Trudi Canavan’s “The Magician’s Apprentice”

I do like a bit of escapist fantasy, and when I want to read a good fantasy book, I know that turning to Trudi Canavan is a good idea.  Her narrative is not perfect, and her habit of italicising characters thoughts is actually very grating and something I am still not used to.  But who cares?  Canavan is creative and knows how to tell a story.

The Black Magician trilogy is the only story other than Harry Potter to make me cry at the loss of a character.  This is not a ‘boo-hoo-character-died-closed-book-and-forgot-about-it’ type cry.  No.  It is a loss that puts a nasty unsettling feeling at the pit of your stomach that could go on for as long as three days.  Sad, isn’t it?  Yes, it is, but do you know how satisfying it is to become attached to a character in such a way?  It is what makes a good read into a great read and only the most talented writers that specialise in characterisation that can acheive such a feat.

But I digress, this review is about the prequel to the excellent Black Magician trilogy.  This prequel is The Magician’s Apprentice, and it is, unfortunately, a stand alone book.  Because of this, the characterisation in this book is no where near as strong as the original trilogy, as it does not have time to develop the characters.  Anyone that has read all of Canavan’s books will recognise recycled characters (Tessia is so similar to Auraya from Canavan’s other trilogy The Age of Five, that it is rather off putting) but to get bogged down in characterisation for this book is missing the point, for this prequel serves to flesh out the history and world of the trilogy and not much else.

It is not that I did not care for the characters, I certainly liked the protagonists, and they have their own stories, even if they are a little thin, but these characters are mainly mechanisms to tell the story of the history of Kyrilia.  It does this very well, and as soon as I finished this book with all of this new found information, I was itching to read TBM all over again, just to catch references of the world’s past.  This prequel covers how the Wastelands in Sachaka were created, the origins of the Magician’s Guild, the discoveries of healing magic, fighting and defense magic and so on.  It was surprising, when reading it, how primitive the magician’s were only 200 years before the event of The Magician’s Guild took place.

All of this is explained to us through the backdrop of a war that takes place pretty much for the whole of the book.  There is a band of outlaws from Sachaka that are quite determined to take back the land from Kyrialia, for there’s not enough land to go round in Sachaka for the surplus magicians.  The Sachakan’s also happen to be ruthless thugs that relish cruelty and slavery, and is led by perhaps the worst of them all.  The technological and magically primitive and unorganised Kyrilians spend the book trying to drive out the threat, and it’s through this, with all Kyrilian Magician’s together, that they begin to make discoveries and create guilds and such. 

You will also find familiar themes that were introduced in the trilogy: feminism, gay rights, class and slavery.  Feminism, in this book, is particularly strong, with a whole sub-plot dedicated to its cause through the character of Stara; it has nothing to do with the rest of the book, or with the trilogy.  I can only assume that Stara ‘s story becomes relevent in the coming sequels to TBM

Other than Stara, it all fits together like a neat jigsaw puzzle and makes for a satisfying read, but do not expect to be as gripped as you were for TBM, for though it is a good book, it does not beat the trilogy.  I do not recommend starting on this book before the trilogy as it is written to pin point key areas of the coming story, and if you are ignorant of these points, the importance may be lost on you, which is a shame, since it is recognising the important bits that makes it so enjoyable.  Whilst it is not a necessary read to fans of The Black Magician trilogy, it would certainly make a satisfying one and I feel quite confident in recommending it.

Score: **********

Visit Trudi Canavan’s Official Website

The I-cant-recommend-enough Black Magician Trilogy

The "I-can't-recommend-enough" Black Magician Trilogy

The Age of Five Trilogy

The Age of Five Trilogy

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3 Responses to “Trudi Canavan’s “The Magician’s Apprentice””

  1. I have to agree that the Magician’s Apprentice is very weak by comparison to the original series, but I will say that its no where near as bad as the Age of Five. Maybe its a personal preference but I did not enjoy that series, finding it dragging and the characters annoying. I don’t deny it has a good idea of a storyline, but I didn’t feel the execution was that great.

    If you like a good read about the same, if not better, level than the Black Magician Trilogy, you should try

    Graceling by Kristin Cashore (a book you really can’t put down, and only the first in a series)

    The Study Series by Maria V. Snyder…the storyline and execution were amazing!! but the last book did drag a little

    Night Angel Series by Brent Weeks…this is more similar to Canavan in that the storyline was interesting, but the execution needed just a bit more work

  2. I have to admit, I was wildly looking forward to this, but I didn’t enjoy it as much a I’d hoped. Don’t get me wrong; I loved it, especially the gradual founding of Healing, and the cultural changes, and the Sachakan wasteland was chilling, but it just lacked something. Tessia felt incomplete; not to say I disliked her, but she just lacked the depth accumulated by other characters over multiple books.
    I think the main real flaw was the lack of, well, twists. Those are the one thing I’ve come to expect from Trudi Canavan: from Chaia and the gods in Age Of The Five, to Akkarin and his hobbies in The Black Magician, The Magician’s Apprentice felt a little incomplete without them: true it had some, he aforementioned wasteland, but not as strong ones, if that makes sense.

    I still liked it though, as I’ve said. Jayan’s character was powerful, as was Stara.
    I just want to quickly say, I think Stara’s ending might fit with Savara from The High Lord.

    In conclusion, I think The Magician’s Apprentice was definitely one of the better prequel stories; managing to pull it off without feeling cheap or gimmicky, but wasn’t quite up to the standards of the Black Magician or Age Of The Five (both of which I loved. I’m still (SPOILER AHEAD) crying over Lorlen).

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