Zymun’s future with the Guile family, and then with Murder Sharp plotting to assassinate the White. She reports this to Kip, and the two of them rush to the White’s rooms to find her dying. The day after Orea’s passing, Karris finds herself at the ceremony for selecting a new White—and that she is a nominee. During the ceremony, Andross removes Ironfist from the Blackguard and publicly banishes Kip and his friends from the Chromeria. They all make their way back to the tower, where Kip and his squad are given uniform blacks, supplies, and a new name: the Mighty. They decide to board a ship to flee the Chromeria, but before they can leave, Zymun orders the newly formed Lightguard to kill Kip and his friends; Goss is killed and Daelos is gravely wounded before they can meet Tisis Malargos at the docks. Kip and Tisis marry, then set sail for Blood Forest with the Mighty, who have pledged fealty to Kip. Karris discovers that the ceremony for selecting a new White has been rigged using orange luxin hexes, even though the sacred ritual is supposed to be guided by Orholam. When two of the other candidates attack her, Karris kills them and becomes Karris White.

Ironfist finds his brother, Tremblefist, dying. He confesses that he knows Ironfist has been working for the Order of the Broken Eye since he came to the Chromeria. Ironfist then meets with the leader of the Order, the Old Man of the Desert—who is revealed to be Andross’s secretary and slave, Grinwoody. Meanwhile, Liv Danavis has been hunting the superviolet seed crystal at the command of the Color Prince. But though the Color Prince tries to make her wear a black luxin choker to keep her under his control, she captures the seed crystal on her own. Gavin wakes up to find himself inside the blue prison cell he built beneath the Prism’s Tower. Book Four: The Blood Mirror Teia and Murder Sharp kidnap Marissia, stealing documents from her that were vital to Karris’s rule as the new White. Gavin wakes up to find that Marissia is with him in the blue cell to tend to his injuries. She confesses that she was not only Orea Pullawr’s spymistress, but also her granddaughter. As soon as Gavin is on the mend, Andross arrives and takes Marissia away, presumably to her death.

Karris survives her first meeting with Andross as the White, where he agrees to handle the issue of her killing two men during the selection process. Karris then meets her estranged son, Zymun, who tells her of his traumatic childhood; she swears that she’ll never abandon him again. Teia has her first meeting with the Old Man of the Desert, who tasks her with getting close to Karris. He tells her to tag someone for him to have assassinated, as a ‘gift’ for her loyalty thus far. This meeting is followed by one with newly promoted Commander Fisk, whom she feels uneasy around after the Mighty find out he was compromised. Fisk tells her that he believes she stayed behind for Kip and that he and the Blackguard will be there for the Mighty when they need him. He also informs her that she will be taking her final vows as a full Blackguard the following day; she is to stand vigil that night. Teia then goes down to the cells to see the prisoners who will be executed on Sun Day to find Quentin, who has been arrested for murdering Lucia during the Blackguard training. She tags him with paryl to mark him for assassination but removes the tag before the execution ceremony. During Sun Day, Karris condemns High Luxiat Tawleb to Orholam’s Glare for ordering Quentin to assassinate Kip.

His execution is followed by Pheronike’s, a spy for the Color Prince; while he burns, Pheronike releases Nabiros, a three-headed djinn that had possessed him. Karris spares Quentin, choosing to make him a slave as an example of the Magisterium’s greed and corruption. Meanwhile, Kip and Tisis have been trying, unsuccessfully, to consummate their marriage—an issue that becomes urgent as their wedding will be annulled if they don’t. Tisis wants to accompany the Mighty when they go to fight in Blood Forest. On the way, their ship finds itself in the middle of an enormous luxin storm, and Kip saves them by pushing apart twisted streams of chi and paryl until the ship is able to pass. The effort leaves him blind for three days, but Rea Siluz heals his eyes. After Kip wakes up, the Mighty head out on Ben-hadad’s newly designed skimmer, and Tisis begins to demonstrate her worth to the squad. Gavin has been talking to the dead man in the blue cell, who admits that Gavin will-cast the dead men into the prisons to torture his brother. The dead man also reveals that Gavin is the Black Prism— a black drafter who absorbed the power to draft all colors by killing other drafters. Gavin attempts to escape from the cells and makes it through green and into a small cove to find none other than his father, Andross, there, waiting for him.

Andross tries to strike a deal with Gavin, but instead Gavin ends up in the yellow cell, where he left his brother’s body after shooting him. The Mighty meet the Ghosts of Shady Grove, a group of will-casters led by Conn Ruadhán Arthur; they convince him to join Kip’s army. They successfully start raiding the Blood Robes and come upon the Cwn y Wawr (‘Dogs of Dawn’), a band of skilled warrior-drafters with highly trained dogs. The Ghosts have a fraught history with the Cwn y Wawr, but the two groups are able to set aside their differences to fight together. Elsewhere, Liv has become the superviolet god Ferrilux, and meets Samila Sayeh/Mot in Rekton. Samila tells Liv that the White King has her bane, but that Liv can only claim it if she agrees to become bound to him and wear the black luxin. She refuses. Eirene has sent Antonius, cousin to her and Tisis, to bring Tisis back, but Tisis is able to convince him to join Kip’s army and swear fealty to him instead. With his army growing, Kip sets his sights on saving a besieged city. Gavin sees that his brother is not in the yellow luxin cell, and after talking to the dead man there, realizes that he never imprisoned his brother; he killed the real Gavin at Sundered Rock, and drafting black erased his memory of the event.

Andross, Felia, and Orea had all known the truth about Gavin and waited to see how and whether he would recover from his madness/memory loss. Gavin eventually passes out from eating drugged bread and wakes up in the black luxin prison. Teia is sent on a mission to Paria by both the Order and Karris, charged with killing the Nuqaba by the Order and Satrapah Tilleli Azmith (the Nuqaba’s spymistress) by Karris. During her mission, she discovers that the Nuqaba is Haruru, Ironfist’s sister, and that Iron-fist is alive and imprisoned by her. Teia completes her mission, but Ironfist discovers her, and Teia then returns to report to Karris that Ironfist is alive. Corvan and his newlywed wife, the Third Eye, spend their last night together before her assassination by Murder Sharp. She reveals that Kip marches to Dúnbheo to free it, not having seen the White King’s trap. Gavin spends months in the black cell, and eventually discovers the dead man there is not a willcasting, but something else entirely. Grinwoody appears sometime later, revealing that he is the Old Man of the Desert and that he will free Gavin if he agrees to sail to White Mist Reef, climb the Tower of Heaven, and kill Orholam—what the Old Man believes is the nexus of magic in the satrapies— using the Blinding Knife. Gavin agrees, places a piece of black luxin that will ensure his obedience over his eye socket, and walks to the ship.

It is the Golden Mean, captained by none other than Gunner. Teia is given a final mission by the Order to test her. She is told to murder someone (Gavin) once he has completed a quest for the Order. If she fails, they will murder her father. Karris meets with Andross, who tells her that Ironfist has declared himself king of Paria. She then has to kill Blackguard Gavin Greyling, who broke his halos while out searching for her husband. After his Freeing, Karris orders that the Blackguard is to search for Gavin no more, accepting that he is dead. Liv decides to join the White King and realize her full powers as a goddess, seeing that he is preparing to sail the bane to invade the Chromeria. Kip and his army successfully free the besieged city of Dúnbheo, at great personal cost to Conn Arthur, who deserts following the battle. Kip deposes the nobles and claims the city for himself and his army.

He and Tisis profess their love for each other and are finally able to consummate their marriage. Kip uses every color of luxin to repair an ancient mural in their room, known as Túsaíonn Domhan, ‘A World Begins.


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