This is a series review of The Black Magician Trilogy (consisting of of The Magicians Guild, The Novice and The High Lord) by Trudi Canavan. I’m reviewing it as a series because, while each book has a central conflict of its own, but the central plot works really well if you read it all at once. It’s not a super serious dark fantasy, but there are definitely scary moments and it’s pretty interesting. This review will contain mild spoilers for the first two, but the information is nothing beyond what the blurbs say, or what you could guess after reading the first few chapters of The Magicians Guild (book#1) and looking at the titles of the other books. As you can see I have really mismatched editions, because I got them all secondhand, but that’s okay. Enjoy the review!
The Magicians Guild isn’t quite YA—like, the main character is YA aged, (17-20) but her perspective is less than half of the story. Older magicians and Sonea (the main characters) friend Cery narrates (third person) just as much. It’s still appropriate for YA though. One thing I loved about it is that multiple narration, because all the characters are so awesome. My favourite is Lorlen, the Magicians Guild Administrator. He’s capable and scared and caring and generally awesome. Rothen is lovely too. And I love Dannyl. Sonea is also a really interesting character. She’s a girl from the slums, the lower classes, whose magic releases on its own because it’s so powerful. The first book is all about her struggle to control the magic and hide from the Guild (with the underground mafia, the Thieves), who she doesn’t like. Her outsiders perspective gives a lot of context to the Guild. The second book is about her struggle with discrimination within the Guild. The third book is the culmination of the secret she accidentally discovered in the first book. She starts off as angry, illiterate young woman, and grows over the series to become a capable, conflicted person who is passionate about justice, which I loved. She’s a really well written character.
Another thing I liked about this story was the way it dealt with classism. Sonea is poorer and faces a lot of discrimination—people think that she’s a robber, that she isn’t trustworthy. A lot of fantasy focuses on the rich, but with having Sonea as the magic-empowered main character it was a lot more interesting. There’s also very little royalty—the king is mentioned a few times but doesn’t even make an appearance until the third book. The guild has lots of power, obviously, but this just shows that you don’t need to have nobility MC’s to tell a good fantasy. It’s also really diverse—so often fantasies are just in a mediaeval Europe-like place, which Kyralia sort of is. But characters come from all over, and we do get to see some other lands. There’re also gay characters, and different attitudes to them, which is so refreshing in fantasy.
The magic is, of course, the focus of the story. I liked the discussion of different ways that magic can be used, and the explanation of magic made it really easy for me to picture it. The magic is also realistic—you can run out of strength. The whole culture of the Guild was described really well in general—the competition, the learning, the people.
Trudi Canavan also created really realistic conflicts. I could really feel for the characters, and how hard it was for them to make the decisions that they did. That is one of the key strengths of the series.
The books are pretty fast to get through, but they are long. And since you do want to read the series as a whole, you sort of have to be committed. I also didn’t really like the romantic subplots—I mean, not much happened, but it sort of felt unnecessary, though at least The Black Magician trilogy was not unrealistic about teenagers and commitment.
The Black Magician Trilogy is a backlist fantasy that it’s totally worth investigating. It has lots of secrets, drama, magic, and awesome characters and diversity on top of that.
So have you read these? Do you want to now? What’s a backlist book that you think should get more attention. Tell me in the comments!