John C Adams Reviews 'The Magicians' Guild'

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

(The Black Magician Trilogy Book One)

(Orbit, 2004)


Full on urban fantasy in a sorcerer's world set partly in the city slums and partly in the rarified atmosphere of the Magician's Guild on the other side of the social and economic divide. Count me in. And when you factor in that Canavan's debut novel went on to become an international bestseller, what's not to love?


Sonea is a teenage orphan being raised by her aunt and uncle. She becomes separated from them just before the annual Purge of the poor and homeless gets under way in her home city on the orders of the king. She is drawn into throwing stones at the magicians sent to conduct the Purge when she falls back into the company of old friends from local gangs. To everyone's horror, her stone passes through the magicians' force field. The sorcerers hit back, accidentally killing the lad next to Sonea. By the time she flees the scene, the magicians have realised that she is the rogue magician in the slums not the boy they've killed. From then on, the hunt is on to capture Sonea, who is forced to flee from hiding place to hiding place to elude them.


The first half of the novel is devoted to the Guild's search for Sonea. She is protected by the Thieves, who hope to exploit her emerging power as a magician for their own ends. The position is further complicated by the power play taking place within the Guild. Fergun wants to kill her, Dannyl isn't sure how to handle the situation and Rothen hopes to tutor Sonea so that her natural powers are less dangerous for those around her. At the midpoint, Sonea is finally captured and the second half of the book pivots to exploring her training as a magician within the walls of the Guild.


The main characters were intergenerational, which made this story fascinating. In the slums, the Thieves and Sonea's gang friends are teenagers who've had to grow up fast in order to survive. The magicians were much older, mature adults with decades of learning behind them but with much less in the way of practical life experience. This makes the pursuit of Sonea a fairly evenly matched contest, adding considerably to the narrative tension and providing a 'across the generations' source of drive to the plot. You don't always see that in genre fiction.


The story was quite a simple one, featuring just the one plot strand (Sonea's) even though we saw both sides of the conflict. I liked that we saw both sides because it prepared the reader well for the second half when she has to learn to trust Rothen and he's already been established as a sympathetic character. It wasn't a long book, and despite the single plot strand I never felt like it dragged at all, but the tale was really quite straightforward. With the young ages of the main characters in the slums, it almost felt like it could have been a children's fantasy book even though it was marketed as mainstream fantasy. Sometimes the lines in genre fiction can be quite blurred, so to some extent that didn't really matter.


Sonea and her friend Cery were both immensely likeable and sympathetic. I also really liked Rothen, who steps up to help Sonea learn more about magic. By the end of the novel it felt like her journey to become a magician was just getting started and that there was plenty of drama left to explore in the subsequent books in the trilogy.


Thank you so much for reading my review of 'The Magicians' Guild' by Trudi Canavan. My next post is on Wednesday. In the meantime, the comments section is open.


Many thanks to photographers Natalia Y, Rhii Photography and Marek Piwnicki for providing the images for this blog via Unsplash.



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