It must be well over a decade since I first read Trudi Canavan’s ‘The Black Magician’ trilogy, but it still captivates my imagination. I can remember it being one of the first fantasy books I saw in a bookshop and I thought ‘You know what I’ll give that a try’.I have never once regretted that decision. I’d only brought the first book but within less than a week I was back at the bookshop so I could buy the next two. Be warned they are addictive reading.
The Magician’s Guild is the ideal introduction to Canavan’s world of magic, set in the city of Imardin. It was one of the first of a wave of stories that emerged in the fantasy section of bookshops, about a girl who lives in poverty rising to the higher social status because of magic and learning that the world she lives in is not as safe and secure as she imagined.
Sonea is one of the best characters that I have ever got to know, and I love revisiting her story. She is strong female character, who is very practically more like a boy than a girl simply because in the world she lives in it is safer to be a boy. There are quite a few themes within the books as a whole exploring gender roles in Canavan’s writing, but one of the most important things I also took from her books is that female characters deserve a choice and Sonea is very adamant in making her own choices and not being pushed about. Being a young teenage girl that was very important, and the themes of the second novel, ‘The Novice’, explores this even further.
But is isn’t just the themes of gender that are explores that attracts me back to the books. How Canavan weaves the conflicts between the various characters is beautiful, and those conflicts are based on social class and to an extent gender as well. But what makes the book brilliant is that while Sonea is the main protagonist, you don’t just see the story from just her perspective. The viewpoint changes between her and various other characters based in the city’s underworld and the within the Magician’s Guild.
The story itself is very much about mistrust and revenge, but equally while it is about conflicts between different social classes it is also about conflict between people of the same class. Sonea has been raised to distrust magicians. Her internal conflicts about finding out that she has to be one now mixes very well with the antagonist’s plans to ensure that no-one of the lower classes ever become magicians. Canavan weaves the misunderstandings between the characters have with each other, leaving the reader in hopeful anticipation that everything will be resolved, and on tenterhooks that it might not be.